Can Children Be Spoilt With Too Much Love?

By: Shen-Li Lee


From the moment babies are born, parents often receive warnings from well-intended friends and family members not to carry their babies too often, and not to give in to their crying. From the moment they are born, parents are warned to start training their babies to be "independent" or they will grow up to become clingy, dependent children. Parents who fail to heed this advice risk "spoiling" their children and setting up "bad habits" that will be difficult to break later on.
Many parents worry about spoiling their children and easily fall prey to flawed advice. Instead of heeding their own instincts to pick up their babies when they cry, they try to ignore their babies' needs. Such practices not only damage the relationship between parent and child, but it has a detrimental effect upon the baby's development.
The First Fallacy - Babies Should Not Be Carried Too Often
Firstly, babies need to be carried as much as possible. They need to be touched and held. This need is as important to their growth and development as food, water, a clean diaper and sunlight. This need was evidenced at the end of the Second World War when many infants were left parentless. In order to determine what were the best methods for taking care of orphaned babies, a Swiss doctor traveled around Europe studying the different environments that these babies were raised.
In some parts, he saw babies being cared for in American field hospitals with their pristine conditions. Nurses attended to the babies' basic needs by the clock - they were fed special infant formula and returned immediately after to their stainless steel cots. In other parts, babies were deposited at remote mountain villages where they were cared for in the arms of the village women, surrounded by other children and animals. They drank goat's milk and ate from the communal stock pot. These infants lived in conditions that could hardly have been considered hygienic. Yet the results of the study were surprising - it was found that the children who lived in the villages thrived better than those raised in the scientifically-managed hospitals.
It was concluded that:


  • infants need frequent skin-to-skin contact from two or three significant people

  • infants need movement of a fairly robust kind, e.g. being carried around, bouncing on a knee, etc.

  • infants need eye-contact, smiling, colourful and lively environment, and sounds, such as singing, talking, etc.


Far from needing to be carried less, we should be carrying our babies more!
The Second Fallacy - Crying Babies Are Manipulating Us
Babies cry to communicate their needs to their parents. Without the ability to cry, they lose their ability to articulate their needs. Parents who deliberately ignore a baby's cries are unwittingly teaching their baby that their needs are not important. It creates distrust and gives a child a bleak outlook on life - that no on can be relied upon, not even parents.
One common reason why parents might allow their babies to "cry-it-out" is when they are attempting to "train" their baby to sleep alone. It is common for babies to fight their parents' desire for them to sleep alone. Babies aren't aware of the world the way we are. They are primitive beings with a strong instinct for survival. In the wild, infants who lost their parents are eaten by predators, therefore the instinct to be close to a parent or bigger person is a very normal one.
Babies don't know that they are safe in their cribs and that their parents are just in the next room, so they cry. They aren't trying to manipulate their parents. They are articulating a real need that parents should fulfill.
Changing Relationship as Children Grow Older
Even as babies grow older, they still require the attention, love and physical closeness of their parents. Providing these does not spoil them or make them clingy, dependent children. On the contrary, a strong and secure relationship between parent and child serves to help children become more independent as they grow older. They are less afraid to take steps on their own because they are secure in the knowledge that they have a safe place to return to.
You cannot spoil a child with love, touch and tending to their calls for help. Such responsiveness is imperative to a child's healthy development, however, the manner in which you respond may change as a child grows older and begins to test boundaries - such as crying as a means to get their way. How you respond to a child should be age-appropriate with the understanding of how a child feels. Remember that the process of growing up provides children with lots of challenges and it is important listen openly and to be able to see their situation from their perspective.
As your child grows older and his or her personality begins to develop, you may also find that different approaches work with different children. While there is a need to take into consideration individual differences, it is important to realize that children need appropriate limits that must be adhered to. Such limits provide a sense of safety and security for your child. Remember, it is your duty to set the limits and your child's to test them. By being firm and consistent, yet kind as you enforce the rules, you are teaching your child how to become a responsible member of society. You are also creating a secure environment for your child to grow up in.

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Shen-Li is a stay-at-home-mum dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in parenting. She has a formal educational background and former work experience in healthcare. If you enjoyed this article, visit her blog Babylicious and follow her as she learns how to raise a happy, confident and successful person.

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