Spoiling a child isn’t good, but is overindulgence child abuse?
What Is Overindulgence?
Many parents try to give their children the things they didn’t have as children. While this can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing when the child is getting too much, and isn’t learning how to self-regulate, or cope with not getting what they want. For example, a parent who grew up in a home that struggled financially may want to buy their child every toy they ask for. While it’s nice that the child is provided for, it’s probably not good for them to get whatever they want whenever they want it. Oftentimes we gawk and gasp at “spoiled” children who are throwing temper-tantrums, but we often don’t say anything about the parents who raised the children to be that way. However, overindulgence is rarely about the child. Instead, parents overindulge their children in order to fix something in themselves, or make their lives easier. Maybe the parent doesn’t want to deal with a temper-tantrum that will result when they say no. Or, perhaps, the parent doesn’t want the child to go without something they wanted like the adult had to go without in childhood. Whatever it is, overindulgence is often about easing discomfort in the parent, not about making things easier for the child.
Types of Overindulgences
Parents can overindulge their children in a variety of ways. When we think of overindulged, we commonly think of the child with a lot of toys. While buying your child a lot of toys can be a form of overindulgence, there are other ways a child can be spoiled. Parents who do not enforce boundaries or rules with their children run the risk of raising an overindulged child. In most cases, it’s good for children to be raised to meet certain expectations. Parents who do not expect their child to succeed in school, or clean up after themselves, or perform age-appropriate chores, may be raising a child who enters adulthood without understanding how to carry out basic responsibilities. Parents can also spoil their children by having a household with “no rules.” Maybe there are no restrictions upon which types of media the child can consume, or perhaps there are no rules regarding how late the child is able to stay up.
What Can Parents Legally Do?
Parents have a right to raise their children as they see fit, and the government typically does not want to get too involved with how parents are making their decisions. While children who were overindulged often grow into adults who are emotionally stunted, overindulgence itself is not generally considered—from a legal standpoint—to be abuse or neglect, although many mental health professionals do classify overindulgence as a type of neglect. So, when it comes to the law, there’s really not much that can be done to stop a parent from overindulging a child. In most cases, overindulgence by itself is not legally considered to be abuse or neglect.
Are There Times When DCFS Will Act?
As previously mentioned, a type of overindulgence occurs when children are not given rules. In some cases, this may mean that the parent does not make their child go to school, or allows the child to stay out late. For example, a parent may also purchase alcohol for their underage children, or turn a blind eye to other bad behavior. In these cases, it is likely that DCFS would have the ability to take action, assuming reports were filed. However, DCFS’s authority to act would be less about the lack of rules, and more about the parent/child committing a crime or facilitating/encouraging delinquincy. While you may not get in trouble for a lack of rules and/or structure, you cannot facilitate your child’s illegal activities without risking the ramifications of such.
When It’s Parental Alienation of Affection
Some parents have decided not to enforce rules at their house in order to alienate the child from the other parent. While this is definitely unacceptable, it isn’t always easy to prove, and even if parents have proof, the courts aren’t always interested in acting, especially the first time it’s brought to their attention. If you feel as though your ex is trying to create strain in your relationship by having fewer rules, you may need to speak with your attorney to get specialized advice that’s tailored to your specific situation.
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