Nurturing vs Spoiling: Ask Mrs Manners

demanding children

Photo by Peajewel

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and, is here to help.

Dear MrsManners:

My 2 year old daughter is demonstrating "spoiled" behavior, demanding I do things (such as take her to the zoo) "Right NOW!" I have always given my children as the highest priority. I love to teach and nurture. I am taking care of them the best that I can, and that involves many trips to the zoo, library, and various other places I find to be beneficial to their growth and development.

However, where's the fine line between loving, nurturing, and teaching one's children and spoiling them? I want my children to appreciate what they have including the time and attention from me.


Having my 2 year old boss me around and make demands is unacceptable. Now what? I told her today that I want her to appreciate the things I do for her, and she said, "I do Mommy." I feel like talking to her about her behavior is a good place to start. How do I balance it, though?  -- Senae

MrsManners says:

We could discuss this topic for days! Check out the most recent post I wrote on how to tell if your child is a brat. It's intriguing that you aren't talking about spoiling by buying toys or by treats, but with love, nurturing and education. Can you actually give your children too much of these things? The short answer is no, you really can't. You are obviously a great mom who is very intuitive and attentive to the needs of her children. For you to even have a red flag like this means you will be able to curb any type of spoiled behavior pretty quickly. 

So what is that line? Control. Who has it and who doesn't. If your toddler thinks for a moment she has control, you need to take it back. In all fairness, children at this age are pushing their limits and testing the waters with you almost all the time and it isn't always easy to recognize the exact moment that the line was crossed. But it is important that you realize it was crossed.  

Talking is great place to start, so let's talk about a few concepts that other mothers can use to help make this type of conversation easier: 

Feelings Children don't understand their own or those of others, and need to be taught through frequent explanations. It can be as simple as using smiley faces and sad faces. Start with those two ideas, happy and sad. Even at 2, you are doing great if you can get them to understand those two feelings. Then you can start to communicate by saying things like "that makes Mommy feel sad" or "that makes Mommy very happy."

Consequences Teaching your child about consequences can start earlier than you might realize. It starts by giving them a choice; it can be done as soon as you introduce foods. We started by picking two items, then letting our son pick one. This was all done pre-verbal communication via me stating what the options were and letting him touch which one he wanted. That was what he ate. 

He learned that you are given a choice and that is the first step to understanding consequence.  As he got older, he understood that he needed to pick wisely or he may be eating something he didn't really want to (please note for this to work, you can't cave in and give them control by giving them something else to eat).

Manners You are probably thinking, Wow she really knows how to turn any conversation into a talk about manners, can't she? Yes, in fact, I can, because they are just that important.  Here is a classic case of asking, not telling. It is okay to ask politely for something like, "Mom, may we please go the zoo?" 

With the case your daughter demanding that you take her to the zoo, you could have said, "Is that how you ask a question?" Then, make her ask you the correct way.  Then, proceed to tell her no, because the next lesson is that just because you ask for it, doesn't always mean you will get it. Sometimes it is okay to say yes, but make it something more reasonable, perhaps such as her saying, "Give me a cookie!" Then leading her through the process until she asks for it the right way and you can reward her with the cookie.

By teaching and talking with your children, you will create an environment of appreciation, which is something you deserve as an attentive and caring mother -- and you will effectively take back the control that you momentarily lost. Good luck and don't forget to leave your questions for me below, or you can PM them!


Angie aka MrsManners

Got a question for MrsManners? Ask it here! And check back every Tuesday for her answers.


Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

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