Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

To Spoil or Not to Spoil?

I am working on a very controversial theory. Here it is.

I think spoiling your child rotten is beneficial. What? Who? Where? Gaa?

Let me explain.

I spoil The Dictator silly. If she even points to a toy, I will buy it for her.

I've been like this since, well, since she learned how to point.

If we're at Shoppers, and she wants bubbles, she'll get them. If we're at a toy store, I'll say, "Whatever you want, pick it. As long as I can lift it, it's yours!"

We'll go to Chapters, and I'll be like, "Whatever books you want, go!"

I probably buy The Dictator something every single day. (Because she's only two-and-a-half, I'm not talking about clothes here. When I buy her designer duds, who am I kidding, it's really for me.)

I'm also like this with junk food. If The Dictator wants chips, she can have them. If she wants to eat smarties before dinner, I'm absolutely fine with that. Part of it has to do with the fact that I'm a chocolaholic and, who am I kidding, I need chocolate in the house.

I'm no hypocrite. I like eating smarties before dinner too. If I do it, how can I expect her not too? If she wants to eat ice cream for breakfast, go right ahead, and get me a bowl too, will ya?

Now, before you think I should win Worst-Mother-of-The-Year Award, let me explain why all of this has worked out just fine, more than fine even.

I took the Dictator to Zellers the other night to buy her more toys. We walked around and I was like, "Pick out whatever you want," as I always do. So she picked out a Tea Set ($3.99) I asked her if she also wanted the Dora the Explorer Truck thing. "Maybe tomorrow," was her answer. What? Who? Where? Gaa!

Then it happened again. Last night, I took her to Shoppers to buy her some bubbles. I asked her, "Do you want the skipping rope too?" Her answer, "No thanks. Maybe tomorrow."

She's like that with junk food too. Because it was always readily available to her, she's now like, "No thanks," when I ask her if she wants chocolate. "Maybe later."

That's right. I've spoiled my child into a very nice little girl who now rarely asks for anything and actually likes to eat corn and broccoli. The best part of her day now is when a plate of peas is put in front of her.

I always knew this is how I'd be as a mother. I knew because of the way I grew up, which was no sugar cereal in the house, no McDonald's, except twice a year, and I most definitely could not walk into a toy store and hear, "Whatever you want!"

So, as soon as I moved out, I was eating fruit loops for breakfast and McDonald's for dinner. My mother, by forcing me to be healthy as a kid, kind of ruined me as an adult. (I still love fruit loops and McDonald's.)

So I took the opposite approach raising The Dictator and it's working!

For The Dictator, chocolate is not a "special treat." It's always there, take it or leave it, and now she leaves it.

Same with toy stores. The Dictator has thrown only two temper tantrums in her life and these are supposed to be the Terrible Twos. I'm not joking. And not one of those happened in a store because I refused to buy her something.

She's actually quite mature because I spoiled her. If she says, "Mom I want a bike," I'll say, "Well, I can't carry it today, but we'll get you one on the weekend," and she'll be like, "OK, we'll get one on the weekend," because she knows I'm not lying. Why would she think I'm lying after I've always gotten her what she wants? (And all kids deserve a bike!)

I know there will be the naysayers out there, scoffing and saying, "Well, just wait until she's 15 and she'll be a real piece of work."

And, to that, I say, "You show me yours in 15 years and I'll show you mine."

Because, really, no matter how we raise our children, no one ever knows how they'll turn out. No one can see into the future. Which is why talk shows always feature university educated, career-oriented parents, with children who have turned into prostitute drug addicts (Knock on wood. Knock on wood.)

So, spoil away and don't feel bad. How many toddlers do you know, after all, who say, "No thanks. Maybe later," when you want to buy them toys, and say, "No thanks," to junk food?

God, forbid, she ends up like me eating Fruit Loops in her 30s.


Blogger Heather said...

Hrm, interesting. When it's all said and done, I think that you should be thankful that you can afford such luxuries for your child, regarless of how she behaves now or how she will turn out.
Many families can not afford such luxuries. Many families are below the poverty line. Many families are not, and still can't afford to buy toys everyday.
I'm not sure how well off your family was when you were a child, but perhaps being healthy wasn't the only reason you didn't eat McDonalds every week. Eating out and toys on a daily basis can be expensive.
It would be interesting to see how the Dictator would react to sharing her toys with those less fortunate. Buy something new, give something old to a child in need. There would be a valuable lesson.
Yes it will be interesting to see the Dictator at 15. I'd love to show you mine at 15 if you show me yours. Hopefully you blog that long!

2:02 PM

Blogger jess said...

good for you! i think it is totally commendable to raise the dictator in the same light, with the same choices and privleges that you offer yourself. i hope to do the same thing with the sweetest boy as he grows older (even if we don't have a jetsetting lifestyle like yours)...

the best part? for a child to learn moderation and to say no to what they don't want or need.

2:23 PM

Blogger Accidental Lawyer said...

I completely agree. I had parents who actually maintained a "chip drawer" and a fridge full of pop, and never stopped us from having any. The result? Neither my brother nor I are junk food fanatics now, in our 30s, and wouldn't really touch the stuff even as kids.

On the other hand, our neighbours had a mother who was a health food nut and we used to watch in morbid fascination when they came over to our house and absolutely binged on the chips and stuff, because they could never get it at home.

Same thing seemed to work with alcohol for us, although I realize this is more controversial. My parents always let us have a taste of wine or whatever from the time we were fairly young, and didn't lock the liquor cabinet when we were teens. Not that they encouraged us to drink or anything, but they showed us that it was possible to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner (or in other social situations) without getting stupid drunk. Because it was there, and we knew we could have a beer if we asked for one, we never felt compelled to drink obscene amounts if it was around at parties or whatever.

5:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what happens when she's 16 and learning to drive? Are you going to buy her a brand new car to keep up the spoiled-and-proud persona? If not, do you anticipate a huge blow up because mommy isn't buying everything for her at any given time?

7:06 PM

Blogger toronto girl said...

Still enjoying your blog. It's sort of weird the way these things work, eh? A bit like reverse psychology. Hopefully it lasts until she's in her teens!

7:11 PM

Blogger Ali said...

great...just my luck...

you spoiled your daughter into a veru nice girl, and i spoiled my kids into...well, into spoiled brats.

terrific. well, i'm glad it's worked for someone!! :)

8:07 PM

Blogger Kristen said...

I actually agree with what you're saying because I am the product of being raised this way by my dad. My parents were divorced when I was 3 and my dad bought me whatever I wanted, took me wherever I wanted- every single weekend. My dad still will bend over backwards for me. But I VERY VERY VERY rarely ask him for anything. I rarely asked him as a kid. So I agree. TOTALLY.

8:17 PM

Blogger MommyWithAttitude said...

I don't know if I'd say I agree with you, but I will tell you this, my first baby, J, barely got to taste chocolate before he was close to 3 (and learned what it was elsewhere) and he is a SUGAR FANATIC. Seriously. Meanwhile, his little brother who has been eating junk since he was old enough to eat (because you can't deny him what big brother has) will totally choose fruit, dried fruit or even nuts as often as he'll choose sweets.

I don't know if it's a coincidence or if it's "my fault" J is like that. But I'm pretty moderate, and let them have quite a bit of junk anyway, just not as much as J wants.

8:44 PM

Blogger ninepounddictator said...

It's funny, but I very rarely do this. Perhaps some more explanation is needed, regarding Heather's post above. When all is send and done, I think most mothers, regardless of luxuries or not, should be thankful if their child turns out to be sweet,
kind, and happy, not the other way around.
And, to be clear, the toys I may buy her on a daily basis, usually cost less than five bucks. Most people spend more than that a day on take out coffee. I, however, only drink on small cup a coffee a day.
And, I highly doubt I will be blogging in 15 years. But never say never. And when it comes to sharing, let's just say contributing and sharing with others is of course something I hope to instill to the Dictator.

11:04 PM

Blogger ninepounddictator said...

Well, let me see. In Toronto, and I'm 33, I don't drive.

In Calgary, you kind of have to drive.

I'll probably decide whether to get her a car or 14 years.

12:05 AM

Blogger Cindy said...

That is a very interesting way of approaching it. And the more I think about it the more I agree.

Case in point: My dad would never share HIS pop with us and would hide it at night so we wouldn't drink the last of his mix. Now I am addicted to pop.

However though, icecream was always available and still I refuse to share my icecream with anyone.

I think that is a very good theory. However I have no kids so what do I know.

12:19 AM

Blogger Cindy said...

Oh and there is nothing wrong with eating fruit loops. However I prefer lucky charms.

12:20 AM

Blogger Not Jenny said...

I read your post and then waited with great anticipation to see the replies you would get. You also made me think hard about the level of spoilage in my own home. We don't have the money you do, but we still manage to keep the spoilage level pretty high. (The kids have three grandmas, so that helps a lot.)

Hubby came from a simiar home to yours so he ate nothing but Froot Loops and nachos for his first year on his own. When I go grocery shopping the cashier is always having to ring through open bags of crackers or cereal bars that my boy picks out for himself. I never want to demonize certain foods--my kids could develop the screwed-up eating issues and body image I have.

I have always been about picking my battles. At the moment, a box of cereal bars or a toy from the dollar store a few times a week are not going to break me. Who knows what will happen when I have teenagers? Why worry now? I have tons to worry about already.

5:17 AM

Blogger Foodmomiac said...

I am WAY more lenient with my daughter than my parents were with me. She is allowed to have dessert before dinner and she gets most of the toys and trinkets she desires. This was working out quite well until she turned four. She now asks for EVERYTHING and is a major whiner and complainer. Of course, so am I. ;-)

7:07 AM

Blogger Ali said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:32 AM


I have one daughter who loves to buy and one that is very choosy about what she wants and buys. I feel the more we get the less we appreciate. For me, true happiness doesn't come from a store. My oldest would beg to differ on that one.

7:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

life it too short...i've seen many families be torn with sick children, or something happens to the paretns etc etc. very sad. if you can, do it. spoil them with the notion of happiness (and not greed). life is just too short to do otherwise/be any other way.

8:03 AM

Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I'm totally on board with this theory. I can't really afford to buy whatever my son wants, but what I can afford I do buy (and we love garage sales because really a quarter buys a whole lot).
I think though, that it's the motivation behind it determines if your child is just spoiled (good) or a spoiled brat (bad).
I think if you keep buying your child stuff so they stop whining or out of guilt it is a lot different than if you just let them choose something at a store because you love them and toys are fun and why not.
I'm sure that the whole reverse psychology thing is working, and I think it's also because you are clearly a really dedicated loving mom that is what makes her so fun and sweet.
But, seriously ... only 2 temper tantrums??? Wow. Matt has 2 temper tantrums before we change the first diaper.

10:45 AM

Blogger Sara Bingham said...

hmmmm, chocolate! luck charms - no thanks. fruit loops - okay. captain crunch - definately! :)

12:46 PM

Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

My parents were very strict about sweets and I became a sweets fanatic. Beyond fanatic: my mother caught my grade-school ass in the cupboards huffing table sugar straight up on more than one occasion. So I'm going to be pretty flexible with WonderBaby.

And? Dude? I don't drive either! We'll see how that affects teenage car lust. She'll probably be a taxi princess like her mother by then.

2:23 PM

Blogger Mega Mom said...

Pretty interesting. In my "younger" parenting days I might have been appalled, but now I take more of a "to each his own" philosophy. She sounds like a neat little thing :)

I am looking forward to seeing the negative comments though. Keep stirring it up!

2:58 PM

Blogger bubandpie said...

I don't know about the toy thing, but I hear ya on the sugar! I grew up with no-sugar-cereals-but-Cheerios, no cookies except homemade whole wheat oatmeal, and I still have a hard time talking myself out of Emergency Sugar Alert mode: Must. Eat. Dessert. Now. (Sure, I'm not actually hungry, but who knows when the next time is that I'll see chocolate??? Oh yeah, anytime I want because I'm a grown-up and my cupboard is ALWAYS stocked.)

And that's not even mentioning the horrible jonesing little girl I used to be, stalking children on the playground, looking longingly at their Peek Frean Fruit Cremes.

11:54 AM

Blogger Jenn said...

Add me to the list of spoilers. I have 3 boys that I love to itty bitty pieces, and yes I spoil them - not to the point where they EXPECT something everytime we go out - but more often than not, I'll get them *something* - even if it's a Timbit from Hortons! Upshot of it all is - on the days when I don't get them anything (yes it has happened) I just say - Oh not this time, and they are ok with that - because they know that they'll probably get some little treat next time. I spoil them with hugs and kisses too, and in our family, positive enforcement really does affect their behaviour. They can be mischievous monkeys, and downright evil spawn at times, but good behaviour is rewarded with a sticker, and they do try to get those stickers! I don't expect perfection - they are after all, only human, and at 5, 3 and 2, they still have plenty to learn about the way the world works - but at least mummy is safe and loving and full of hugs - Always. Oh and we always have chocolate in the house too. And I let them drink diet coke just as often as I drink it. Hypocrisy is something I don't want to teach them.

1:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad this is working for you, but it seems like a dangerous, dangerous game to play. It'll either work super awesome or blow up in your face.
Good luck, brave maverick.

11:03 PM

Anonymous sween said...

I am so with you on the special food thing. Growing up, it was always whole-wheat health bread in the house -- always always always.

End result: a never-ending passion for the cheapest, bleachiest white bread ever.

5:32 AM

Blogger Food Mum said...

I'm happy it works for you and your child...but...I'm going to risk being uptight mmum here. I never buy my three anything when we are grocery shopping and they never throw tantrums cos they know they won't get anything. The older two do get pocket money, so they can save up and buy what they want and I'll get the equivalent for the youngest.

They do get spoilt with unexpected presents from their aunts, their granny visits twice a year with a suitcase full of clothes and presents for them. If there's something they really want they can put it down on a wish list and they'll usually get it for birthday or Christmas. THe result - lots of excitement and anticipation over birthdays, Christmas, granny's visits and surprised pleasure over other unexpected gifts.

From me they get love, hugs, listened to, baked with and all that. With three of them, if I was forever buying them stuff too, we wouldn't be able to walk through the house any more - it'd be too full of stuff!

11:06 PM


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