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Parenting Tips to Prevent Raising Overindulged, Self-Centered Children

Janis counseled many populations during her career, including children and families in need of parenting skill assessment and interventions.

Babies have unique personalities, each requiring parents to employ patience and individualized parenting styles.

Babies have unique personalities, each requiring parents to employ patience and individualized parenting styles.

Parenting Children Isn't an Easy Task

Parenting is undoubtedly the most difficult undertaking on the planet. Providing sustenance to and being responsible for little human beings can be a draining task that comes without much instruction.

Moreover, when you're dealing with the personalities, temperaments, likes, and dislikes of these little people, it makes parenting each unique individual child quite a challenge. And as these precious creatures grow and develop, the parenting task becomes even more daunting.

Parenting Style and Development of Personality

It is said that a child's personality is formed by the age of three and fully developed by the age of seven. Depending on which study or theory you ascribe to, the general consensus is that there is truth to this observation. Ask any parent who has dealt with the personality of his young child and he will probably agree that it is indeed a fact.

The personality of your child can make parenting all the more challenging. It certainly prompts educators and researchers to wonder about the effects of parenting styles on the child's behavior and formation of that personality, particularly the formation of the self-centered personality that blooms in adulthood.

The Overindulgent Parent and the Self-Centered Child

The focus of this article is to explore the parenting style of the overindulgent parent and the factors that contribute to the development of the narcissistic, self-centered child.

The purpose is to provide parents with information to help them determine if their parenting style is contributing negatively to behaviors and attitudes in their children that could lead to self-centered personality traits.

The goal is the prevent parents from raising children in a home environment that may produce unhealthy, self-centered adults in the future.

Research is presented with implications indicating that overindulged children grow up to become adults with traits consistent with materialism, unhappiness, and self-centeredness.

What Is an Overindulgent Parent?

According to researcher David Bredehoft, an overindulgent parent tends to provide their children with every need and want out of unconditional love for the child.

They place no limit on supplying the child's wishes, nor do they place limits on the child. They are permissive about setting boundaries and believe it is good for the child to have free reign of choices and be able to make decisions.

Overindulgent parents often give their children too much, too early, creating children who later become self-centered with a sense of entitlement. They truly love their children unconditionally and may be driven by their own unresolved feelings of neglect and impoverishment.

Hence, their parenting philosophies may be driven by a need to vicariously live through the child's happiness, provided at all costs, fulfilling their own unmet needs.

Parents sometimes fall victim to the cunning charm of their children, foregoing the structure and discipline children so desperately need.

Parents sometimes fall victim to the cunning charm of their children, foregoing the structure and discipline children so desperately need.

Four Main Parenting Styles

There are four main parenting styles that represent the various ways in which parents rear and interact with their children.

These interactions encompass philosophies of nurturing behaviors, communication, discipline, and degree of autonomy that influence a child's overall development and personality.

They include:

  • Authoritative - Balanced parenting
  • Authoritarian - Strict Parenting
  • Indulgent - Lenient parenting
  • Neglectful - Uninvolved parenting

See the chart for detailed descriptions of parenting style and the child's response to each type.

It provides a framework within which no one parent precisely falls, as the factors are fluid.

The Parenting Style of the Overindulgent Parent

The behaviors and attitudes of the overindulgent parent include:

  • Lack of limit-setting and boundaries on the child's behavior and autonomy
  • Lack of balance between discipline and praise
  • Inability to say "no" and mean "no" (the "nag factor"-Jill Rigby)
  • Belief that the child should not lack for anything
  • Lack of adherence to rules and assignment of responsibilities in the home
  • High tolerance for back-talk, verbal challenges, and disrespectful behavior in the name of building assertiveness and independence

Parents Can Have More Than One Style of Parenting

Most parents overlap from one to the other. The overindulgent parent mainly falls between the Indulgent and Neglectful parenting styles.

Four Parenting Styles and the Impacts on the Child

Parenting styles, attitudes, and behaviors vary and overlap where a parent may be described by more than one style.

Parenting StyleDescription of ParentImpact on the Child


understand how their children feel and respond to them; warm and nurturing; communicative with their children; democratic; sets standards, monitors limits; places demands and expectations on the child; punishment is measured, consistent, and explained to the child; encourages independence but places controls on the child's actions

ideally healthy, emotionally stable


restrictive and punitive; high expectations of conformity and compliance to rules; little open dialogue between parent and child; expects a lot from the child without clear definitions of limits or boundaries; not very responsive to the child

less social competencies; more likely to be insecure and display anti-social behavior; varies with culture


very involved with their children but place very few controls or demands on them; permissive and non-directive yet nurturing and accepting; very responsive to child's needs and wishes; do not place controls on child's inappropriate behavior

children tend to be more impulsive but emotionally secure; grow up to be more independent and mature quickly; may engage in substance use and misconduct as teens


low in warmth and attentiveness to their children; disengaged and low in responsiveness; dismissive of child's emotions and opinions; emotionally unsupportive but provide basic needs of sustenance; do not set limits or controls nor do they set clear boundaries on behavior

overly mature and independent; socially withdrawn

Research: Overindulgence and Adult Attitudes

In a 2010 study by Mary R. Slinger and David Bredehoft, the relationship between childhood overindulgence and adult attitudes and behavior was explored.

Based on questionnaires using psychological scale measures, the researchers looked at whether or not overindulged children were more likely to become adults who are materialistic, unhappy, unable to delay gratification, and less grateful than other adults.

They found the following with implications:

  • Overindulged participants in the study were more likely to hold values that were congruent with materialism in terms of defining success and happiness
  • Overindulged participants were less likely to delay gratification
  • Overindulged participants were less likely to embrace gratefulness, and subsequently
  • Overindulged participants were less happy than those participants who were not overindulged.
Research indicates that overindulged children grow up to become self-centered adults.

Research indicates that overindulged children grow up to become self-centered adults.

Our Society Breeds Overindulgence and Self-Absorption

Jill Rigby, a leader and expert in the field, states that overindulgent parenting is a result of the self-absorbed society in which we live.

Parents are raising children whose immediate wants and materialistic needs are met with no balance in teaching compassion, love, patience, and responsibility.

In my experience in family counseling and parenting issues, overindulgence is also a way to compensate for benign neglect of children who are left to parent themselves.

The demands of shift work and overtime hours cause parents to shower their children with material things to make up for being absent. They will forgo the enforcement of discipline and end up overcompensating for their lack of hands-on parenting. The children soon learn to get what they want as they play on the parent's guilt.

Children know how to get what they want from parents who respond to their every whim.

Children know how to get what they want from parents who respond to their every whim.

Tips for Avoiding Overindulgent Parenting

  • Be aware of any unresolved issues you may be addressing through the parenting of your children
  • Realize that discipline and limit-setting are forms of love; children see that you care about what happens to them when you enforce boundaries to keep them safe
  • Learn to say "no" and mean it by placing limits on yourself with firmness and follow-through
  • Limit your catering to your child's every whim and want
  • Lower your tolerance level for disrespectful behavior
  • Take back control of your household by re-establishing your authority
  • Establish consistency in your parenting by starting early with your child
  • Teach your children values that encompass compassion, empathy, and gratefulness

From Self-Centeredness to Compassionate People

Parenting is difficult enough as you make your best efforts to provide your children with basic needs. The manner in which you provide these needs is determined by your parenting style philosophy.

Parenting style ultimately contributes to the development of your child as a person. It is vitally important for parents to increase their awareness of parenting styles and the impact it has on raising a healthy, stable child.

Research shows that overindulgent parenting has a tendency to produce self-centered adults with unhealthy attitudes about how they relate to the world.

The future of our world will benefit less from self-centeredness and more from a display of empathy and compassion for humanity as a whole.

The challenges of parenting include balancing the provision of the child's needs and management of temperaments.

The challenges of parenting include balancing the provision of the child's needs and management of temperaments.

Be Aware of Your Overindulgent Tendencies

Sources - Parenting Style and Personality

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: When is too late to reverse overindulgent parenting?

Answer: That's a broad question. It depends on the age of the child and if the indulgence has already molded the child's behavior. However, one should never completely give up hope to make changes for the better. It's never too late to try.

Question: This article has me in tears. What are some tips/advice on the process of correcting the behavior of self-centered children?

Answer: It will take time with no easy tips or advice. The fact that you read this article and it elicited emotion means you can be inspired to make changes. Be gentle with yourself and know it is a process. Put your child's emotional health first. Consider some counseling sessions where you can invest in yourself and address your specific situation. Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate your question and wish you well.

© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans


Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on August 20, 2019:

Thank you, Peg, for your comment. You really bring home the message of the article by sharing your experience and knowledge. I hope it continues to reach those parents who need the help. I appreciate your visit.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 20, 2019:

This important article is a must read for parents who believe that giving in to every childish whim is good parenting. Too many times I've witnessed bribery and tolerance for unacceptable behavior in young children who learn early that they can get anything they want with a tantrum.

The outcome is adult "children" who are unable to maneuver in the real world and tend to remain in their parent's homes way beyond a reasonable time frame. This describes a relative's son who, at 23, is still in college "about to finish a (4-year) degree" who has never had a job or financial responsibility without parental assistance. His post-graduate plans are to move back into the family home where he will not be required to contribute to the household overhead.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on November 03, 2017:

You are correct abut that, anusha. Parents overcompensate with "things" when they are not able to be as present as they would like. They are not bad parents. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Anusha Jain from Delhi, India on November 03, 2017:

This was an interesting read, and I must say, it's quite logical.

I've also seen that these days as parents have less time to spend with kids, they tend to overindulge to compensate and that has it's own negative effects.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on July 19, 2017:

Sounds like a lot going on. It would be best to sort out parenting differences with a family therapist over a few sessions. Best to you and your family.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on April 05, 2017:

My goodness, thank you, Dr. Bredehoft, for taking the time to read my article. It is an honor to have cited your research and then have you stop by and give it a thumbs up! I will definitely share the site with parents and spread the word about the book. Thanks again for the generous comment.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on March 16, 2017:

You are absolutely correct, Tim. Parents do the best they can out of love and have no idea. I hope this article is helpful to some. Thank you so much for your visit and critique. I personally think a class on the basics should be a part of pre-natal care.

Tim Kacillas from Anchorage, AK on March 16, 2017:

This is great stuff! I couldn't agree more and I've seen the evidence first hand. Though, I do think it is important to note that often times the parent has no idea they are doing anything wrong. There are many parents that are completely naïve to the information you've written above and they are pulling their hair out because of a difficult child. I suppose that's why it's important to share knowledge. Keep up the good work.

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on May 07, 2015:

Why thank you indeed.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on May 07, 2015:

Thank you for that on-point and succinct comment, gmwilliams. You really understand the dynamics. I appreciate your visit.

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on May 06, 2015:

Excellent article. Many parents overindulge their children to make up for what they did not receive in their childhood. Because they had probably grown up in poverty, scarcity and want, they want their children to have everything they did not have. Yes, overindulgent parents raise children who are self-centered, dependent, and irresponsible. Such children have the entitlement mentality and believe that the world owes them. Good parents lovingly establish limits and teach their children habits of responsibility and self-sufficiency.

Mbalaji on February 22, 2015:

I believe she is right. During the teen years our crhidlen need us more than ever and in a very different way. When they are small they need us to teach them everything, when they reach the tweens they need us

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on August 28, 2014:

Thanks for your comment, Stacie L. I appreciate your validation from a teacher's point of view. I wish more parents could understand these concepts. Thanks for stopping by.

Stacie L on August 28, 2014:

This is so relevant a former teacher, I would have to deal with over indulgent parents daily and their children. These kids grow up to be self absorbed and narcissistic many times. Nobody wins in this scenario.

thumbs up!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on July 17, 2014:

Thank you very much, Raul.

Raul Sierra Jr from El Paso, Texas on July 17, 2014:

Nicely done. Now if we could only get more parents to read this...

Very useful.


Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 10, 2014:

Hi Maggie.L, glad you found this helpful. Thank you for taking the time to visit and read this article. I wish you the best with your youngest.

Maggie.L from UK on June 10, 2014:

Hi janshares. Really good points highlighted in your hub. I like the table and have used it to analyse my own parenting style. Although I was mainly authoritative with my eldest children, I've identified myself as being a little too indulgent with my youngest child. I'm now going to set things right...hopefully!

Rebecca Furtado from Anderson, Indiana on September 28, 2013:

Wonderful advice. The chart on parenting styles is very useful. I suspect most of us human parents are a mixture of those styles at various times.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on July 05, 2013:

Thank you, good point. Most parents are not aware of this information and, therefore, are not aware of their mistakes. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this one and leave comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 05, 2013:

I have one child but have noticed other children and of how they are raised the thing is most parents are not educated by this topic How to Avoid Overindulgent Parenting and Self-Centered Children / Tips for Raising Healthy Adults and you have applied great thought and research here.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 19, 2013:

Excellent points, izettl. I'm glad you can relate. Thanks for reading this one and leaving these great comments. I really appreciate you.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on June 19, 2013:

A bunch of great votes on this hub. Very comprehensive and although I've heard when personality forms in childhood, after having kids I believe a lot of the personality is there right after birth. I have two kids and I hear from a lot of parent that some of their kids are so different and opposites. Admittedly I fall into one trap in the overindulgent category and that is believing they shouldn't lack anything. I say no and discipline but I hate the feeling when my children feel lacking something. As a mom it feels natural to give everything and do everything you can for your kids. Even all your, love, time and attention which can be overdone as well.

I really think people are parenting out of guilt nowadays. More working parents means more guilt and buying or giving anything to the kids. We are headed for a narcissistic society. Great hub!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 15, 2013:

So glad it resonated with you as an educator, ps. I appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by and for sending the angels.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 15, 2013:

Too many times as a teacher I had to deal with this issue straight on. Children were given little or no limits and basically 'called the shots' in their homes. There was little regard for any rules or parameters the family would set. As gently as I knew how I offered ways for the parent to take back control. You suggest doing just that...and the good news is, it can be done, a little painful perhaps, but it can happen. Thank you for sharing this...Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 12, 2013:

Thank you for reading it, Eddy.

Eiddwen from Wales on June 12, 2013:

Interesting and useful.


Haseena from India on June 11, 2013:

Really helpful for parents. Voted up.

Firoz from India on June 11, 2013:

You're welcome Janshares.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 11, 2013:

Thank you very much for reading and voting, jabelufiroz.

Firoz from India on June 11, 2013:

A must read for parents. Voted up and useful.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 11, 2013:

Lol, PHILLYDREAMER, you have me chuckling as I read your comment. It is quite common, as noted in the hub, that most parents move from one style to another. Your children willl be fine. Thank you for reading this hub.

Jose Velasquez from Lodi, New Jersey on June 11, 2013:

I'm reading this and wondering where my style fits, and honestly depending on my mood I tend to lean a little to each style. On my good days I can be authoritative. On my mean days I can be very strict. On my withdrawn day I tend to forget me children are there aside from making sure they have the basics, and when I feel like a bad parent I can overindulge. It makes me wonder if my children will grow up confused as I am.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 10, 2013:

I appreciate that, Faith Reaper, so glad you took the time to read it and offer your own insightful comments. Thank you very much.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 10, 2013:

This should be read by every future parent....overindulgent parents have multiplied in numbers these past few years. Great suggestions here my friend.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 10, 2013:

Hi Jan,

What a really great article here, very useful and insightful!

You are so right, a child knows how to get his or her way, and push those limits no doubt.

I think a lot of the mind-set of those who do tend to overindulge when it comes to their children, are those who went without a lot growing up themselves, and think they want to provide more to their chilren, but that is not wise in the least!

They get so spoiled and just seem to not really appreciate anything and come to just expect everything handed to them on a silver platter, but the world is not like that, as they will soon find out.

Vote up +++ and sharing

(will return to share, as buttons not appearing at the moment)

God bless, Faith Reaper