Overindulged and insatiable

Stephanie Baker is a Land Park mom and residential-real-estate consultant serving the central city

I know someone who treated their daughter to spa treatments last year—from massage to facial, pedicure to manicure. The girl was soft and shiny all over. The twist? She was 8 years old.

Immediately upon hearing this, I found myself concerned about the implications. How could someone so small enjoy such an event? How much stress does third grade cause? Did they have to use smaller nail clippers? Could she get through a pedicure without laughing incessantly? My mind reeled and it hit me: She knows that a facial is not just smearing your face with a green-mud mask and wrapping a towel on your head!

I realize there may be more to my concern than that someone born in 1997 has been buffed more than me. On a recent Oprah show, I heard opining about the effects of overindulging children. By overindulging, this author suggested, parents slowly are undermining children’s sense of wonder. And the overindulged continually will want more, unimpressed with what they receive. The effect is cumulative: To keep kids happy, parents will need to give even more to sustain their interests.

He called this overindulgent behavior “teaching insatiability.” It encourages a lifetime of wanting: an emphasis and identity on having instead of being. As a result, children don’t work on their insides, but only what they have on the outside.

Instead of elaborate gifts and services, he recommended parents give the gift of time to children: teaching and challenging them with hobbies, activities, interests. Most importantly, parents should build children’s ability to love and to find their true selves. Children should experience life, but always keep their role childlike and their life disciplined.

Fortunately, this entirely justifies the decision my husband and I made to not take our daughter on our week-long annual trips to Mexico, where I treat myself to massages. But I will continue to enjoy taking her lots of other places, near and far. And we’ll enjoy long drives with conversation, singing and laughter.

And, if I get in the mood, I’ll even paint her toes.