How to Stop Spoiling Your Tween

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When your children are young, it's easy to spoil them with toys or other offerings. But as your child matures, spoiling them can have some major consequences and blowback. Truly, no one likes a spoiled and entitled teenager, and a spoiled and entitled adult is even worse. And it's not just popularity that's impacted when you spoil your older child.

The truth is, if you're spoiling your preteen, you're really not helping your child learn how to deal with the ups and downs that everybody has to face in life.

By spoiling your child, you could be making things worse for your child in the long run.

Below are a few ways you can put a stop to your own parenting behavior, as well as help your child become more responsible, resilient, and productive. Here's how to stop spoiling your tween and raise a happy, confident, and self-assured older child.

Demand Your Child Contribute

There are no excuses now. By tweenhood, your child is old enough to help with chores and other household duties, such as making dinner or watching younger siblings while you're busy or running quick errands. Be sure your tween knows exactly what chores or responsibilities they are responsible for, and explain what they need to do. If your tween understands your expectations and can take the direction, they should be just fine. Refrain from micromanaging your child — rather, find constructive ways to help your tween improve skills and expand them.

Make Your Child Face the Music

It can be difficult to let our children learn from their mistakes, but there is no better teacher than experience. If your child fails a test because they haven't been doing their homework, or if they feel tired in the morning because they stayed up the night before, you probably need to allow your child to learn from the experience.

If your child refuses to finish their chores, consequences should follow.

Consequences are ideally related to the issue at hand. For example, your tween might lose their allowance for the week or lose video game privileges until the chores are done. Try to avoid bailing your child out of trouble or making uncomfortable consequences easier by running interference.

Stop Playing Santa

Tweens can be pretty demanding when it comes to fashion and all the "must-haves," but the reality is your child doesn't need every latest gadget or a pair of sneakers in every color. Even if you have the economic means to shower your older child with gifts, you may want to reconsider your generosity and how it will impact your tween long term.

If your tween gets everything they want, you're setting your child up for a lifetime of disappointment when the realities of everyday living confront expectations (and eventually, they always do). Instead of playing Santa 365 days a year, ask your tween to work for the things they really want—either by earning money as a parental helper by helping you tackle household projects that you've been putting off. That should help immunize your tween against affluenza.

Make Them Set Goals

Believe it or not, learning how to set and achieve goals doesn't come naturally for preteens, but helping your child see ahead and plan for it is a skill that will benefit your tween for a lifetime. Setting goals and working towards them is the exact opposite of entitlement. If your tween is pining away for the latest set of headphones, resist the urge to run out and purchase them. Instead, help your tween set the goal of buying them, and then help your child figure out how to do that. Your tween may decide to save any money earned from chores or an after-school job, or your tween may decide to tackle a business venture by opening a lemonade stand.

Your child's approach to school success should be the same. If your tween hopes for straight As, they will have to figure out how to make that accomplishment achievable. Expecting good grades without putting in the effort is generally not realistic.

Give your child the tools to dream and then help your tween develop a plan for success.

Learn How to Say "No"

A child doesn't become spoiled overnight. It's a process that takes years in the making. Part of the problem of spoiled tweens is that they never hear the word "no" from their parents. Many adults strive to form a friendship with their growing child in the hopes of becoming a confidant or even a "bestie." But right now what your child needs the most is a parent, and parenting sometimes means having to say "no".

While saying "no" to outrageous requests won't make you popular with your tween, it will help your child understand limitations and learn how to cope with disappointment. If your child wants to ignore their curfew, go to a concert the night before a big test, or expects you to shell out money for the latest gadget that you know will be a passing fad, then it's your job to draw the line where it needs to be.

It may be uncomfortable to set limits and say "no" at first, but you'll get used to clarifying reasonable expectations, and so will your tween.

How Does Your Tween Treat Others?

Not sure if your tween is spoiled? Ask yourself how your tween treats other people, including family members. Does your tween talk back to teachers, coaches, or other adults? Do they berate friends when they disappoint? Do they insult you or torment younger siblings?

If you've spoiled your child or neglected to discipline them for unacceptable behavior, you'll know simply by observing your child with others. While you may have some serious catch-up work to do to help your tween develop better social skills and behaviors, you shouldn't be quick to give up. It may take a while to break bad habits, both yours and your tween's.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alizadeh S, Talib MBA, Abdullah R, Mansor M. Relationship between parenting style and children’s behavior problems. Asian Soc Sci. 2011;7(12):195-200. doi:10.5539/ass.v7n12p195 

  2. Children's Bureau. Leaving Your Child Home Alone.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Steps for using consequences.

  4. Duckworth AL, Gendler TS, Gross JJ. Self-control in school-age children. Edu Psychol. 2014;49(3):199-217. doi:10.1080/00461520.2014.926225

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.