Conference addresses the Negative Impact of Overindulgence on Children
At the 24th Annual Wild Child Conference held in Marion, Ohio, Janice Morabeto, M.Ed., L.S.W., N.I.P. Practitioner C.H.T. of Ashland University and the Morabeto Mind Legacy Associates Inc. said, “The way we’re parenting is not producing competent people. Our society and parenting styles is producing entitled, narcissistic and rude people to the 3rd generation.” Morabeto has been researching the subject extensively to help parents understand appropriate parenting. She began with a quiz on the negative impact of overindulgence on children. (Professional participants admitted indulgences to themselves). It’s often a case of too much too soon, and helicopter parenting. There are two phenomena readers will recognize: child worship- the child placed on a pedestal, and the attitude ‘I want what I want and I want it now’ that go along with the overindulged ‘syndrome’. Results can even result in kids with conduct or oppositional defiant disorder, and teens in the juvenile justice system. [Pomegranate Health Systems was one of several conference sponsors again this year.]
Overindulgence is not just an issue for ‘privileged’ parents and kids, but more aptly applies to a host of factors such as lack of boundaries, lack of conscience, failure to hold kids accountable, kids given too much too soon-including permission, a power imbalance- putting kids in power seat when they’re not truly in a position to answer the question, and generally a ‘have it your way’ media saturated culture. It does kids no favor to ‘be their friend’ instead of their parent. (Smoking with the kid- as an example). Morabeto covered definitions of ‘overindulgence’. One definition from Bedehoft (2006) is that ‘Overindulgence is a form of child neglect. It hinders children from performing their needed developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons.’ There are two major effects: 1. anger & resentment (loss of self-reliance), and, 2. a sense of entitlement (dependency & narcissism).
She cited the work Dr. James A. Fogarty Ed.D (2003) who explored three categories of overindulgence: ‘1. Too much stuff (materialism vs. shared activities); 2. Over-nurturing which reduces self-reliance; 3. Soft structure- lax rules, no chores, aimlessness.’ With expectation of getting a toy/reward for nearly anything, a child becomes ‘entitled’.’ The more the child attaches to an object, the less they attach to a person. In one example, a precocious school aged child ‘ran’ the family and insisted loudly on making grandma (with arthritis) get out of her recliner to have the seat for himself. He got his way.
Another cognitive distortion is the belief that the child should be constantly happy. When there is the expectation that others should provide XYZ, it produces a blend of dependency and narcissism. Coupled with permissive parenting, this can lead to a lack of self-assertion and lower cognition, lower levels of individuation. Full mature personhood does not develop properly. Socially, instead of promoting ‘us’, it leads to a culture of ‘me’, and an attitude ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’. With lower levels of autonomy, the external locus of control leads to blaming, and a child can become self-centered, spoiled, obnoxious and ill tempered. (They never gave me no X and now I can’t Y, she or he pouts . . . and I deserve it!)
Morabeto outlined nine parenting styles: 1. The giving parent who doesn’t distinguish wants vs. needs and substitutes materialism for mentoring; 2. Reminder parent- who has gotten mixed up with no consequences; 3. Blinders parent (perfection)- ‘don’t see anything wrong here’- which can produce mouthy, manipulative kids; 4. The glorifying parent- child can be anything they want to be; but really not every child is an NFL star; 5. Permissive parent where ‘anything goes’ is actually a form of neglect; 6. Favoritism- over nurture or identify with one child and neglect the others; 7. Blaming parent- it’s not the child’s fault but the coaches, teachers, school, other kids, other kid’s parents; 8. Overly responsible parent- who does so much they become angry at themselves or alternatively wonder why child doesn’t ever learn/’get it’; 9. Ultimately responsible parent- parent does the science fair project but years later half their project list is Johnnie’s and he’s now 28. These are all cognitive distortions where one is missing a piece of the parenting pie that’s very important by deleting, distorting or generalizing.
Some solutions include not just learning to say ‘no’, but making it a conditional ‘yes’. Here’s how it works: ‘Can I have a car?” ‘Yes, if you can earn it,” or “I don’t think so; how could you earn it?” (Shifts responsibility.) Also realize that normal emotions are not unhealthy, but necessary for development. We all have setbacks and pain; learning to deal with this is necessary for growth & character formation. Towards the close of the session, Morabeto outlined the qualities of mentoring parents and teachers who build relationships with their child, based on building skills in the young person. She debunked the myth that ‘quality time’ replaces ‘quantity of time’, ‘It takes time to build a masterpiece.’
Another important building block is to promote truth and reality, as this is the foundation of a family. Promoting unique talents and skills entails interdependency and self-reliance. She said, ‘Mentoring parents do not confuse unconditional love with overindulgence and permissiveness.” There was a ‘suggested chore list’- by age. Morabeto contrasted ‘wants’: ‘luxury, toys, ipods, computers, tv’s, cars, trips, money . . . ‘ with ‘needs’: ‘food, water, clothing, housing.’ ‘Promote respect and personal responsibility,’ she advised in the accompanying PowerPoint notes, and ‘don’t try to be ‘popular’ or soften the blow of consequences: set limits.’
The session closed with motivational interviewing techniques and the stages of change. There were ‘looking back’ and ‘looking forward’ questions, and gratitude stream exercises-things one is most grateful for, (then ranked), and if you no longer have each of them, starting with #5 on the list. Morabeto offered up plenty of resources, a bibliography, hand-outs, and exercises through-out the day to keep the audience of 200 or so, fully engaged. Here are some links for more information:
[photo credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license. ‘Hanging at the Shop’ by Alex Proimos Sydney Australia uploaded by russavia 22/7/11]