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Too Much of a Good Thing isn't a Good Thing


There was “perfect attendance” at my granddaughter’s birthday party the
year she turned one year old. Being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, the gathering included parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles.

At the appointed time, she opened her first gift. It was stuffed kitty. She was delighted, and eager to snuggle and play with it. But no; there was no time for that; there were more gifts to be opened, one after another. Clothes, toys, books, puzzles, etc., etc., etc. At the time, I remember feeling disappointed that we weren’t allowing her time to enjoy and appreciate and experience each gift because we were having her open the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Yes. We had outdone ourselves.

Knowing what I know now, I would say we had clearly overindulged on that day. Guilty; busted.

Overindulgence is something we want to avoid with our children. There are three paths to overindulgence. The first path is “giving too much.” As in too much “stuff.” The problem with our children always having too much “stuff” is that they don’t learn how much is enough and they grow up feeling like they can never have enough, even when they are surrounded by an overabundance of material goods. They can become insatiable.

The second path to overindulgence is “over-nurturing.” This means providing too much care and doing things for the child that he or she is capable of doing for himself or herself. This can prevent the development of, or undermine, the child’s sense of being a capable person. It can also lead the child to develop to expect others to do the work, to not be a team player, and to not know how to share. Having age-appropriate chores for a child helps them develop a sense of responsibility and capability and from that comes healthy self-esteem.

The third path to overindulgence is “soft structure.” In soft structure, the child is given too much freedom or choice, and experiences that are not appropriate for their age, interest or talents. The rules and expectations placed on them are soft or “optional,” and consequences don’t happen. The truth is, decisions do have consequences and we don’t do our children any favors if/when we don’t hold to the consequences. Having consistent, reasonable boundaries helps create a safe and secure environment for children and a sense of freedom from having to “test” the boundaries.

"How Much is Enough," a book written by Jean Illsley Clark, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft on the topic of overindulgence, gives additional information on this topic, including four questions we can ask ourselves to help determine if we might be overindulging.  The book is also published under the title, "How Much is Too Much - Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children - from Toddlers to Teens - in an Age of Overindulgence."

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