I have the following passage:

S の…息子の時はあの子の自身の意志の固さもありましたが...






Curetnly my translation of it is:

S…My son, even back then had an iron will…and I was also still too young, so...

Honestly, I’ve been relying on that kid, ever since.

Whenever I wanted to have a proper conversation about us whenever asked to be given a chance for that...I'd receive a... strong response.

The problem is the に甘えてしまって bit, because apparently Aに甘える can both mean to spoil A or to depend on A.

Context wise, S, the son of the speaker has always had a firm grasp on how things should be done and what he wants to do in life. And doing that he eventually joined the same organisation as his mother (speaker) and has been one of her most important employees. Therefore I'm assuming she is saying she has been relying on him, not spoiling or coddling him.

Then again as seen here, his behavior back then could not be said to be nice, but again it's not so much the behavior of someone spoiled. Like he isn't shrinking his dutues.

Also the passage is from a talk between two mothers. The other one has a child nearing the age where she decides what she wants to do in life, while speaker's child is a grown up so the other one was asking the speaker how was it when her kid was deciding on his path.

Sooo, what's your thinking on this to me strange duality of に甘える?

  • 4
    "To spoil?" Perhaps you have seen the definition of 甘やかす instead of 甘える. These are different verbs.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:33
  • JP > EN dictionaries I have access to list 甘える as (1) to behave like a spoiled child;  to behave like a spoilt child;  to fawn on (2) to take advantage of;  to presume upon (e.g. another's benevolence);  to depend on. Now I haven't checked the original JP dictionary... Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:56
  • There are examples like: 彼女は私に甘えてくる。"She spoils me", and examples like 人の好意に甘えてはいけない。"Don't depend on others' kindness." Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:59
  • "She spoils me" seems to be a wrong translation to me. Anyway this question should help.
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


あの子に甘えてしまった in a context like this roughly means "I was lazy and ended up depending on him (=my son)". 甘える does not mean "to spoil". 甘やかす does.

彼女は私に甘えてくる does not necessarily have a negative connotation, and it usually just means she is "lovey-dovey" and behaves like a cute puppy which likes to always be with you. It does not mean someone is a dependent or spoiled person in general.

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