Parents Which Wolf Are You Feeding? The Evil One or The Good One?  By David Bredehoft 

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Photo: “The Good Wolf” David Bredehoft Photography   License - CC

The parable of the “Two Wolves” is a popular Native American legend (Cherokee). It has been quoted and made popular in movies (Tomorrowland), television shows (11th episode of Star Trek: Discovery - “The One I Feed”), and novels (e.g., William Kent Krueger, Windigo Island).

The legend is about a battle that goes on inside all of us. The battle is between two wolves - the good wolf and the bad. One evil, one good.

Which wolf wins?…………..The one you feed.

"The Bad Wolf" DavidBredehoftPhotography

Photo: “The Bad Wolf” David Bredehoft Photography   License - CC

This legend speaks to us on many levels: parents, children and overindulgence.

Messages that we send to our children create what Eric Berne calls “Parent Tapes”.

Amber Pound describes it well…..What Exactly Is a “Parent Tape?”:  A parent tape is essentially a thought, feeling, or belief that plays in the background of our mind that we picked up from our parents.  These tapes are often learned from watching our parents' behaviors, but they can also be deliberately taught to us as well.  This type of predisposition is one which we tend to carry well into adulthood.  We are often unaware that the thoughts we have about ourselves today stem from external influences that happened during our toddler and adolescent years.  This is because as we get older we usually believe that they are just simply a part of who we are.

What messages are we sending to our children? Are they positive messages or negative ones? What messages do our children listen to? Which ones do our children act on? What messages do we send when we overindulge our children?

Children who ARE overindulged grow up:

ü thinking of themselves as failures;

ü believing others think less of them if they make mistakes;

ü not being happy unless all people admire them;

ü rarely achieving important goals,

ü feeling insecure about their abilities;

ü believing that they are not capable of dealing with most problems that come up in

     their life.

Which wolf wins?…………..The one you feed.

Children who are NOT overindulged grow up:

üinterested in meaningful relationships, a meaningful life, or making society better;

üto be adults who have self-control and are not materialistic;

üto be appreciative, grateful, and more happy than those who were


üto become adults who do not feel entitled;

üinterested in spiritual growth, finding meaning in times of hardship and are more

     apt to develop a personal relationship with a power greater than themselves.


One wolf is Darkness and Despair. The other is Light and Hope.

Which wolf wins?…………..The one you feed.


vAsk yourself, “Am I doing this for my child, or am I really doing it for me?”

vAsk, “Am I doing something for my children that they really are old enough

     to be doing for themselves? 

vLet your children make decisions that are appropriate for their age.

vHold your children accountable for their behaviors.

vPractice saying, “You have had enough for now.”

vGradually give your teens freedom appropriate for their ages.

vEncourage your teens to solve their own problems.

vTeach your children to do chores and expect them to complete them.

vAgree on a set of rules and enforce them.

vDecide which of your rules are negotiable and which are nonnegotiable.


ü There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

üJean Illsley Clarke’s Affirmations from her book “Growing up Again”.

üThere are two wolves. Scene from movie: “Tomorrowland”.

ü How to detect overindulgence: The test of four.

 üTake a Free online course: Parenting with a Good Heart

 ü Which Wolf Are You Feeding? 

           Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude

Photos from David Bredehoft.

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;