Introducing the “D’s”: Recognizing Overindulgence

Being a healthy and effective disciplinarian requires deciding what your strategies will be before limit-setting situations or consequences may occur. Picturing an Effective Disciplining Report Card with each of its “grades” can help parents better focus on what will make them healthier and more effective each time they need to assume the role of disciplinarian.

Accepting responsibility in discipline

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and GrandmotherDevelopment

We’ve already looked at the 5 “C’s” of the Effective Discipline Report Card. In summary, those consist of being Calm, Clear, Confident, and Compassionate while maintaining healthy Connections. We are now going to look at the “D’s” we need to earn on this journey to be effective when disciplining. Those are accepting the responsibility to Deny, Demand and Delegate.

Each of these is the antithesis of overindulgence.

In recent years, there’s been some outstanding research on the negative effects, both short and long-term, for children who are overindulged. A leader in this research is Jean Illsley Clarke, co-author of How Much is Too Much.

We have learned that overindulgence is actually a form of child neglect.

This can sound harsh, but it is what the research suggests can occur when the adults in charge of the child refuse or are uncertain about denying, demanding and delegating.

Parents sometimes wonder if overindulgence is the same as spoiling. A helpful differentiation is made on the website  which states, “Overindulgence is not quite the same as spoiling. When we refer to a child as spoiled, we usually describe behaviors that annoy the adults. While an overindulged child may act spoiled, the results of overindulgence are more far reaching than that.”

In her book, Jean Illsley Clarke provides the following descriptions of overindulging children:

“Overindulging children is giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. It is the process of giving things to children to meet the adults needs, not the child’s needs.”

Overindulgence is giving a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to be meeting the childrens needs but does not, so children experience scarcity in the midst of plenty. Overindulgence is doing or having so much of something that it does active harm or at least stagnates a person and deprives that person of achieving his or her full potential.

Overindulgence is a form of child neglect. It hinders children from doing their developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons.”

Evidence-based reasons

These are powerful reasons to have strategies for denying, demanding and delegating rather than overindulging when children beg, plead, whine and attempt to manipulate parents.

[One of many YouTube clips featuring Jean Illsley Clarke speaking on what she learned from her research on overindulgence: ]

Invitation to reflect:

  1. To what extent do you struggle when your children plead with you to give them something they really don’t need?
  2. How comfortable are you when you need to deny, demand or delegate?
  3. How did your parents or caregivers respond when you attempted to get them to give you more than you really needed? How is that impacting how you parent now?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network