I agree with Dr. Amanda Gummer. ‘Verruca Salt’ Parenting Is The Disservice of Pampered Kids

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‘Verruca Salt’ Parenting – The Disservice of Pampered Kids

There has been a lot of social media interest in this article in the Daily Mail by my friend Dr. Amanda Gummer.

The middle class parents making their little darlings’ lives a misery – by never telling them… no! Overindulged children struggle in the classroom, says psychologist


Parents have pampered children throughout the world for many centuries. Some parents have always pampered their children. It’s not new but it is getting worse as parents seem to want to be their child’s friend, not their parent. This isn’t the right way round.

As a former Deputy Head teacher & Class Teacher for 25 years I watched in dismay as children as young as 3 years old messed their parents about & were allowed to be over indulged.

Alfred Adler the eminent psychologist understood the significance of pampering children and the difficulties that arise later in life for these children.

Over indulgence, over permissiveness, over domineering, over nurturing, and overprotection describe the five different categories of pampering.

Of course, over pampering and over indulging children is done from a place of love but the effects of these pampering styles inadequately prepare children to handle life situations.

What is pampering?

Parents naturally love and nurture their children, but excessive love and nurturing can lead to pampering. The Webster Dictionary defines ‘to pamper’ as “to treat with extreme or excessive care or attention”. This means to give more care or attention than is necessary or appropriate. Parent pampering can occur in any area where a child requires care or attention & this can include anything physical, emotional, developmental, and/or psychological.

Of course, in times of danger, illness, or emergencies a child needs to have extra attention & care because children depend upon their parents for safety and protection but over indulging a child in the normal day to day of family life is robbing a child of feeling capable and competent and also robs them of the very important life skill of taking responsibility for their actions.

These are the children who struggle to keep friends, they struggle to conform in the school environment and so fall behind and exasperate their teachers. They struggle to follow the rules and they feel out of control at times. I call them the kids who have the keys to the 4×4 car but they haven’t passed their test so it’s dangerous to leave them in charge.

Is pampered the same as spoiled?

The Webster dictionary defines ‘spoiled’ as “excessive pampering”. This means spoiled and pamper have identical definitions. In both cases a parent is providing an unnecessary amount of care or attention to their kids.  

People often use the term ‘spoiled brats’ to describe over pampered, & over indulged children. Spoiled children display unacceptable behaviour and they annoy other people the way they demand care or demand attention. Demanding care or attention reveals their expectation of pampering. Most parents consider this spoiled behaviour as unacceptable and attempt to correct it, but some parents feel that they don’t want their child to dislike them and they play the servant to their child’s ‘Pampered Prince/Princess ’ behaviour. We all know the unpleasant child Verruca Salt that Rohl Dahl created in his book ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Another word for pampering is ‘babying’ keeping a child overly young for their age but I think parents are robbing children of the opportunity to feel competent & capable and they are robbing them of the ability to become a ‘CAN DO Kid’ as a child will unconsciously think ‘Oh my parents don’t think I can do that – so I can’t.’

Children develop their competence and capabilities through being allowed to explore, experiment and make mistakes & they must be given the opportunity to be given real jobs and activities that are meaningful. We live in a busy, hectic, frenetic world and parents are often in such a hurry that they rob their children of the opportunity to ‘struggle’ a little in finding their lunchbox, putting on their shoes or of doing up the zip on their coat.

It’s often easier, and certainly quicker to do it for them, but this mistaken way of helping children may have serious consequences long term.

Children may interpret your failing to trust them to do these things as a sign that you don’t think they can do them. You rob your child of the experience of feeling competent and capable. Unconsciously the message they have received is ‘You don’t think I can do things for myself.’ Basically, you’ve given them the message of ‘No Confidence.’ Added to this their observation of older siblings or grown-ups being more far more competent than they are, your child may unconsciously decide that they won’t even bother to try. That keeps them stuck in dependence. Over time they may learn to resent you or certainly feel inadequate or may even decide to become a Verruca Salt – a spoilt and pampered child who needs ‘staff’ to take care of their every need!

An over protected & over pampered child may become overly dependent on others and may be afraid to be alone later in life, make decisions independently or may become so confused that they may ‘boss’ people around to get their needs met!

Teenagers who are encouraged to feel competent and capable develop self-control and become self-reliant. They are able to take on responsibility & have equal, healthy & respectful relationships with others. Whereas teens who are discouraged from feeling competent become risk takers. They are unsure of their own capabilities & they may resist your attempts to guide them – feeling the need to ‘prove themselves.’

While other disempowered teens take a different approach, and resist responsibly – not getting up in the morning unless you wake them, not doing their homework unless you nag them, expecting you to pick up, wash up and basically do everything for them! It’s worth remembering that your exasperation with them is because of your love for them , you have unconsciously disempowered them to take responsibility for themselves. It’s not helpful to beat yourself up if you discover that you have pampered them over the years but it may be time to let them face the consequences of their actions by getting a detention for undone homework or late arrival at school.

Why Saying ‘NO’ To Your Children Is Important

Saying “No” to your kids is such a simple word but so many parents find it difficult to incorporate it into their discipline strategies – it’s about feeling confident in your own ability as a parent so then the ability to say “no” becomes a powerful behaviour shaping tool in your parenting toolkit!

Parents often find it hard to say “No” to their kids and there are many reasons for this.

One of the reasons is shortage of time. We all seem to be in such a hurry these days. It’s so much easier to give in and buy whatever it is your child wants, rather than to spend time explaining why you won’t buy it or spend time dealing with their sulks when they don’t get it.

But is that the message you want your child to grow up expecting?

Another reason is being afraid of causing a scene. I know it’s easier, to wander around the supermarket with a happy and quiet child who is tucking into their sweets or crisps, rather than dragging a screaming child round while you attempt to do your shopping! But personally I think you can make looking for Postman Pat spaghetti hoops quite exciting, and getting your child involved in helping you look for the butter or helping you to weigh the grapes can be good practical experience and fun! It’s how you approach it.

Try making the whole experience a game and see how creative you can be – get your child to join in not whine – get them engaged.

Another reason is all the resources available to us nowadays .When your child asks for a treat you may think “Well it’s only 80p so it won’t break the bank” and I know we do seem to have more disposable cash splashing about today than perhaps when we were growing up, and many parents don’t think twice about spending it all on their children, but is that a good message to be sending out to your children?

What message are you giving if you continually ‘give in’?  

You can have anything you want?

My job is not to judge what you do but to get you be clear about what you want and how you want to bring up your children.

Perhaps the approach of giving in to everything is easier in the short term but is it easier in the long term? Is it creating a child who will have totally unrealistic expectations of you and the world – and will they will expect to get everything they want. Is that realistic or desirable? Is it creating a Paris Hilton?

You can be sure that their requests will get bigger and more expensive as they become aware of all the goodies out there. It’s sweets today, Nike trainers and Gucci purses next!! Tell me about it …. I’ve got a 15 year old daughter!!!!

While you may enjoy indulging your child’s wishes, the world just isn’t like that and your child may be in for a rude awakening when they encounter the many situations in the real world where they actually can’t have what they want. I think it helps if you think of it as your job to preparing them for life with its ups and downs and disappointments.

I just wonder if another message you are sending out is that “It really doesn’t matter how you treat your things – you can always get more”

Children who constantly get new toys and treats too easily learn not to value their things, because they know that they will always be replaced. They lose their sense of awe and wonder for new things if they are continually showered with gifts. It all comes too easily. So their expectations become inflated and they have no sense of gratitude or value for any of the gifts or treats they receive.

I remember my own Mum getting cross with my kids at Christmas a few years ago, as they were so overwhelmed by the amount of presents they received from both sets of Grandparents that they became nonchalant and blasé and she felt they didn’t appreciate what they had and just ripped the paper off, moving too quickly onto the next present.

Perhaps the message your child receives is “I can’t give you much time but I can give you lots of ‘things”

If this is the message your child is receiving don’t be surprised if they don’t place any value on these things or show any gratitude at getting all this stuff. ‘Things’ just cannot replace your time. If children do not get the attention and input from you, among other things, they do not develop a sense of their worth. They may feel they are not worth spending time with.

So you might be showering your child with gifts, but actually their self esteem might be diminishing as their stack of toys and “stuff” piles up. Now there’s a thought!!!

Let’s look at treats and the message we sometimes send out with those….

“If you get upset, don’t worry we’ll get you a little treat”

The child who always receives a treat when they start to cry and shout or get hurt is learning a dangerous lesson. Other children and the outside world will not be as generous as you.

So just ask yourself….

How will my child cope as an adult in a world where they most definitely won’t always get their way?

It’s all a balance between “yes” and “no,” and it takes practise if you are new to saying “No” and taking a harder line.

So start practising saying “no” to requests for things like sweets, toys and treats from time to time so you keep them for special occasions when your child will value them much more.

Initially it may be difficult as your toddler or teen may have trouble believing that you really mean” no,” because in the past this wasn’t the case. They will probably throw a wobbly, but remember the bigger picture to your parenting – the values you want to teach them and hold on – think about the consequences of giving in.

Distract, explain, smile or move on to something else, but stand firm.

Your child is learning that when you say “no,” you mean it and you are teaching them a valuable and important lesson for life.

Positive Parent -Confident Kid Tip

Just step back and reflect on this each time you interact with your children: “Is this teaching my child something I believe to be important?”

Kids like to test us – kids like to see if we really mean what we say – they want to feel secure so boundaries create safety, they want our attention so “negative attention” is better than nothing – but overall boundaries help kids

  • Know how far they can go
  • Knowing their boundaries helps kids feel safe
  • Boundaries help teach children respect for you, other people and property
  • Boundaries teach kids self control
  • Boundaries teach them to be responsible adults in the long term

There are lots of reasons why you perhaps find saying “no” difficult perhaps you’re too tired, too busy, feel guilty for some reason , or don’t get backed up by your partner, or were too strict parenting yourself by your own parents, or you have a need to be liked by your kids, or it’s all too much hassle or you may even be confused about what is acceptable but I think it helps to know what loving discipline is and what it’s not!

Setting boundaries for your child is all about:

  • Training your child’s character not punishing them
  • It’s about you being their parents and needing to be a leader and their guide more than their friend
  • It’s about consistency and following through to earn respect long term
  • And of course It’s about the age and maturity of your individual child

What it’s not!

  • Being inconsistent – saying one thing one day and not the next
  • Dominating or controlling
  • Yelling. Threatening. Criticising
  • Violence

So for this week work out what saying “No” to your kids will teach them and start to notice things that DO work and do more of that, and if you want to discover more ideas, inspiration, strategies and techniques take a look at my The secret to well behaved kids CD

Are you creating a Pampered, Spoilt, Over indulged Child?

Just for this week ‘Pause To Ponder’

Am I creating a Pampered Child? Do I need to put in firm, fair, consistent boundaries that empower my child to feel competent and capable? Do I need to say ‘No’ more to help them be less indulged?

If you discover that you aren’t doing these things consistently –  don’t beat yourself up. Just decide to make some small changes, that over time ,will make a big difference in your child’s happiness, capability and popularity.

It’s about keeping the bigger picture & focusing on raising a happy, confident, well rounded adult.

If you need some help give me a call on 01883 818329


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