We think we are giving our kids what they want when we spoil them, when we make life a fantasy of indulgence and specialness. We’re the good guy! This is what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mother thought. His father—who had failed in business and became a shell of himself—went along with it to a greater or lesser extent. They treated Scott like he was a little prince.
“I didn’t know till 15,” Scott would later confess to his own daughter, “that there was anyone in the world except me.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s charmed childhood contributed to a cursed and miserable adulthood. He grew up thinking that everything and everyone was there for his use, and how it broke his heart when he found out that wasn’t true. Like most spoiled children, Scott came to deeply resent his parents for what they had done to him. Rightfully so. Their cowardice and lack of self-discipline when he was younger caused him (and them) much pain when he was older.
There are a million cautionary tales like that out there. Dads need to read up about them. Or talk to their kids’ teachers and listen to the horror stories. Dads need to remember back to the kids they went to school with. You’re not doing your kids a favor by spoiling them. You’re actively harming them. You’re feeding the innate narcissism that every human has—encouraging selfishness and actively stunting the development of empathy and temperance exactly when those skills need the most cultivation.
It’s not stuff and privilege and pleasantness that kids need to be happy and well-adjusted. They need love. They need balance. They need boundaries. They need good examples. They need outlets for their emotions. They need pursuits and activities they can throw themselves into and learn from. They need to fail.
They don’t need everything they ever wanted. In fact, nobody wants that.