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by Rebecca Simon - December 2, 2016
As we move through this holiday season, children of all ages are creating wish lists,
and parents are scrambling to buy items that beg the question, “How much is TOO much?”
The authors of How Much is Too Much? state that overindulgence is doing or having so much of something that it does active harm or at least stagnates
and deprives a person from achieving their full potential.
Studies show a strong link between childhood overindulgence and lack of important
life-skills as well as unhelpful attitudes and beliefs in later life. Children who are overindulged are:
Many children are given “stuff” that they didn’t really want, didn’t ask for, didn’t
wish for, and didn’t have to wait for. In addition, very few children are asked to
contribute daily (or even weekly) to their family work or even to attend to their
own self-care. When this happens, kids don’t learn the difference between wants and
needs. They don’t learn to postpone their wants until an appropriate time, and, often,
they become self-centered and unable to delay gratification. When they become adults,
they never know when they have enough, so they have difficulty being happy with what
they have and managing their resources.
The Test of Four is a tool to help parents and children learn about what is enough. Using the Test
of Four as a guide toward personal responsibility and self-control encourages clear
thinking and good decision making.
The Test of Four consists of asking questions in four key categories about a situation when overindulgence
may occur. Use the test for one problem at a time. Answering “yes” to any questions
in any four categories is a signal that overindulgence might occur or exists.
Knowing what ENOUGH is will help a child manage resources, gauge happiness, develop
empathy, and navigate the path to responsible adulthood.
The great thing about the Test of Four is that it helps families decide what is best
for their family, and should not be used as a comparison between other families.
Different families have different resources and different needs. What causes one family
great joy may cause stress in another. What is an easy purchase for one family would
cause another family to go hungry. However, be sure to remember that just because
you can easily afford something or you have room for it in your home does not mean
that it would not be overindulgent.
The Test of Four is a great way for children age 6 and over to be included in family
decision making. This process can be used when deciding on the amount of time to spend
on media screens, what to do on the weekend, or whether to play league sports versus
traveling sports. The Test of Four is a great way to help children learn to make confident,
responsible, well thought-out decisions.
For Further Information:
For more information about the book How Much is Too Much? by Jean Illsley Clarke,
Connie Dawson, & David Bredehoft, visit http://www.overindulgence.info/
Further resources for How Much is Too Much? http://www.overindulgence.info/resources-for-parents/how-much-is-too-much-book.html
University of Minnesota Extension has a wonderful video about how to use The Test
of Four: https://youtu.be/TKQJJaA68EU