Is It Healthy to Spoil Children & Dogs?

You cannot resist your children’s precious smiles, warm hugs and kisses and, in the case of your furry child, wagging tail. As a result, you want to shower your children and dogs with love, affection and at times, tangible items. However, you want to raise a healthy, balanced family, not one that includes spoiled children and pets with behavioral issues. Understanding the differences between healthy parenting behaviors and spoiling allows you to raise well-balanced and appreciative children and dogs.

Responding Appropriately to Children

As a mother, your instinct is to respond to your children’s wants and needs. According to Dr. William Sears, a difference exists between responding appropriately to needs, which results in healthy behaviors, and responding inappropriately, which can result in spoiling. Thus, responding to your children’s wants and needs, alone, does not spoil them and is entirely healthy. Rewarding good behavior, teaching children gratitude and encouraging generosity — even when your children get what they want — does not make them spoiled. Conversely, giving in to pressure when your children are misbehaving or overlooking their poor behavior and giving them what they want can lead to ungratefulness, which can have a negative impact on your children’s attitudes and expectations.

Considering Age

How you respond to your children depends largely on their age. When your toddler or preschool was an infant, she relied on you for everything, so responding to your baby’s every need was not considered spoiling. Rather, attending to your baby’s cries taught her that she could trust you to be there for her. As children grow, so does their understanding of discipline, behaviors and consequences. From the time they are toddlers, children start to understand limits and boundaries. Teaching your children limits sets them up for future success.

Finding Balance

Spoiling your children can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Dr. William Sears states that parents’ inability to set limits or establish boundaries and the subsequent permissiveness and overindulgence can negatively impact children’s behavior. Parents who can find the right balance between praise, love and attention, and discipline and boundaries can attend to their children without spoiling them. The key, then, is to know how to distinguish spoiling from being hands-on parents attending to their children’s needs.

Pampering Your Pooch

Like your children, your pup needs the right balance between love and attention, and discipline. Do not confuse reinforcing positive behaviors with spoiling your dog. The Humane Society of the United States recommends positive reinforcement training with dogs. When used properly, this type of training can help you reward and celebrate your dog’s positive behaviors while avoiding spoiling. When your dog wants to go outside to use the bathroom or follows a command, you can pet it, give it a treat or praise it for the positive behavior. What might feel like spoiling, in this case, is actually encouraging your dog to behave well. Once you start rewarding your dog for bad behaviors, you run the risk of spoiling your dog and encouraging further unwanted behavior. So, finding the right balance between praise and rewards, and proper discipline allows you to pamper your pooch without instilling any negative, unhealthy behaviors.

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