Plus tips to reverse the damage by fine-tuning your approach to child discipline

When you picture a spoiled child, you may think of a kid with a house full of extravagant toys. But child discipline experts say its behaviors — not possessions — that define the spoiled child.

“A spoiled child is one who’s demanding, self-centered, and unreasonable,” says Harvey Karp, MD, creator of The Happiest Toddler on the Block DVD and book. He tells WebMD spoiled children may be easier to get along with when they get their way, but giving in to their demands ultimately makes them feel isolated and confused. “There is a seed of discontent that you sow when you allow a child to be spoiled,” he says. “They’ve used so much manipulation to get what they want, they don’t know when someone is genuinely giving to them.”

Psychologist Ruth A. Peters, PhD, author of the child discipline manual Laying Down the Law, agrees. “Spoiling doesn’t prepare them for anything but heartache later in life,” she says, adding that a spoiled child typically grows into a spoiled adult, and spoiled adults have trouble maintaining a job, a spouse, and friendships.

So how can you tell if you’re spoiling? Read on to learn 10 common mistakes parents make that can allow a child to become spoiled. If some of these sound familiar, don’t worry — it’s never too late to change course.

1. Making Your Child the Center of the World

Making your child’s wishes the top priority in every circumstance teaches her that the world revolves around her. This could prevent her from learning to consider other people’s needs and desires, says Susan Buttross, MD, chief of the Division of Child Development and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Children need to understand give and take,” she tells WebMD. “When take is the only function they know, they tend to be frustrated.”

2. Ignoring Positive Behavior

Today’s busy parents may not notice when children play quietly or stay out of trouble. If you never let them know when you are pleased, Karp says, you miss the opportunity to reinforce positive behavior.

3. Accidently Rewarding Negative Behavior

Karp tells WebMD many parents make the mistake of simultaneously ignoring the positive and rewarding the negative. If you only notice your kids when they whine and cry, you send the message that tantrums and tears are the best way to get your attention.

4. Failing to put Clear Limits on Your Child’s Behavior

If you don’t set and enforce guidelines for good behavior, Buttross says, you’re likely to raise a chil