What makes a person spoiled

"Pampering is a kind of addiction"

The psychologist Jürg Frick has been concerned with overcautious parenting for three decades - long before the term helicopter parents became established. He says: Pampered children become dependent.

Interview: Andres Eberhard

Mr. Frick, how do you like the term helicopter parents?

Actually not bad at all. He aptly describes how parents circle over their children in order to monitor them. However, the term is mainly used today to accuse parents. I think that's wrong. You shouldn't make parents feel guilty, because most of them want to do well. So I prefer to talk about pampering. This term goes deeper and further in my opinion.

In what way?

Pampering is about a basic attitude that is characterized by overcautiousness or over-anxiety: not trusting the child very much and therefore relieving them of many things that they could do by themselves.

You refer to pampering as a drug in your book. Why?

If children are spoiled, they will continue to demand this behavior in the future. Driving a child to school once is no problem. But the next day the child will ask: "Mommy, I'm late, will you drive me again?" If you then give in, the child gets used to it. This habit is a kind of addiction. What are the consequences of being pampered? It results in children becoming discouraged and unfit for life. A spoiled child believes that he can do nothing, that he is lost without parents. Such children are also used to the world revolving around them. That makes it difficult for them to adapt. At school, for example, they can't handle bad grades or the fact that you play something different in gymnastics than they want.

Are there long-term effects into adulthood?

In my book I make an excursus on top managers. For the former head of Novartis, Daniel Vasella, it was completely normal that he should receive around 71 million francs in severance payments - spread over six years. When the public did not approve of this, he left the country insulted for a few years. This attitude is similar to that of pampering. I don't know whether Vasella was a spoiled child. But pampering can result in a severe deformation of the psychological structure that shapes a lifetime.

You write that pampering is a subtle form of child abuse. Isn't that going a little far?

I am often asked that. By definition, child abuse is any violent or unnecessarily restrictive act or neglect of the child. This includes not only physical but also psychological injuries. And such can arise through massive pampering. Developmental impairments are also possible consequences.

«Children need attachment,

Reliability, helpfulness,

Care. Parents should have children

not pamper them, but them

to expect something. "

What is so bad about a careful, caring upbringing?

Nothing at all. The question is different, namely: What does a child need? Children need attachment, reliability, willingness to help, care. In order to develop, however, a child should also be given other things along the way: They have to learn to take responsibility and to trust themselves.

How do you educate without pampering?

I don't want to go back to an authoritarian upbringing, but to an authoritative one. The important thing is that we should expect something from children. If I let a child understand that they are strong and can do something, that they trust them to do something, then it gives them self-confidence. Psychologists also speak of self-efficacy.

How do you do that?

For example, a child complains that another student is bothering them at school. Instead of going straight to the point and holding this student accountable, parents should clarify whether the child can solve the problem themselves. Sometimes it is enough to say: "Talk to him." Or maybe a little more help is needed. When the child has solved the problem themselves, you can say: "You did a great job." Something like that gives self-confidence.

When is it too late to correct too much pampering?

It's never too late, it just gets more difficult. An exchange with other parents makes sense. And if the suffering is great: get help, for example with a parenting advice service. You don't have to be ashamed of that. I went to the dentist the other day and it would never have occurred to me to mend the hole myself.

How do parents know if their behavior is caring or overprotective, protective or overprotective?

Parents can learn something about child development, find out about what they can expect from their child. In workshops, I show tables showing the age at which children can help with the household and where. Parents then often react in astonishment. "Aha, my child could clear away the dishes or put the clothes in the laundry bag." Society regards whoever is on the side of the child as a good mother. I say: a good mother is not on her child's side, but by their side. That's a big difference.

It's never too late to correct a pampering, it just becomes more difficult.

You have to explain that.

An example: The child says that it is impossible for them to do many arithmetic tasks in school for the next day. If a mother is on the child's side, the teacher's mother will call and ask: "Ms. A, that's way too much !?" The child learns: I'm right. But if the mother is by the child's side, she asks the teacher: "My child told us ... can that be?" If the child answers that it is a weekly plan, that the arithmetic tasks have to be done by Friday, the child will feel that they are being taken seriously, but they will also learn that the "truth" is usually complex.

Let's do another example: A ten year old wants a little dog with all his heart. So how do parents find out whether they should grant him this wish?

It's basically great that the child initiates the conversation. Now parents should ask and use this opportunity to explain what it means to have a dog. That you have to go out with your dog every day, even if it is snowing or raining, that it can also be a hassle. The child should feel taken seriously, even if you don't end up buying the dog. Incidentally, parents once asked me exactly the same question in my practice. I advised to let the whole thing settle for now - so neither choke off the topic nor buy the dog straight away. Do you know what happened? The dog was no longer an issue, and when the parents asked, the son said: "I don't need a dog anymore, I now have a girlfriend."

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