If every present-worthy gift came with a birthday, my younger brother would probably be pushing half a millennium in age by now. Undoubtedly, he is the pampered little prince of my family, and it’s challenging to recall the last time he went more than a week without begging one of my parents (or more recently, me) for the latest flashy designer item to add to his collection. At 15 years old, and with a limited understanding of money, he has lived his entire life indulged. Whilst my parents insist they’re unsure how he became this way, it’s evident that our family has been enabling his entitled behaviour for years.

No child is simply born spoiled. Showering children with unconditional love is harmless and even encouraged, but my parents seem to have associated love with material possessions. It would be unfair to entirely blame my brother for a behaviour thrust upon him, and it’s likely that the same was done with me in the five years preceding his existence. Though I don’t have vivid memories of those things, my dad recounts tales of dolls, dresses, and trips to Paris, which I wish I could remember! My only evidence of these moments is the photo albums that reveal glimpses of Egyptian camels and beachside resorts from when I was two years old. Whilst I acknowledge the privileged upbringing I’ve had, I’ve always wondered why my brother has taken a different path. In a world where parents strive to provide the best for their children, it must be asked: are we inadvertently hindering their growth by giving them everything they desire? What might seem like an innocent act of love has long-term consequences that may be more detrimental than we realise.

I’ve witnessed my brother grow up with the promise of getting whatever he desired. Initially, it was small things like a new Hot Wheels car or a Ben 10 backpack, which my parents easily gave in to. As time passed, these desires evolved into more significant items such as an iPad or a PlayStation. Whenever my parents attempted to set limits on his acquisitions, the waterworks would commence – and with remarkable success. Although my parents did occasionally say ‘no’, particularly when he really pushed his luck, this resistance was short-lived. Gradually, his requests escalated to even more expensive designer items like belts, shoes, and expensive colognes. When the teary-eyed quivers stopped working, my brother would adopt a new strategy, suggesting that sharing clothes with my dad would technically save money since they shared the same sizes. Despite my parents’ assertions that they wouldn’t fall for such tactics, they often continued to give in. I’ve always found it perplexing, as it appears that even when they voice their resistance, my brother continues to constantly cross my parents’ boundaries , leaving me questioning why they yield to his requests. 

It’s challenging to lay blame entirely on my dad for this dynamic. Coming from a tough, working-class background where luxuries were scarce, perhaps he finds joy in providing his children with what he lacked in his youth. While the gesture is sweet, it seems he may not fully realise the extent to which he has indulged my brother. Personally, striving for financial independence has made me truly value what I do ask my parents for and, especially now, I tend to avoid making demanding requests.

Growing up in a world where this level of generosity is the norm can create an expectation that persists over time. I do worry about my brother’s future and how he’ll navigate the challenges of adulthood. His materialistic tendencies and subtle manipulation skills could create complex difficulties, but surprisingly, he has also developed empathy and caring qualities, at least to the extent that younger brothers can. It’s a bit of a mystery how this balance has occurred. 

Despite these positive aspects, there’s certainly room for my parents to reconsider their approach and perhaps curb the indulgence. Allowing my brother to discover the value of money on his own could be a crucial next step. Teaching him the importance of financial responsibility might just be the antidote to the potential pitfalls of a spoiled upbringing, which I’m sure is something he will discover for himself as he grows older.