When I was newly pregnant, I was slowly wandering the stacks at the library and, on a whim, picked up a random parenting book. Little did I know, that book would become one of my top parenting books. Before I read How Much Is Too Much?, the idea of overindulgence had never crossed my mind, and now, years later, certain parts of the book still stick out in my mind.
Of course, it helps that the book was written by Jean Illsley Clarke — a pioneer in the world of parenting research. I bring the book up now, several years after I read it, because I had an opportunity to hear Clarke speak at a parenting seminar earlier this week.
Now 90 years old, Clarke presented her information with a feeling of passion. Despite her advancing age, it was easy to feel Clarke’s love for her topic, and her love for life in general. Throughout the presentation she peppered her material with real-life, personal anecdotes which helped to better illustrate her points for the audience.
Her main point? She wants parents to know that, though overindulgence comes from a “good heart,” it can ultimately be harmful for children.
How Much Is Too Much? was a perfect book to read before my children were born because it allowed me to explore and figure out what overindulgence, or spoiling, really meant. In the book and at her seminar, Clarke talked about the Test of Four, which prompts parents to ask four questions when it comes to providing things for their children. Those four questions include:
- Is the task/toy/activity etc., developmentally appropriate?
- Could the task/toy/activity etc., cause possible harm?
- Whose needs is this task/toy/activity etc., meeting?
- Is the task/toy/activity etc., using an undue portion of family resources?
If the answers to those questions raise flags for parents, it’s possible that the child is being overindulged, Clarke asserts.
How Much Is Too Much? not only taught me to think of overindulgence in a different way, but it’s the first book that made clear just how important it is for children to contribute to the family in the form of chores and the like. Through her research, Clarke actually found that children who did not have chores and did not have clear boundaries while growing up actually were somewhat resentful in adulthood. In her research, Clarke learned that rules, boundaries and family responsibilities make children feel important, and they make children feel as if their parents care. About Jean Illsley Clarke’s research, Parenting Press writes:
“As people who were overindulged as children become adults, there is a huge impact on their confidence level. These are the people who are most likely to report that they don’t feel they have control over their children.”
I’m glad I went to see Clarke talk so that I could get a refresher on the topics discussed in her parenting book. As I said, it’s definitely been one of my top parenting books in my short parenthood journey, and I think it’s definitely worth the read if you’re concerned about spoiling or overindulging your children.