Overindulgence is not quite the same as spoiling. We tend to view a spoiled child as one whose behaviors are very annoying to adults. An overindulged child may, indeed, act spoiled, but the results of overindulgence are more far-reaching than that.
Too much means different things to different people. To some it is viewed simply as expectation. Others describe it as smothering or debilitating. And dictionary definitions aren’t much help, ranging anywhere from tolerance to dissipation to excess.
In “Growing Up Again, 2nd Edition” authors Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, tackle this cultural phenomenon in the chapter on Overindulgence. Bredehoft and Clarke were determined to identify a definition of overindulgent parenting by finding out what it means to adults who were overindulged as children. Read the definition as defined by those adults.
Overindulging children means giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, too long; giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. Overindulging is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the children’s needs.
Parents who overindulge give a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the children’s needs, but does not. Overindulged children experience scarcity in the midst of plenty. They have so much of something that it does active harm or at least stagnates them and deprives them of achieving their full potential.
Overindulgence is a form of child neglect. It hinders children from doing their developmental tasks and from learning necessary life lessons.