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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 18:54 GMT
Britons 'spoil their kids'
The Tweenies
Children want the latest toys at Christmas time
British parents spoil their kids, particularly at Christmas time, a survey has found.

Many (parents) get into serious debt rather than see their children go without

Margaret Creear, Lone parent action group Gingerbread
Many parents, under pressure from their offspring, are willing to break the bank in order to keep their children in fashionable clothes.

All in all, according to a survey from financial group AMP, more than half of parents make 'serious' sacrifices to ensure their children do not go without.

One in five of 1,000 adults surveyed admitted to not paying bills in order to meet their kids' demands for designer clothes and gadgets.


In fact, nearly half the parents surveyed said that they regularly bought designer-label clothes for their children while they themselves had to make do with last year's fashions

More than a quarter claimed that they even went without a haircut in order to pamper their children.

It seems that some kids are expert arm-twisters when it comes to persuading parents to lavish gifts on them.

More than four out of 10 parents admitted they had given in to their child's demands following a temper tantrum.

Five to seven year olds are the best at stomping their feet to get what they want - 58% have successfully employed this tactic.

Yuletide pressure

And at Christmas time the pressure on parents to buy the latest video game or toy can be at its most intense.

A survey from the Association of Investment Trusts (AITC) has found that 19% of 2,000 parents surveyed spend over £300 on their kids at Christmas.

Hottest toys this Christmas are computer games, games consoles and mobile phones.

Margaret Creear, spokeswoman for lone parent action group Gingerbread told BBC News Online of the dangers of parents being too generous at Christmas.

"It can be a nightmare when aggressive advertising puts a parent under pressure," she said.

"Many, unfortunately, get into serious debt rather than see their children go without."

Your Comments:

I can really believe the finding "More than four out of 10 parents admitted they had given in to their child's demands following a temper tantrum". You see it all too often in shopping malls all over the country. I have always tried to teach my children that money does not grow on trees - if they want designer trainers then they help by saving their pocket money - double whammy - they look after them too! I certainly would not give in to tantrums.
John Bowers, UK

It's simple really. Give in and expect more of the same behaviour and no thanks from your kids. Be strong and bring up reasonable kids who understand the value of money and respect that their parents have had to work for it.
Alison Palmer, UK

Is this why we have a nation of children who believe they have a right to have things, and won't accept no? Application of a bit of common sense by parents would result in two thing. Less personal debt and children who accept that they aren't the centre of the universe and will not get everything they want. Early learning for the grim realities of life.
Robert, UK

I would rather go without to give my daughter the best. Christmas is no exception although I never for go bills and people that do need to set some priorities, a home and food on the table are far more important. I start early ever year and spread the cost. This year I've spent nearly £500 on my daughter and have given her £15 to buy me a small gift. Maybe it's a feeling of giving my daughter the things I never had or the items I would have liked as a child.
Victoria Newman, UK

The advertisers have a lot to answer for - they really know their job I will give them that - but my 2 and half year old has just started to take notice of TV adverts and it is alarming the effect it has on him. Luckily for me, he is still too young for them to really take a hold. He may say he wants something after seeing an advert but I know he will be pleased with all his presents regardless. Incidentally I set myself a limit and stick to it. Lets just hope I can carry on as he gets older!
Kelly Dubock, United Kingdom

No wonder kids don't know the value of money as far as I am concerned you can't afford it then you don't have it. No wonder we have a society of horrible little brats.
Stephanie Southall, Germany

£300 is that all, my partner spends £500 pound on her children at Christmas time they are 10 and 11 years old. It still isn't enough, they are insatiable.
Simon, England

I have a 4yr old and I can see how it starts. But we have already had to put our foot down and live through the storms. I'd rather have the screams now that later when she is older!
Rick McGreal, England, UK

It is true many parents give in to kids demands for expensive Christmas presents I am a parent myself and I think a way round this is for parents to be disciplined and learn to say no. rather than give in and spend all that money on toys why not put it away for the future of the kids. They will appreciate this more in years to come when they do not have to work in a burger bar to pay for their higher education. If parents are not disciplined enough to say no to their children how can they then expect their children not to turn out to be bratty, spoilt and utterly selfish individuals
olu haastrup, united kingdom

If children get everything they demand at this stage in their lives how are they ever going to learn how to handle their finances when they're older? It's just setting them up to continue the current trend to live in a constant state of credit card debt, to satisfy their craving for consumer goods. Parents should help children to understand the real cost of their luxury items and where the family's money goes each month. And marketers need to take more responsibility for their campaigns and how they target children. Finally maybe some parents are trying to make up for lack of time spent with their children by buying their affections? Having said that I'm not advocating denying children gifts at Christmas - just keeping it in proportion!
Adrian Brown, UK

Stephanie of Germany - do we have a nation of brats?? Perhaps you just don't like children. I say, by all means spoil your children while you can - after all, they only have adulthood to look forward to.
Piers, UK

Quite apart from the effect of advertising to children (not just on TV), I'm surprised nobody has thought of the role of "Father Christmas" in all of this! A lot of parents (including mine) tell their kids that the presents they get on the 25th are from Santa Claus, which means they then have to buy enough presents to make it look like it came from someone who can get hold of anything. And kids will never learn gratitude if they don't know where their presents come from.
Yusuf, UK

Are parents really having to make do with last year's fashions? They must be living in terrible poverty.
Richard P, England

Advertising aimed at under 10's should be made illegal.
Matt, UK

This is why we have anti social behaviour in this country involving, mainly, youths. Children are brought up being given everything they ask for; they are indulged by their parents if they play truant from school; they are subject to very little discipline in the family home.
Sara Dawson, UK

Matt is right - advertising to children should not be allowed. It is rapacious and exploitative and it essentially sets parent against child. Really, it is commercial exploitation at its very worst. Of course, we could all just not have a TV. That would be a big help. It has been for me.
Fraser, Scotland

I will not buy expensive toys for my children. Why should I? They will only break them a few weeks after Christmas regardless of how much they cost, children do not understand the value of the items and they never will until they reach the age where they understand money.
Mark Pittam, UK

Parents who give in to their kids' tantrums and beggar themselves to give their kids gifts are entirely to blame for the generation of unpleasant, selfish, rude thugs that our society now has to cope with. Kids need to learn that they can't always have everything they want and that bullying is not acceptable behaviour.
Janet, England

Ask your children to send their Christmas demands to your Bank Manager.
Peter, UK

I grew up below the poverty line with three younger siblings, and it wasn't unusual for my mother to go without food herself to feed us when my alcoholic father didn't give her any money. I remember being in tears many times when other children teased me for not having the expensive toys they had. Now I have an 8 year old daughter myself, and a very stable home life where money is much less of a problem. I like to make sure she has nice things, but she knows how lucky she is. In fact when we clear out any of her old toys and clothes, they are always taken to a charity shop so that a less fortunate child may take some pleasure from them. My daughter is actively involved in this process, and it makes her think about what she has. I think one of the most important roles of a parent is to make your children consider other people's feelings and needs, and to show some compassion. I am totally fed up with selfish little brats who think the world revolves around them.
Emma, UK

Piers...Spoil them shall we?...So they think they can have everything and anything they my car for instance? It wasn't theirs to take, but they wanted it so took it anyway - then crashed it and left me with a higher insurance premium and an excess to pay for. They were middle class 15 year olds! I think to spoil kids like this just leads to them believing they can have what they want when they want it whether it is theirs or not to take. Not very responsible in my opinion.
Lizzy, UK

My parents always had a price limit for presents and told us what the limit was. If we asked for something that cost more then we knew what the answer was going to be. I am thankful to my parents for this important lesson for adult life.
Andrew Bluemel (age 40), UK

Like one lady, my little one is 2 1/2. I don't buy him designer clothes and I would hope that this trend can be continued as he gets older. I often had "hand me down" clothes or jumpers that my gran knitted. I can only hope that he will learn the value of money with mine & his dad's guidance.
Lin, UK

Giving in is just lazy parenting that ultimately hurts no-one but the child.
Kerry , UK

We have a rule that no present should be worth more than £5. It is far more rewarding that way.
Gerry, UK

Parents have a responsibility to bring up their children in a disciplined manner. Disciplined children should be the disciplined adults of tomorrow. Children are children in their reasoning but parents who reason and behave like children are the problems of today and tomorrow.
Bernard, United Kingdom

Here in Greece children receive one present on Christmas morning from their parents, one from their godparents and maybe a few more from close relatives. 'Santa' arrives on January 1rst with his ONE surprise present...this results in Greek kids being far less greedy and usually more satisfied with their gift as they have had to choose between what they REALLY want and what is just advertised well! Parents do not drive themselves crazy and the festive mood lasts a bit longer with TWO days for the little ones to look forward to! I tried a version of this system while in the UK for Christmas a few years ago...Santa came on Dec 25 and family gifts Jan kids were still excitedly looking forward to New Year while their cousins had already become bored with their Christmas presents!!
Michelle Galanis, Greece

In answer to Piers, UK, yes we do have a nation of bad mannered, selfish, inconsiderate and rude brats and the blame can be laid entirely with their bad-mannered, selfish, inconsiderate and rude parents who do not bother to teach their kids courtesy and consideration from the day they are born.
Catherine, UK

If I had children I wouldn't dream of spending more than £100 on a child under 10 for Christmas. And if they don't like it, tough. Better they learn the concept of financial limits at an earlier age rather than later. I had the same lesson and it's done me a power of good. All children really need is love, shelter and food, not funky trainers or the latest computer game.
Alex, UK

I think it's disgusting the way kids in this country are showered with everything they want these days, and I have no sympathy for those pathetic parents who get themselves into debt or go without to meet the endless demands of their spoilt offspring. The most successful and motivated people are those who were taught the value of money as a child, and that they if they want something they have to earn it.
Martin Graham, UK

£500 on your child for one day is almost sick! Why not spend £100 and send the £400 to the children who are starving in the current Famine in Africa? Better still let your child see you do this and explain how other children don't get any presents. It might make your own realise how lucky they are to get anything at all!

I'm glad to see the majority of respondents here seem to realise the problems that over indulgence are likely to bring in the future. However, the effects of over indulgence once a year, at Christmas, are unlikely to have a dramatic effect on a child's development - I think it is the buying activity over the entire year that will have the greatest effect.
Phil Betts, England

Is it any wonder when we live in a society where the parents work so many hours that they hardly even see their children during the week. All this present buying is an effort to assuage the guilt they feel at not being there for them. Perhaps the answer is not to work more to get more money, but to work less to have more time.
Gavin, UK

I have recently discovered that my mother had spent over £900 on last year's Christmas presents for the family (which is a lot to us!) and because it was bought on store cards, the interest has made the costs spiral out of control. we are now left with last Christmas to pay for as well as this. So in a nutshell, yes, there is far too much pressure on people to spend over their budget to make people happy. this year I'm going to ask for an orange and a biro, at least we won't be paying that off next year!
Jon, UK

Look I have a 7 month old girl whom I adore. I WILL spoil her this year, she will not understand but her mother and I will be so happy to do so. She is our first (and possibly our only) child, therefore no-one will dictate what we can or cannot do for her. We can afford to give her presents and we shall give her presents. It is not wrong to do so. The real sin is bringing a child into this world when you know you cannot provide for them.
Paul McL, UK

I have 2 kids, and yes I do spend around £250-£300 pounds on them each at Christmas, but that and birthdays are the only time of year that I buy anything except necessities for them, the rest of the year they know that if they want something then they have to wait or save up birthday and pocket money. As for £300 being a lot of money, have you tried buying children¿s goods, they are so expensive!! My kids only get small items from Santa (stocking fillers for under a fiver) they know that mum & dad buy them the big presents under the tree!
Boo, UK

My children are told that we have to send the money to Santa Claus for their presents. This stops endless lists for presents and ensures that they understand the value of money.
Ellen Keir, Scotland

My husband and I club together with other relatives/close friends to buy one big present say like a Bike or a Games machine for our two daughters (10 and 13). My daughters appreciate the effort and the thought that goes into this, that we do this in recognition of the help they give in ensuring that a busy house with 2 full time working adults and a menagerie of stray and rescued pets runs as a team effort. They also do chores for stars not money throughout the year to earn treats. Don't knock all the children - the vast majority are pretty good prospective adults.
Aly, UK

It didn't hurt me to run about in home made trousers or clothes from a jumble sale when I was younger, nor any of my friends. It would seem as though these parents aren't able to give their kids the confidence to be proud of who they are, rather than proud of what they have. I wanted stuff I couldn¿t have as a kid. It's valuable lesson. Parents should learn to say no. Simple.
Howard King, UK

I've got two kids, 2 and 4, but they're still young enough not to know about TV channels other than CBeebies. No adverts = no wants. Although leaving an Argos catalogue lying around can be dangerous! Most of the time, they get toys from boot sales and classified adverts in the papers, that way we've saved a fortune. I don't know how long it will last, but there's no way I'm going to spend my hard earned money on overpriced designer rubbish.
Arnold, UK

Like most things it's a question of balance. It is natural to want to spoil your children particularly if you yourself had a financially strained childhood. I personally fight with myself all the time to stop buying for my (luckily very grateful) daughter who I must admit does not demand the earth (or expensive toys) from me and is happy with whatever or however much she may or may not receive for Christmas (or birthdays).
Sarah, UK

Try this tactic I employed recently. Get everything of your Childs in the entire house and place in on the kitchen table (if it will fit). You'll soon realise they already have more then enough !
Mark Bell, UK

Christmas costs as much as you want it to. If you get in debt by spending too much, it's nobodies fault but your own, you are the one with the power to say no!
Claire S, Staffs, UK

I was a divorced parent with only one Son, I made sure he never went without, He had all the designer gear, and Christmas was certainly a lavish affair, I would work all hours to make sure my son got the best.20 years down the road my son don¿t understand the words (I got no money).
Lorrie.. u.k, united kingdom

My nephew aged 4 wanted a toy which was too expensive for his parents to buy. Knowing this he said "Don't worry Mummy and Daddy - I know that you can't afford it - so I have asked Father Christmas for it instead" If that's not emotional blackmail - what is?
Annette, UK

What a sad state of affairs! Although my kids certainly test my patience on a regular basis, they have mercifully never bowed to peer pressure and 'demanded' that we get them some designer labels clothes for them. You only have to wait outside the school to see that it's not only the kids that want the fashionable labels, it's the parents ! Why on earth to so many mothers ( and fathers) think they have to dress in top label clothes to get the children from school? What hope have their children got when the parents set such a bad example? Finally, I have to really bite my tongue before I say something I'll regret when I hear parents saying "but my Johnny wont wear anything but the most fashionable clothes" ARGHHHH! they get what they deserve.
Alexander Storch, Wales

I have two young children and my husband and I are adamant that they will not grow up to take Christmas and its accompanying presents for granted. My eldest asks for presents and she is told to wait and see what the day will bring. Both children are also given a fixed spending limit of £100 and when that is used up, that's it! This system worked for both my husband and I when we were young and we find it more important that our children understand the real message behind Christmas. Let them tantrum. Let them do their worst. Christmas is not solely about receiving the latest noisy, plastic toy and designer gear.
Charlotte Ireland, UK

My parents never spent (or spend) more than £70 on me and my two siblings. This is well enough and we always get lots of nice things. My Mum is very thrifty and buys things from craft fairs and Christmas fairs, or in the sales - that way they spend less and we still get lots of things. If I ever have children, I will do the same. People who spend hundreds of pounds on their children are fools to themselves.
Lucy, England

Parents have a right to spoil their children. How selfish to indulge that right at the child's expense.
Rick, England

My parents made sure that we did not get "spoilt" by capping our Christmas presents at 10 pounds each.
Allen, UK

If my either of my children throw a tantrum in a public place, we leave. Immediately. It's rude to torture other shoppers while your child melts down and in this family Mom or Dad giving in to this kind of blackmail is NOT an option.
John TL Lee, USA

What a tragic exchange this is. It shows how the materialist West has trained its children to believe that possessions equal happiness. And who benefits? Not the children. Certainly not the children. As a mother of 3 and grandmother of 4, I know this clearly. Parents, wake up.
Bonnie Shullenberger, USA

My children don't get to "ask" for things for Christmas and happily receive whatever gift I choose for them.
Ruth, Scotland

I would love to buy my child a present at Christmas, but my ex-wife won't allow me to see her.
David, England

I think this report was extremely misleading and must have been compiled by a person who does not have children. The premise that parents "give in" to children's bratty temper tantrums is way off the mark. Most children do no such thing. Children are incredibly kind, gentle and understanding, for the most part. The parents who overspend and lavish toys/material gifts on their children invariably are doing so because it makes them, the parents, happy. Most often, it is done to compensate for gifts the parents did not receive as children but wish they had. This is the parents' problem, not the children's.
Ruth, USA

Spoiling of children is often down to the parent's lack of imagination. Instead of thinking long and hard about what they might get for their children with a limited budget, it is often easier to spend more on the latest fad or the most heavily advertised product. It's often a sign that many parents don't know their children well enough to get a 'gift'- something personal that they will enjoy for longer than a few weeks. Instead of buying something individual for them, they buy what they believe their child wants, driven by advertising.
Glyn, UK

As a Primary school teacher all I can say is that it is parent's spoiling their children who then complain when they are difficult at school, and they always are. Children need to learn boundaries from an early age to become sensible children and adults who can get the most from life.

See also:

20 Nov 02 | Business
12 Nov 02 | England
24 Dec 01 | Scotland
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