Sometimes parents confuse what true love of their child is and is not


. . . can a parent love too much?

BY Marge Hampton

It is not possible to give too much love. Sometimes parents confuse what true love is and is not.

It is important for parents and teachers not to hover, intrude, or deprive a child of the opportunity to reach out, to learn new skills, to feel the thrill of achievement or to experience consequences. Even infants develop a sense of mastery when specific toys are introduced into their environment and they begin to see that their action causes a specific response from that toy.

It is important to children that parents set limits and expect certain age appropriate responsibilities, and allow them to work through their frustrations as appropriate. If parents and teachers neglect to do these things children are being trained to be helpless and irresponsible. This undermines the development of the child’s self-confidence and competence.

Today's seem to be more indulgent than the previous generation. Perhaps each generation has experienced this. Perhaps this trend today can be traced to the guilt and fatigue from both parents’ working and not being able to spend as much time with their children as they would like. When parents overindulge children the children do not learn the important personal traits of self-control and self-discipline.

We overindulge when we "give them too much", "overnurture", and provide "too little structure". Although the first two of those three items are self explanatory, I believe more needs to be said about the last. When children have too much freedom and license they do not feel a true sense of security. I believe all children prefer to have clear boundaries established for them by their parents and teachers. Firm structure, as opposed to soft structure, includes establishing and enforcing rules, creating firm boundaries, monitoring children's safety, teaching children skills for living and insisting they do chores.

When children who have been overindulged grow up they may: lack life and self-care skills, have an overblown sense of entitlement, have trouble learning how to delay gratification, expect to be the constant center of attention, be reluctant to take personal responsibility, have difficulty knowing what's normal or enough, and have an unrealistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

It has become apparent in today's society that many parents have confused overindulgence with love. All parents want their children to grow up to acknowledge that they must be accountable for their role in society. They must have learned about natural and logical consequences and that trust and respect must be earned. They must realize that life itself does not equal "entitlement". Children must grow up seeing that good values, honesty and hard work will bring the more intrinsically valuable rewards in life. Children who grow up without this are coming to be known as "the entitlement generation". Where do parents begin this lesson?

How Parents and Teachers Can Avoid Overindulgence:

( Adapted from a list by Stephanie Dunnewind of The Seattle Times.)

  • Ask yourself if the tools and skills you are teaching your child will benefit him when he’s 15 or 22.
  • Hold children responsible for their actions. Let them clean up messes they make. If one child hurts another let the child who did the hurting get ice or a Band-Aid for the other child.
  • Don’t’ “save” your kids. Don’t make “forgetting easier than remembering” by running to the school with homework or lunch he/she forgot.
  • Let children suffer consequences of their actions and choices.
  • Don’t soften the blow when you impose a consequence. Don’t make them feel better by letting them watch a favorite video or providing them with a special treat.
  • If you realize you have been overindulgent, don’t try to change everything at once.
  • Help children distinguish between what they “need” and what they “want”.
  • Be ready to accept the fact that you will not always be “popular” with your kids.
  • Be a parent, not a friend.

Suggested Chores --by age

Older children should continue those chores started when they were younger. ( Adapted)

Ages 2 and 3:

  • Put toys away after play.
  • Put trash in wastebasket.
  • Hang up coats on low hooks.
  • Begin to learn to dress without help.. (let them have some choice in what they wear)

Ages 4 and 5:

  • Feed pets (when reminded).
  • Put dirty clothes in basket or hamper.
  • Help clear the table and fill the dishwasher.
  • Make a peanut butter sandwich.

Ages 6 and 7:

  • Water plants and flowers.
  • Help wash the dog.
  • Pull weeds.
  • Make bed.
  • Put clothes away in drawers and closet.

Ages 8 and 9:

  • Clean sinks.
  • Take out garbage and recycling.
  • Sweep, mop, or vacuum.
  • Carry dirty clothes to laundry room.

Ages 10 to 12:

  • Do laundry, with assistance.
  • Load and run dishwasher.
  • Help wash the family car.
  • Assist with younger siblings


  • "Coddling Can Undermine Children's Self-confidence", March 23, 2004 in the Fort Worth Star Telegram by Stephanie Dunnewind of The Seattle Times (Try searching for this article on the internet)
  • "Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age" by Dan Kindlon
  • "How Much is enough? Everything You Need to Know To Steer Clear of Overindulgence and Raise Likeable, Responsible and Respectful Children" by Connie Dawson (co-author)
  • "Dealing with Disappointment: Helping Kids Cope When Things Don't Go Their Way", "Pick Up Your socks" and "Other Skills Growing Children Need!" by Elizabeth Crary
  • "Setting Limits: How to Raise Responsible Independent children by Providing Clear Boundaries" byRobert J. MacKenzie

This article contains my personal views based on my own knowledge and experience and the writing listed in the Biblography.

Article copyright by Marge Hampton © 2004-2005

Related Articles:


Children Play To Learn (a child's play is his work - toys are his words)

Cuttle Don't Coddle (can you love too much?)

First Day's Fears (leaving your baby for the first time - what to expect)

I Am A Child (poem)

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