One of the most confusing subjects I hear about in early parenting is that of spoiling. Many parents believe that their actions might spoil their children and teach them to be too dependent, or even that their cuddling is really coddling. Some of these beliefs cause so much anxiety that parents will often go against their own instincts and follow the misinformed, non-science-based directions provided by their own parents and grandparents and others from the older generation.
Kids need lots of love from us, their parents. And some parents are afraid to show it, or encourage their kids’ dependence, since they fear that they will be dependent forever, so they listen to that outdated advice and err on the side of what they think is safety. I thought quite a bit about this topic when I wrote about the “cry it out” sleep method a few weeks ago. Today, I examine nurturing, spoiling, and love a little more closely and what we now know is safe.
So, let’s talk about spoiling for a minute. Most of us will want to provide all we can for our children, and at the same time want to make sure they will not become expectant and rude and feel entitled. We want them to grow to be kind, considerate, generous, gracious.
Spoiling comes up in discussions about whether we should pick up our children when they cry or leave them to toughen up and take care of themselves. Your kid scrapes their knee, falls down, loses something they love, or is worn out from a demanding day. They’re crying. If you consoled your child, held them and told them it would be okay, is that spoiling?
Gordon Neufeld, a development psychologist and author of Hold On To your Kids, teaches and speaks a great amount on what happens to kids when we withhold love and when we give it. He says, “We become afraid our children will get stuck and never grow up.”
In spite of our best intentions, detaching ourselves from our kids has the reverse affect that we want when it comes to creating independence. As Neufeld says: “Perhaps we think that if we don’t push a little, they will never leave the nest. Human beings are not like birds in this respect. The more children are pushed, the tighter they cling – or, failing that, they nest with someone else.”
Neufeld says, “We liberate children not by making them work for our love but by letting them rest in it. We help a child face the separation involved in going to sleep or going to school by satisfying his need for closeness.”
We know from so many different areas of research into child development that if we raise our kids with love and affection, and if we answer to our child’s needs and show them we care we will create the independence within them that is necessary for their future. They will lead more relaxing lives, be healthier, feel safer, and have better long-term outcomes.
Allowing babies to cry has the opposite effect of spoiling. Let’s pick up our kids a little more and give them great big hugs! We’re not spoiling, we’re nurturing and building stronger and better adults!