The Characteristics of Spoiled Children and How to Set Boundaries for Them

Spoiled children don't value what they have, because they always get what they want. Therefore, you must impose boundaries on them.
The Characteristics of Spoiled Children and How to Set Boundaries for Them

Last update: 22 September, 2021

In this article, we’re going to talk about spoiled children, or rather, children who show spoiled behaviors. There are two variables that play an important role here. On the one hand, there’s the temperament of each child which concerns the influence of their genes. On the other hand, there’s their education. As a matter of fact, when education stands out for its lack of boundaries or coherence, it’s easy for children to begin to develop spoiled behavior.

The key lies in learning to set boundaries and, above all, to reinforce appropriate behaviors. This will move the child away from throwing unwarranted tantrums in order to get what they want. Here, we talk about four specific characteristics of spoiled children, possible causes of their behaviors, and how to learn to set boundaries for them.

Boy with bear

1. They try to get away with it

One of the characteristics of spoiled children is that they’re capable of doing virtually anything they can think of to get what they want. In fact, there’s nothing they won’t consider, prohibited or not. Why is this? It’s because they don’t tolerate frustration or boundaries. They want things to be done their way, following their rules, and they expect to get the results they want.

This is a behavioral process. In other words, their way of acting isn’t the product of reflective thought, especially when they’re young. However, with their behavior, they’re actually manifesting an idea along the lines of  “I don’t get reinforcement, so I stop behaving well”.

2. They have a low tolerance for frustration

As we’ve said, spoiled children have a low tolerance for frustration. In fact, they’re used to having reality conform to their wishes, regardless of the price that others may have to pay for it.

They’re children who’ve been unable to develop strategies to tolerate frustration, because they’ve had too few opportunities to face it.

3. They disobey

Another of the most outstanding characteristics of these children is disobedience. They ignore the demands of their parents and just comply with their own. This is closely related to the absence of boundaries.

If boundaries aren’t marked in time, there’s a risk that children will disobey the orders or demands of their parents, because they’ve never had to behave well or follow certain guidelines.

4. They use tantrums to get what they want

Spoiled children use temper tantrums, sulkiness, and anger to get what they want. This might be attention, or for their parents to give in to their wishes, etc.

In turn, this means that they don’t develop negotiation or empathy skills. For this reason, it’s extremely difficult for them to share and understand others. Why is this? Because they’ve always solely focused on their own behavior and on what they need.

Going back to the tantrums, it’s important to know that giving in to them is a double-edged sword. That’s because, at first, they’ll alleviate the child’s tantrum. However, over time, the child continues to use that strategy to get what they want.

Boy crying with tantrum

Causes of spoiled children

As we mentioned earlier, both genetics (temperament) and environment play a part in the origin of spoiled behavior. Within this second variable, we find parental educational styles.

These greatly influence the development of the way in which a child functions. As a matter of fact, beyond their temperament and character, we know that spoiled children are often “born” due to certain overprotective behaviors of their parents, or the absence of boundaries. Among these and other behaviors we find that these kinds of parents:

  • Don’t set boundaries.
  • Give in to tantrums or misbehavior.
  • Don’t set rules at home.
  • Reinforce inappropriate behaviors.
  • Don’t reinforce appropriate behaviors.
  • Act inconsistently (especially in relation to boundaries).

How to set boundaries

How do you set boundaries for children? What strategies are there to help? Here are some:

Agree the boundaries

It’s important that boundaries are explained to children in a clear, simple, and age-appropriate way. They can also benefit from the fact of being able to have an input themselves. In other words, to express their opinion, and say what they feel in relation to the boundaries, and so on.

Here it’s not so much a question of giving in to what they “demand” or say, but of giving them a voice and, wherever possible, reaching a common agreement, especially if they’re older children. In this way, they feel that they’re also part of the process.

In effect, it means negotiating with them. However, logically, there will always be some boundaries that are non-negotiable. As parents, you must have to make them understand that they must respect these boundaries and that there’s no chance of changing them.

Offer alternatives

If you “prohibit” a child from carrying out a certain behavior, that is, if you set a certain boundary, you should also offer an alternative behavior. For example, “You can’t play on the kitchen floor, but you can play in the dining room/lounge/.”

Children need room for maneuver so they’re able to develop as autonomous beings. Therefore, they need to know what not to do. However, above all, they need to know what they can do.

Reinforce appropriate behaviors

When it comes to setting boundaries, reinforcing appropriate behaviors can also be a good strategy. Why is this?

It’s because it’s a way of increasing the probability that this behavior will reappear in the future and, in turn, you’re teaching your children what they can do.

Mother negotiating with her daughter

Let’s not forget that children are constantly developing. Furthermore, during this development, practically everything influences them. In this sense, their education is of paramount importance.

Therefore, if you want to prevent your children from showing spoiled child behavior, it’s important to start by setting boundaries while respecting their own rhythms and development.

“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.”

-María Montessori-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Arce, M. (2015). Crecimiento y desarrollo infantil temprano. Rev Peru Med Exp Salud Publica, 32(3): 574-8.
  • Guerra, V. (2000a). Sobre los vínculos padres-hijo en el fin de siglo y sus posibles repercusiones en el desarrollo del niño. Revista uruguaya de psicoanálisis, 91.
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  • Torío, S. et al. (2008). Estilos educativos parentales: revisión bibliográfica y reformulación teórica. Publicaciones periódicas EUSAL. Teoría de la Educación, 20.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.