“We are abusing our children in new ways. We are diminishing their resilience, their ability to deal with small or large challenges by overindulging them.” Jean Illsley Clarke, author of How Much Is Enough?
This was the basic message Jean Illsley Clarke delivered at a Calgary public seminar.
She and her colleagues have published their findings in How Much Is Enough? Everything You Need to Know to Steer Clear of Overindulgence and Raise Likeable, Responsible and Respectful Children by Jean Illsley Clarke Ph.D, Connie Dawson Ph.D and David Bredehoft Ph.D.
The authors acknowledge that all parents want the best for their children. However, even though many parents are working full tilt and are close to bankruptcy, they still continue to give their children heaps of help and stuff to the point of overindulgence.
With three self-studies and several other studies backing them, the authors propose parents’ excessive indulgence has gone awry as they attempt to protect their children from a mere tear.
Studies on overindulgence helped the authors conclude that we cripple our children’s competence when we:
- Do or give too much—too many lessons; too many visits to McDonald’s, Chucky Cheese and Disney World; too many designer clothes; too much entertainment; too many electronics and toys; and too many sweet treats.
- Are too soft in our family structure—too slack with guidelines, rules and expectations of contributing, doing chores and keeping agreements.
- Too helpful—too often tying their shoes, taking over their responsibilities, and doing for our children what they can do for themselves.
The results of overindulgence are children (and eventually adults) who:
- feel ungrateful, entitled and helpless.
- expect immediate gratification, wealth and fame and expect to be the center of attention, if not the universe.
- act with disrespect, poor self-control and poor boundaries.
- lack basic life skills, realistic goals and empathy.
Although Clarke and her colleagues do not go in depth about the tenets of responsible parenting they have written many books on it such as the classic Self Esteem: A Family Affair.
Here are some suggestions for you to counter-act overindulgence:
- Stop. Take a breath. Then turn down invitations to overindulge.
- Learn about typical child development so you have realistic expectations.
- Realize that enough is good enough. Provide food, shelter, clothing, guidance, and love. Leave the rest to be given in moderation or to be earned by your child.
- Establish family guidelines, routines and structure. Use family meetings to help create structure.
- Before taking an action ask, “Is this in my child’s best interest?”
Jean Illsley Clarke Quotes:
- “Occasional indulgences add color, pleasure and joy to life. When those same indulgences become a pattern, however, the result is very different. This pattern is called overindulgence.”
- “Overindulging children is giving them too much of anything that looks good, but hinders them from doing their development tasks and from learning necessary life lessons. Overindulging adults is giving too much of anything that looks good, but supports their excessive sense of entitlement or lack of competence, responsibility or initiative.”
Raising children to be likable, responsible and respectful is no easy undertaking, but steering clear of overindulgence is possible if parents follow the guidelines offered in How Much is Enough.