Overindulging Children Is a Mistake

By | 01/08/2016

Many parents balk at setting limits or disciplining their children, afraid they’ll lose their respect, and even their custody, if they are divorced. However, since people establish during their childhood the psychical processes that will follow them throughout life, raising children demands serious consideration.

These days, there has been a huge reversal: parents seem to be more afraid to lose their children’s love than the other way around. But this fear of losing their parents affection and admiration has always been a huge incentive for children to behave in accordance with the cultural patterns of their environment, so these days, most adults lost an important tool to help them be firm and raise their children well. Naturally, this is a very pleasant scenario for children, but only in the short term. Children will be spared from disappointment—and isn’t it amazing how often “disappointing” events are treated as “traumatic” events, these days?—but what happens next? They’ll be totally unprepared to deal with any kind of psychical pain. We all know life brings disappointments; people who grow up unprepared to handle this kind of pain will be weaker; they’ll have to avoid new situations and challenges, because they’ll be unable to tell beforehand if they’ll succeed or fail. They won’t know how to endure failure; things that go against their wishes will make them kick and scream. These children will have to act like tyrants, always attempting to make reality bend to their will, and will try to control the people on whom they depend.

Besides, the parents’ feebleness and lack of authority is not only damaging in the long run; they also make children feel insecure and vulnerable, because they need to feel that adults have established limits and know what’s good for them: it makes them feel safe. In fact, children often act naughty just to see if they will be disciplined, as a way to test their limits and, therefore, make sure there are adults in their lives who are in strong, comforting and in charge, in whom they can trust.

But if this way of raising children is so clearly harmful, why do so many parents prefer not to disappoint their children anyway, and become too permissive? There are several reasons, but I’ll point out just one that gained importance in the last 30 years. It’s the risk of divorce. These days, people get married knowing they might get divorced one day, which makes them feel the need to be a fantastic parent, so the kids will choose them, if it ever comes down to it. Because of these beliefs, parents are also closer to their kids than to their spouse; the child-parent bond seems to be more solid and stable, to them.

Most couples are in a combative relationship, and being “the favorite” becomes a new foolish competition between them. As it usually happens when negative emotions become stronger than thoughtfulness, the parents’ need to win the battle becomes more important than raising children properly and preparing them for life. These couples are the ones who do end up getting divorced, so being the children’s favorite is the supreme victory, a way to get revenge and humiliate their former spouse.

This kind of marital instability, so common these days, showcases several important emotional issues adults have. Mainly, it becomes clear that they experience emotional connections in an immature, childish way. Emotionally speaking, most adults react exactly like children. They won’t be firm or set limits to avoid putting in jeopardy their relationship with their kids; after all, their children might not love them anymore if they do!

Without a stable marriage and unable to trust their spouse’s love, adults self-protect by overindulging, and being enslaved, by their children. They believe their kids will never leave them—well, at least not immediately.

 Tradução: Amanda Morris