Spoiled Child – How to unspoil a child (starting today)

Do you feel like you are noticing the characteristics of a spoiled child? Do you feel like your sweet child turned into an ungrateful child? Have you ever wondered how to unspoil a child… or how to unspoil your child?

I  know that this can be hard because you don’t even realize that it is happening and then BAM… you hear the disrespect in your child’s voice and realize that you need to STOP doing that for your child! 

When you begin to see that your children are displaying the same spoiled behavior as ungrateful children, you know that it’s time to teach your kids how to be grateful again.

Before we begin, I do want to point out that there is no reason to feel guilty.  You are here because you are ready to help your spoiled child get back to that kind, loving child that you know they are inside.  To be honest, it probably started because you do love your child and you thought you were helping.

Whatever the case… we’re going to get back to the place that makes you BOTH happy & grateful.

With this post in mind, I asked many of my readers what they had done when they needed to help a spoiled child become more grateful and unspoiled.    I know that this can be quite a challenge for many parents, so I hope that this gives you just the boost of confidence and knowledge that you need to know how to unspoil a child!

We don’t intend to have spoiled kids – it’s just the day & age that lends itself so easily to that, you know? According to a recent study, Dr. Bromfield reports that:

“A vast majority of parents — 94 percent, according to a recent survey — judge their children to be spoiled.”

It is hard when your child acts spoiled, because even though YOU may know that your child is loving and kind… it isn’t showing up that way. Others may begin to think of that child as a “spoiled brat” or a “spoiled child.” 

They may try to offer advice on how to set limits or how to handle temper tantrums.  Some may even offer parenting advice like “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” The phrase ‘spare the rod’ comes from Proverbs 13:24 – “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (there is more on this at Proverbs 22:15). However… I do not spank, and I do not agree with it.

I have always disagreed with the entire “spare the rod” concept because I just can’t see any benefit of physical discipline, corporal punishment, or anything to that nature.

I spent a semester in college studying the effects of spanking, among other things, and there is no evidence on the benefits of this, especially the long term. 

I also try not to yell.   I have always wanted our children to be respectful because it is the right thing to do.  I want them to be kind because they respect others.

I want them to be generous because it brings them joy to bring others joy.  I do not want them to do these things out of fear of being caught by their parents or teachers.   If that were the case, I would worry about how they would act when we were not around.  When I know that they are intrinsically motivated, I know that they will hold onto these values & beliefs.

You know your child best, so please remember that.

If a child is acting spoiled, it is most likely the parent’s doing… not the child’s doing.

Children can’t spoil themselves.  It happens because of a child learning what to expect.  Likewise, they most likely won’t have the tools to unspoil themselves.  It is up to us, as parents, to help them.

Remember that while spoiling your child CAN happen by giving them too much without any appreciation, it can also just be that your child is not respectful of others or things.

It can also happen by accident…
We see a great deal on something that we think they’ll like.   Since we love to see our children smile, we get it for them.   The next time that we are out, we do the same thing.   Soon, it’s become expected, instead of appreciated. Without even realizing that we are turning them into ungrateful people – we’ve done it.

That’s ok – because today is the day that we start the UNSPOILING!   Spoiled children can be taught to be grateful, so they turn out to be responsible, respectful adults.

Before we move on… give yourself a pat on the back for taking this step!  This is the hardest part… admitting that your child is spoiled or disrespectful.

10 Tips to Teach You How to Unspoil a Child

Before we begin, let me say that with everything, consistency is key in helping your spoiled child to be unspoiled.  It’s worth repeating…

Consistency is key. 

If you can stick to your rules, you will see much quicker results.  This is the key to success, in my opinion.  I saw this when I was a teacher, I see it as a play therapist and I see it as a mom.

Consistency is the key.
Every time that they ___, they get ___.
Example: With these swap chores for screentime cards… if they do chores, they earn screentime minutes.

Use the “When–>>Then” method.

When you ____, then you ____. (When you have done your chores, then you can use your phone. )
You are essentially giving your child a choice.  You are not yelling.  You are not upset.  You are simply letting your child choose

  • If they want to play, they need to finish cleaning.    “When you finish cleaning, then you can play.”
  • If your child wants to have a snack, he has to eat his vegetables. “When you finish your vegetables, then you can have a snack.”
  • If she wants to go to the park, she needs to have her bed made.  “When you make your bed, then you can go to the park.”
  • If they want to play a game, they have to finish their homework.  “When you have finished your work, then you can play your video games.”
  • When you have filled up your reward jar (for being kind), then we can go out for ice cream.

Even though they only have a limited number of choices, it is still a choice.  You are giving your child the power and they will decide how they want to proceed.

Set expectations.

Give your child a run-down of the day, if possible. Let them know what to expect.

Example: “We will be going to the store today. You will not be buying anything. If you ask for something while we are there, I will be taking away electronics for the remainder of the day.
I will have to do this because I am telling you RIGHT NOW that we are going to the store for groceries and nothing else. Do you understand?”
You are merely telling them ahead of time and asking them to respect what you say.

Stop buying unnecessary things for your child

Your child might ask you for something, or you might purchase un-needed stuff because they are..

  • cute
  • on-sale  (this is what usually gets me!) 
  • fun
  • educational.

However… your child does not need them.

While it is nice to buy them things and you feel like you are helping, you need to take a step back and ask yourself if you are teaching them that they can have whatever they want before you buy it, or ask yourself if they really do need it.

Plus, when you aren’t continually buying them things, they will appreciate it more when they do receive a gift.

Remember – you can say NO to things. In an article in the New Yorker, I read that “[French Parents] view learning to cope with ‘no’ as a crucial step in a child’s evolution. It forces them to understand that there are other people in the world, with needs as powerful as their own.” ~ Druckerman

Does your child take care of their things?  Do they respect their things?

  • Does your child think that you will replace broken toys right away?
  • Do they just throw it into a toy box? Or are they carefully playing with it and storing their toys properly?
  • If you took all of their toys away, would they cry because you did it?
  • Or would they cry because they actually missed their toys?
  • In other words- would it just be the thought of having no toys that bother them, or do they really miss their toys?  I have found that most kids don’t even miss the toys being gone.

Teach them to buy things for themselves.

The value of hard work should never be overlooked. If your child wants something, tell them how much it costs and let them work hard to make that money. How wonderful they will feel when they can accomplish that on their own! They are so proud!

Have your child keep a list of things that he wants and how much it costs.

If your child wants a new scooter, he has a few options:

  • Ask for it for his birthday
  • Put it on his Christmas list and hope that he gets it.
  • Save up his own money to buy it (you could even match his money. If he puts $5 into his piggy bank, you add $5, too.)

Teach your child to give.

A while back, I heard that you should get rid of one thing for every new thing that comes into the home. If your child gets a new toy, have them donate one to someone else (not a broken one or  less-valuable one, but one that someone else will love.)

Try cutting back on what you have.

First – you don’t need it all.
Second – your child will be excited when he/she goes somewhere (church nursery or gym nursery or to a friend’s house) where there are new toys.

You don’t need it at your house, too. Less is more. Your child may become overwhelmed with too many toys, just like we become overwhelmed with too much stuff.

TIME matters more.
Spend more time doing things with your child. You don’t need to “buy” things for them. Just spend time with them. You can grab my free calendar & my FREE e-mail series on spending one-on-one time with your child:

If they act entitled or ungrateful, talk to them.  Sit them down and explain it to them. THEN follow through with a consequence.  Never use empty threats.

I learned once that I would never use a huge threat like “If you keep acting this way, we aren’t going to Disney this summer!” because I would never follow through with that.

Use the KISS method- Keep It Simple, Silly.
No TV for today.
No snacks today.
No playing with your friends today.
You get two extra chores today, etc.

It is really about you. Your child is mimicking what you have taught them. Be a great example.

Bonus Tip for How to Unspoil a Child: 

This system below has worked WONDERS for getting our kids to help out (without any nagging or yelling).

If you want to start chores with your kids, but do not want to have to deal with a chore chart, try these Chore Cards. We have them & they are easy, and they are “normal” chores, like sweep the floors, dust, clean up the living room, etc… It makes it easy to say,

“Ok, everyone – go grab two chore cards, and then you are done, and you can go play.”

I even use them for screen time- we save up the minutes (write it on a sheet of paper), then when the kids want to play on their iPad or watch a show, they have to use the minutes that they’ve saved.

You can find the Swap Chores for Screentime Chore Cards here.

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