Overindulgent Parenting Style and Its Harm to Children


Children come into the world without resources and it is the duty of their parents to provide for their material and emotional needs. Some parents inundate their children with too much of the material and emotional resources and there are concerns that this might have deleterious effects on the children.

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This paper researches on the impacts of overindulgent parenting on children. It defines overindulgent and explains what motivates parents to adopt this parenting style. The paper then analyzes the various ways in which overindulging can occur. They include giving too much material or praise, doing Work on behalf of the child, failing to give and enforce rules and over supervising the child.

The paper discloses that the various forms of overindulging by parents can have adverse effects on the development of the child. They can cause children to develop a false sense of entitlement, miss opportunities to learn important life skills, and expose children to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and narcissism. The paper concludes by stating that parents should consider adopting the authoritative parenting style in order to avoid harming their children.


The family unit is considered the fundamental building block of the society. An important role fulfilled by the family unit is the socialization of children to become productive members of the society. While bringing up children, parents are required to provide for their emotional and material needs.

Cloud and Townsend (2001) declare that children come into the world without resources and parents are the ideal source of all good things for a child. Naturally, parents want to give their children the best that life can offer. This means indulging some of the desires of the children. However, there are instances where the child is overindulged by being given more material wealth and autonomy than is necessary for the healthy development of the child.

The concept of “overindulgence” has emerged as a major issue that has some effects on the development of the child. Dawson and Bredehoft (2005) suggest that overindulging has become prevalent as the society moves towards rewarding parents who appear caring without considering if the development needs of children are being catered to.

Parents who engage in overindulgent parenting do so with the intention of providing the best for their children. However, there are concerns as to whether this parenting style can lead to the development of happy and well-adjusted children. This paper analyzes the effects of overindulgence and it shows that this parenting style has multiple harmful effects to children.

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Defining Overindulgence

Overindulgence has emerged as a prevalent parenting style adopted by many parents who wish to make their children happy or avoid the child’s intense emotions. Illsley, Dawson, and Bredehoft (2014) define overindulgent parents as those who “inundate their children with family resources such as material wealth, time, experiences, and lack of responsibility” (p.4).

The indulgent parent gives their child what they want even when he/she knows that denying the child’s request would be the responsible thing to do. Mahima and Puja (2008) declare that “the overindulgent parent harm the development of the child by giving him/her too much of what appears to be good at developmentally inappropriate times” (p.32). Overindulging goes against the laws of good as the Bible explicitly calls on Christians to set their eyes on spiritual things, not material things (2 Corinthians 4:14 King James Version).

The parent also lets the child get away with bad behavior such as not doing chores or using bad language without reprimanding the child or teaching the child how to make amends. Dawson and Bredehoft (2005) declare that overindulgence is damaging and can be considered a “form of child neglect” (p.87). This opinion is reinforced by the fact that many parents overindulge to avoid dealing with the time needs or the excessive demands made by their children.

Why Parents are Overindulgent

Parents choose to be overindulgent for a number of significant reasons, all of which are beneficial to them. Parents who are too busy to spend quality with their children use this method to make up for their physical absence. Brackman (2005) documents that some parents indulge their children as a replacement for making time for them.

For example, the parent may give a gift as a replacement for their attendance at a school function or sporting activity in which the child is participating. In such a case, overindulgence is used by the parent as a substitute for his/her absence or the lack of attention given to the child.

Overindulgence might occur when parents are trying to give the child the type of childhood that they did not have due to poverty. Dawson and Bredehoft (2005) reveal that parents who grew up in poverty are keen to ensure that their children do not endure any of the hardships they suffered while growing up.

Such parents provide their children with more than is needed in an attempt at ensuring that they do not experience any of the difficulties they underwent in their own childhoods. In most cases, these parents end up experiencing some sense of pride in being able to provide their children with the type of childhood that their parents could not provide for them.

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Brackman (2005) reveals that overindulgence is at times the result of the parent’s need to demonstrate his/her success to the world. The child interacts with other members of the society at school and other social gatherings.

Parents eagerly satisfy the material wants of their children who then showcase their possessions to the society. This serves as a demonstration of the financial status of the parents to the rest of the community. Parents are therefore happy to overindulge their children since they contribute to the evidence that the family has “made it”.

Ways of Overindulging and their Effects

Parents can overindulge children in a number of unique methods. Each of these methods results in some significant negative consequences for the child.

Giving too Much

In this form of overindulgence, parents provide too many material possessions by obliging the children whenever they request for an item. Mahima and Puja (2008) reveal that the indulgent parenting style adopted by many parents in the Western world results in a higher frequency of buying of products desired by the children.

The parent who engages in this form of overindulging will also reward the child for merely engaging in activity that pleases the parent. Mamen (2005) explains that when a child is overindulged by being given too much, he/she is deprived of the satisfaction of earning what he/she wants.

The child who has been overindulged develops the impression that he/she is special and that he/she is owed things. According to Mahima and Puja (2008), entitled children expected others to serve them and they believe that they should be given special privileges. Overindulgence leads to children developing the irrational belief that they do not need to work for good things to happen to them. The child is not prepared for the frustrations that he/she is bound to face in his/her future life.

Due to overindulgence, the child is denied the opportunity to learn necessary life lessons such as perseverance and how to cope with frustration. Mahima and Puja (2008) elaborate that the overindulged child does not learn skills such as perseverance and how to effectively cope with failures he/she might encounter in life. Clinton and Sibcy (2006) declare that children should be taught that nothing, except love, comes free.

Another harmful effect is that the child is predisposed to developing negative trains of personality. The personality and behavioral traits acquired by the children as they develop is hugely influenced by the parenting style adopted. Henschel (2014) warns that the indulgent parenting style puts the child at risk of developing negative traits and characteristics of personality.

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Children who have been brought up by indulgent parents are likely to develop certain personality disorders. Children who are provided with too much whenever they want can develop narcissistic tendencies. Henschel (2014) documents that such children come to believe that they deserve and should have the best of everything. In addition to this, overindulged children often lack empathy and concern for others.

Overindulging the child by giving him/her too much praise and affirmation will harm the child. It might cause the child to lose motivation since he/she receives affirmation too easily.

Clinton and Sibcy (2006) assert that praise should only be a reward for effort and when it is showered on an undeserving child, it loses its motivational impact. In addition to this, overindulgence can result in children developing feelings of superiority. Mamen (2005) explains that the overindulging parent will use superlative praise on his/her child even when this praise is unmerited. As a result, the child will develop a false sense of who he/she actually is.

Doing Work on behalf of the Child

Overindulgence can also occur when the parent does for the child routine tasks that the child should be doing for himself/herself. In this instance, the overindulgent parent takes over the work and responsibility of the child. The parent may perform routine tasks for the child since the child takes too much time performing these tasks and the parent wants to save on time. In such a scenario, the overindulging is done to benefit the parent and not the child.

This form of overindulgence leads to the child becoming dependent on others. Since the child is deprived of a chance to take responsibility, he/she does not learn how to be sufficiently independent. The child might fail to develop proficiency in various activities since the parent typically carries out the particular activities on his/her behalf. The child’s instrumental independence cannot be adequately developed as the parent does tasks on behalf of the child therefore mitigating the development of self-reliance.

The development of resourcefulness in the child is hampered by overindulgence since the parents step in whenever the child faces a challenge. Challenges provide the child with an opportunity to develop his/her problem solving abilities. Through repeated attempts at tackling an issue, the child’s creativity is honed and he/she becomes resourceful. Mamen (2005) declares that overindulgence handicaps the child in learning to be resourceful since he/she is never allowed to overcome challenges on his/her own.

Children who have their tasks done for them may end up feeling inferior. Cloud and Townsend (2001) note that children need to learn how to take responsibility in their lives and develop some independence. The overindulgent parent denies the child the chance to be independent or learn skills that can help them to cope with various situations that they encounter in their everyday lives.

Taking over the child’s work and responsibility harms the child by impairing his self-confidence. When a child is given certain responsibilities by the parent or made to work, he develops competence and a feeling of accomplishment. This enables him/her to build his/her self-confidence. Overindulging denies the child the chance to take up the responsibility which results in confidence building.

Failing to Give and Enforce Rules

Overindulgence can take the form of failing to provide the child with rules to live by or providing the rules, but failing to appropriate consequences when the child breaks the set rules. Dawson and Bredehoft (2005) refer to this form of overindulgence as “structural overindulgence” (p.88). The child is given a lot of freedom and he/she is not reprimanded for acting contrary to the rules.

Parents who practice this form of indulgence assume that they are promoting responsibility by letting the child live under a laissez-faire atmosphere (Mamen, 2005). By failing to provide consequences when the child breaks the rules, the parent assumes that he/she is demonstrating leniency to the child.

A significant tendency of parents who engage in this form of overindulging is that they do not use open power or authority to ensure that set objectives have been met by the children. In contrast to this, they endeavor to avoid using overt power at all times.

A significant harmful effect of this form of overindulgence is that the child fails to learn how to respect other people and their items. Since there are no repercussions for wrong actions such as wrecking other people’s things, the child does not understand the importance of respecting other people and their things.

Cloud and Townsend (2001) assert that children should be taught to respect other people and their property. Only the parents can teach a child how to be respectful. The Bible declares that “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 King James Version).

The child is harmed since he/she never gets the opportunity to learn how to take accountability for his/her actions. Providing children with some measure of freedom can be a positive thing since it will teach them to be responsible. However, overindulgence leads to excessive freedom without any parental guidance or parameters. Children should be taught from an early age that their actions have consequences.

If the parents do not provide the necessary consequences if the child breaks the set rules, the child fails to understand that his actions have repercussions. The Bible encourages parents to discipline their children when necessary by declaring that “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24 King James Version).

The child does not learn how to set and respect boundaries in his life. Cloud and Townsend (2001) declare that without rules children do not learn how to set and respect boundaries. As a result, the child is likely to develop boundary problems in his/her early life and even in adulthood.

The child will be unable to say no to his/her own destructive impulses or take responsibility for his/her own life. The Bible confirms that setting up rules and enforcing them is a sign of love. Proverbs 3:12 (King James Version) states “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”. Parents should therefore realize that the enforcement of rules is beneficial to the child.

Over Supervision

The final form of overindulgence is when parents spend too much time or effort watching over the child. The parent who engages in this overindulgence feels compelled to look after his/her child even when such behavior is unnecessary. Over supervision is closely attributed to overprotection, which is the excessive attempt by the parent to protect a child from external threats. While it is natural and even healthy for the parent to attempt to protect the child from eternal threats, excessive protection is harmful to the child.

Over supervision has a negative impact on the development of self-efficacy. Excessive maternal or paternal protection fails to consider the development level and abilities of the child. The overindulged child is likely to suffer from low self-efficacy as he/she is not given the change to believe in his/her own ability to succeed. According to Hoskins (2014), self-efficacy is a person’s perception about his/her capability to manipulate situations or events in his/her life.

As such, self-efficacy influences how a person perceives difficult tasks. The individual with a high self-efficacy will view hard activities as challenging tasks that can be overcome as opposed to viewing them as intimidating tasks that should be avoided. The development of self-efficacy will be hindered by the over-supervision engaged in by the overindulging parent. Since low self-efficacy is related to low success rates in life, the child will be predisposed to failing in his future life.

The child’s instrumental independence is deterred as the parent makes important decisions on behalf of the parent. Yamada (2004) asserts that a child’s ability to take care of himself/herself is promoted when the parent allows the child to make decisions regarding some personal issues like friends, clothes, and the leisure activities to engage in.

Without the appropriate level of autonomy, children cannot learn to effectively take care of themselves. Studies indicate that there is a negative correlation between over-supervision and the independence of a child. Excessive levels of supervision and evaluation are associated with low levels of decision-making autonomy by the child.

Over supervision is harmful to the child since it causes him/her to perceive that he/she is not trusted to act responsibly without adult supervision. Over-supervision can lead to the development of some psychological disorders by the child. Mamen (2005) reveals that over-evaluated children tend to experience high levels of anxiety. In other cases, the parental overprotection leads to the development of symptoms of depression in the child.


Ironically, research indicates that many overindulgent parents are actually well-intentioned loving parents who believe that they are doing the best for their children (Dawson & Bredehoft, 2005). The average overindulgent parent is trying to keep his/her child happy and promote a friendship with the child.

Mahima and Puja (2008) explain that many overindulgent parents want their parents to have material things that they were deprived of while growing up. However, the good intentions of the parents end up causing significant harm to the child. Hoskins (2014) reveals that the negative effects of overindulgence are sustained even in the adulthood years of the individual. This shows that the harmful effects of overindulgence on children have far-reaching consequences in their lives.

Considering the many negative effects of overindulgence, it would be helpful to avoid this parenting style. Alternative parenting styles that cater to the development needs of children should be adopted. According to Henschel (2014), authoritative parenting is the ideal parenting style that should be adopted in place of indulgent parenting. This form of parenting promotes positive character traits such as responsibility, maturity, and maturity of the child.


This paper set out to analyze the impacts of overindulgence on children. It has shown that overindulgence has multiple negative impacts on the child. It began by noting that the family unit plays a crucial role in the development of the child and that parents are the people taxed with providing for the physical and emotional needs of the child. The paper then defined overindulgence as the parenting style characterized by providing children with too much material and time resources without burdening them with responsibility.

The paper has shown that many parents resort to overindulgence since it enables them to meet their own needs. However, it has far-reaching consequences on the development of the child. It leads to the development of entitled children who lack empathy for others.

Overindulgence also harms children by denying them the opportunity to learn important life skills. Children are also exposed to developing psychological issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and narcissism due to overindulgence by their parents. Considering the detrimental impacts of overindulgence on the child, parents should endeavor to avoid this parenting style. In its place, parents should take up authoritative parenting that counters the harms introduced by overindulgent parenting.


Brackman, K. (2005). Children of Paradise: Successful Parenting for Prosperous Families. NY: LCC Publishing.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much: Staying close to your kids without overprotecting, overindulging, or overcontrolling. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2001). Boundaries with kids. Grand Raids, MI: Zondervan.

Dawson, C., & Bredehoft, D. (2005). The Unwanted and Unintended Long-Term Results of Overindulging Children: Three Types of Overindulgence and Corrective Strategies for Parents and Institutions. Compelling Perspectives on Counseling, 18(1), 87-90.

Henschel, C. (2014). The Effects of Parenting Style on the Development of Narcissism. Behavioral Health, 1(1), 1-8.

Hoskins, H. (2014). Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes. Societies, 4(1), 506-531.

Illsley, JC., Dawson, C., & Bredehoft, D. (2014). How Much is Too Much?: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children–from Toddlers to Teens–in an Age of Overindulgence. Boston: Da Capo Press.

Mahima, T., & Puja, K. (2008). Relationship between Parental Overindulgence and Buying Behavior in the Context of Invasive Marketing: A Comparative Study of Two Cultures. Seoul Journal of Business, 14(1), 31-53.

Mamen, M. (2005). The Pampered Child Syndrome: How to Recognize it, How to Manage it, and How to Avoid it – A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Boston: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Yamada, H. (2004). Japanese mothers’ views of young children’s areas of personal discretion. Child Development, 75(1), 164-179.

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