“You don’t have to pick her up every time she cries”.
“If you never put him down, he’ll never learn to walk”.
“I’d never give in to a toddler like that; you shouldn’t pick him up”.
Ah, unsolicited parenting advice – one of the many joys of motherhood.
It’s even more fun when the advice is a bit unfounded – at least for me, anyway (and many developmental experts).
Somehow, as a society, we’ve decided that basic human affection equals spoiling.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve decided that holding totally dependent infants is potentially damaging to their personalities.
And we’ve decided that toddlers, overwhelmed with exploring their world, can be ruined by reassurance.
Why? I really don’t know why we ever allowed a few ‘experts’ to convince anyone of this. But for whatever reason, it’s ingrained in our society that meeting infants’ or toddlers’ need for affection can be a bad thing. Or it can spoil them.
Well, if children who receive affection and reassurance are spoiled, then I’m going to spoil my children.
Why I’m (Happily) Spoiling My Kids
So yes, I’m totally spoiling my kids. And here’s why:
Our Society Has The Definition Of ‘Spoiled’ All Wrong
I suppose I could be wrong here, but I definitely think society has missed the mark in deciding what ‘spoiled children’ really mean.
To me, it means children who throw a tantrum because they want candy – and then receive it. Or older children who refuse to do a chore they’re asked to do and still get money to go to the movies.
Hugs, kisses, cuddles, and reassurance are things children can’t have too much of and are not about spoiling them. I don’t think hugging a toddler is teaching unhealthy indulgence
You Don’t Get To Do It Over
You get one chance to raise these little ones. You never get a redo. No pressure, right?
If I only get one shot at this, I obviously want to do my best. I don’t have all the answers about how to parent perfectly. But I do have my intuition, helpful child development studies, and my children (they’re excellent teachers) to guide me.
My intuition tells me I might mess up in the here and now, but 25 years from now I just want my kids to know this: they were loved; they were safe; their mother was there to reassure them as they explored this big world.
I really don’t think my children will say, as adults, “You held me too much. I wish you hadn’t hugged me so often”. But I do fear they just might say, “I wish we were closer”.
Certainly, we can connect with others at any age. But I do believe the long-term, parent-child bond is best established early on.
And, my children’s feelings aside (because sometimes I matter too), I don’t want to miss these moments. I won’t always have a child begging for a hug. I won’t always have a newborn wanting 2 am snuggles. While it’s probably best for human survival that we aren’t woken up at 2 am forever, there’s something special about soaking in those moments for the brief time they exist.
‘Spoiling’ A Child With Love, That’s Not A Real Thing!
Can we spoil children? Sure. We can teach them they can have whatever they want, without any work or gratitude.
However, that’s not a thing when it comes to love. And it’s certainly not a thing when it comes to caring for infants.
You’re building their trust. You’re building their security. Your infant wants to be attached 24/7; your toddler, almost as much; and your preschooler, a bit less. And by the time you have a high schooler … well, you’ll be begging them for the hugs.
There are many variables when it comes to developing the self-esteem, trust, and reassurance people need as they get older. However, there’s a lot to be said for helping infants and toddlers to feel secure. The more secure they feel, the less reassurance they’re likely to need as they get older. They’ve learned they’re safe, they’ve learned you’re there, and they’ve learned they’re loved.
I don’t think I’ve ever met an adult who’s said he felt too loved as a child. I’ve never met an adult who’s said she wishes her parents had loved her less. I have, however, met adults who’ve said they wish their parents hadn’t spoiled them so much that the real world came as a shock. I have also met adults who’ve said they wish their parents had shown their love more.
Spoiling and love aren’t the same thing. How society ever mixed them up, I don’t know.
If I’m Wrong, My Kids Still Win And So Do I
Let’s play devil’s advocate here. Maybe you can ‘spoil’ a toddler by giving too many hugs. Maybe you can prolong the bedtime battles. Maybe my children will get so used to being held that they aren’t content until they’re 3. For argument’s sake, let’s just call this ‘truly spoiled’.
Well, if that’s what it looks like, then my kids still win – and so do I. My kids learn that I’m safe, consistent, and a place of love. I get loads of cuddles and memories.
I haven’t met every 80 years old in the world, but I’ve yet to meet one who’s said, “Honey, hold her less! You’ll regret wasting so much time holding her”. If anything, what I hear is: “It flies, so cherish every moment”.
My eldest is nine years old. I don’t remember as much as I’d like to about his infancy. It really does fly. I held him all the time, and I still don’t remember a ton of it. I cannot imagine the heartache if I looked back and wished I had cherished the time more. And this is only nine years later. In 20 or 60 years’ time, I’m certain I’m not going to wish I had held my babies less.
So if I’m wrong by society’s standards, so be it. But yep, I’m totally spoiling my kids.
Recommended Reading: Does My Baby Need To Learn To Self Soothe?