Schools, Courts, Police Play Role in Overindulgence by Connie Dawson

Chronic overindulgence is hazardous to children.  It weakens them.  How do we know that?     From the results of our studies involving adults who had been overindulged as children.  But does it stop there?


Trouble.  We’ve got trouble.

What were the hazards of being over-loved (their words), of having been given too much of what money can buy, and not having the responsibilities of other kids their age?  Here’s what they said.  They experienced one or more of the following:

· trouble learning to delay gratification

· trouble giving up being the constant center of the universe

· trouble becoming competent in everyday skills,  self-care skills and skills of relating with others

· trouble taking personal responsibility

· trouble developing a sense of identity

· trouble knowing what is ENOUGH

We’ve all observed overindulgence and many of us have done it.   Parents mean well.  They love their children.  Parents intend their children to feel loved.  Overindulgence looks like love, but feels “squishy and scary”, according to one woman who is facing the results of having been overindulged.


Loving families and determined individuals are beginning to see how erroneous beliefs about themselves have led them astray.  They are learning how to help themselves and those they love by replacing beliefs connected to their overindulgence.   They are nurturing and structuring themselves and others and are becoming more accountable.  They are learning the difference between too little, enough, and too much.

Wider influence

Overindulgence reaches far beyond families.  Schools, the police, the courts..... all want to do the best for their community’s children and families, but they, too, are subject to being overindulgent. 

A concerned aunt tells the story of how agents of the community over-protected her nephew. in essence, helping him to avoid responsibility.

Brent is 20.  For a couple of years, he ran drugs across the border.  In the aunt’s words, “He was working alone on a run and got caught.  He got an attorney who would try to get him off on a first offense plea.  It’s not his first offense.  It’s the first time he got caught.”

She went on.  “The attorney got the charge reduced from trafficking to possession.  She wasn’t telling the truth and she over-protected him.  Before his sentencing, Brent had to fill out a lot of papers.  His attorney told Brent it was imperative he tell the truth.  No untrue or hedgy statements or he’s in big trouble because he’d blow the attorney’s case. “

The aunt reports that Brent “got off” with a light sentence.  “What did he learn about ethics?  I don’t know if you can use this story without getting nauseated, she said.”

Test it out

Is Brent’s court situation one of overindulgence?  Try the Test of Four.

  1.  Was Brent’s development hampered?

  2.  Did Brent receive a disproportionate share of family resources? 

  3.  Was the situation apt to be more beneficial for the attorney or for Brent?

  4.  Was harm done to others or society?

If you answered just one of the questions with a “yes”, it’s a case of overindulgence. At the very least, Brent’s development as a responsible adult was hampered.  Although there’s a short-term benefit for Brent (avoiding jail time) the long-term consequences might be that he gets more deeply involved in illegal activity.   Harm was done to others:  both his family and his community because an illegal activity is illegal precisely because it is seen as detrimental to society.

Are we failing to hold adults and children responsible for their choices?  Does our failure strengthen the person?  Does it strengthen the community?

Now What?

The troubles experienced by children who grow up being overindulged abound in our communities.  What to do?  Develop the eyes “with which to see.”   Be accountable yourself.  As a citizen, support accountability in your organizations, communities and governments.

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).

All photos from MorgueFile free photo. 


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