People often speak of children as being "spoiled," and many parents worry about the possibility of spoiling their infants and children. Many pediatricians, however, are uncomfortable with this term because it is a poorly defined and derogatory expression. Some would even deny that infants and children can be spoiled. Avoiding the use of the expression spoiled can create difficulties in communicating with parents concerned about their children's behavior. In this article, the spoiled child syndrome will be defined and those patterns of behavior that characterize it will be distinguished from other patterns of difficult behavior which may be confused with it. The spoiled child syndrome is characterized by excessive selfcentered and immature behavior, resulting from the failure of parents to enforce consistent, age-appropriate limits. Many of the problem behaviors that cause parental concern are unrelated to spoiling as properly understood. Such behaviors are often age-related normal behaviors, reactions to family stresses, or patterns of behavior determined by factors inherent in the child. Pediatricians can provide counseling and reassurance for such behaviors and, by helping parents understand the etiology of true spoiling, can encourage the use of behavior modification techniques for its prevention and treatment.

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