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Yes, I'm going to spoil my child

Why responding to a child's needs isn't going to spoil him.
By now, you've probably read about why modern parents are just nut heads, according to a British nanny. My words, not hers, but that's what it looks like she was trying to convey anyway. I could see her, in her nanny stance, wagging a finger at why I'm a bad mom for listening to my child. Who's in charge here, she thunders. The more I read that article, the more her condescending tone angered me. But I must say that she did a very good job of playing with the vulnerabilities of moms everywhere who are trying to do the best they can. I'm not going to write yet another piece on why I don't think letting my child choose his sippy cup is going to put modern parenting in crisis. Nobody could have answered her better than the very sensible and talented Dr. Laura Markham (read her reply here).

I'm just going to write about why I think 'spoiling' my child is okay. First of all, when did parenting become a race for control? Why is it important that I should be able to 'control' my child? I know power struggles are part of parenting. My question is, why should there be struggle at all? One well-meaning friend of ours once told me that I was not "being a parent" by listening to everything my child says. I don't understand that thought. I think I'm not going to be a better parent by ignoring him or yelling at him, am I?

One of the important things I believe in as a parent is that more than my words, my child is going to follow my actions. A lot of people agree with this, I'm sure. Then, why should I teach my child to ignore emotions? Because that's what I would be doing if I let him have a tantrum or ignored his requests. I want to teach him empathy by giving importance to his feelings, and not belittling them because he's the child and I'm the parent. Children have different needs than we do, because they think differently. Sometimes, their needing a favourite toy isn't just about the toy, but about the comfort and familiarity they associate with it. Their asking for things constantly isn't about manipulating or annoying us, it is about seeking our attention. Our job as parents is to understand those hidden needs, even if the toy isn't at hand. Because, no material thing can ever replace love. As long as children feel they are loved, they don't need much else. We need to show them that they are loved, even when they are being difficult or uncooperative.

By listening to my child's needs, I'm showing him that he's important to me. Now, the thing is, I may not always be able to fulfill those needs, but I can teach him to trust in me. If I don't give my son exactly what he wants, he may be a little upset at first, but I always gently tell him why he can't have it, and offer an alternative. Or I distract him. Whatever works! But I don't make it a power struggle.

Yes, I do put my child's needs  before myself, because that's what we are naturally supposed to do! Children aren't capable of sorting out emotions (how many adults are, for that matter?). They don't know a need  from a want. But with patience, and modeling good behaviour, we can teach them to understand what they can and can't have. I think it's completely unfair to expect babies and toddlers, human beings with the most immature brains, to behave. To just behave with standards that we have set, ignoring their natural impulses. No, toddlers can't sit still. And no, babies can't sleep all night. They aren't wired that way.

So, I'm going to 'spoil' my child by showing him that I care about his needs. And by showing him that I'm doing my best to make him happy. And by teaching him right from wrong, good from bad, and guiding him through his emotional meltdowns. I'm going to show him that the feelings of other matter, even when they are not the same as yours. Because, I want him to be an empathetic and sensitive human being. I want him to follow his heart, and not depend on an authoritative figure to tell him what to do. By listening to him, I want him to listen. If that's how I'm spoiling him, so be it.


This post has been linked to:

Positive Parenting 5982973748819250595

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24 comments

donofalltrades said...

Eh, kids can be a real pain in the ass for sure. I agree with your stance here, though I'm probably less patient than you about it. Kids are kids and we would all benefit from understanding that. Letting them have a say in their lives isn't spoiling them, it's a chance to learn something.

[email protected] said...

I completely agree with you on every point. Funnily enough, I used to be in the "strict" camp, but then a real baby arrived and I realised that sort of approach wouldn't make any logical sense at all. Although every family is different, listening to my son is what feels most sensible and most natural to me. Doesn't mean I don't set boundaries, it just means he is as much a member of our family, with an opinion, as my husband and I.

Eli J. Pacheco said...

If that's spoiling your child - leading by example, acknowledging them and their place in the world and your heart, and expressing kindness - sign me up. That's not spoiling. That's preparing them to help a world all too short on patience and kindness.


I only wish those who've criticized you for this were 'spoiled' as children, too. Maybe then they'd understand.

Katie Markey McLaughlin said...

AMEN! Some might call it spoiling your child; I call it respecting him/her.

Camille Griffiths said...

I wish more parents thought this way. There is a huge difference between having mutual respect with your kids, and spoiling them!!

Tarana said...

Glad you agree, Don! I'm not as patient as it seems, but I guess parents should be allowed a few emotional outbursts too. As long as they don't go out of hand!

Tarana said...

Thank you, Eline. Believe me, I was all 'strict' too before I became a mom. I thought kids should be disciplined in the strictest sense of the word. Thankfully, motherhood put some sense into me!

Tarana said...

Well said, Eli! I believe in kindness, and sadly, there are too many people lacking it.

Tarana said...

Exactly, I really believe in respecting children.

Tarana said...

Mutual respect is a very good phrase, Camille, I agree.

Sue @One Time Through said...

Wow Tarana - this is an amazing post! Eloquently written and bold and I totally agree 100% with everything you said. Thanks for posting to the Attachment Parenting board and I really hope lots of people read this and take your words to heart - they're so important! #alphabetphoto

Sara (@mumturnedmom) said...

I don't think what you've described is spoiling them. Spoiling them would be letting them get their own way no matter what and allowing them to behave badly because they want to; what you are describing is respecting and teaching them. Children do need boundaries, they need to be taught what is right and wrong and we teach that through telling them and showing them. Allowing them choice gives them the opportunity to learn, however those choices need to have some limits :) We're not the 'boss' as such, but we are the teacher and we are responsible for them and their behaviour - and their happiness. I read the article from the nanny, and while I didn't agree with her whole heartedly and certainly didn't like her tone, I do think that she had a point about ensuring that children do understand their boundaries. I'm off to read the response that you have linked to :) #ShareWithMe

Sara (@mumturnedmom) said...

The other article you linked to says what I was trying to say above much better! One thing I try very hard not to do is say 'just because'. Our children should understand why we're asking/telling them to do something, so that they also learn to respect us and understand/empathise with us, and others. Children really do learn by example, and while I don't always get it right (by a long way!), that has to be our ultimate goal x Great post Tarana, certainly gets the discussion going :)

Tarana said...

Thank you, Sue! I'm glad to hear you agree with it.

Tarana said...

Thank you for sharing your insights, Sara! It's such an important point to not say 'because I told you'. I feel children respond better when you explain why you want them to do something, though that's not always possible. It's so important to gain their trust and respect so we can guide them in the right direction. I was using the word 'spoil' in a tongue-in-cheek- sort of way! Of course. it's our responsibility to set limits, because they don't have the maturity to self regulate, early on, anyway.

Let's Talk Mommy said...

I think you are doing the right thing by listening to him and focusing on what they are saying. I wouldn't say that's spoiling I would say that's great parenting. Good for you to follow what you think is best and not what everyone else thinks. If you were giving them every candy and bad food they want whenever they wanted and with no guidance that's more spoiling. You should like you are doing perfectly!!! Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. Sorry for my delay in commenting we had no power for two days due to a storm. As always love your posts. #sharewithme

Tarana said...

Thanks, Jenny, I know that as parents we have to walk the line between giving them everything and focusing on only the important needs. Glad you liked the post!

Susanne Remic said...

Yes yes yes. The amount of times I have been told that this, that or the other will spoil my baby and I just think HOW on earth can you spoil a baby?! I've become more and more confident in my parenting as my family has grown and when it came to my youngest I knew exactly the way I wanted to parent her. I wore her in a sling, I co-slept and I breastfed her until 15 months, when she self weaned. I was warned that all of these practises would make her clingy and so on, but today she is the most confident and independent of all three. Baby number 4 shall be treated exactly the same and I cannot wait to be told that I am making rod for my own back again! Such nonsense- parenting with instincts is the only way to do it in my opinion x x x x

Tarana said...

During those clingy times, I did have some moments of doubt, but I couldn't do it any other way. I'm glad that my toddler is confident and independent too! Glad you feel the same way :)

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I believe in spoiling children this way, too!

Chris Carter said...

I think NOT listening to your child and ignoring their needs and not giving them a voice is a dangerous preparatory path into a rebellious kid...that knows NO respect, therefore shows no respect. Why? Because he's learned that his voice isn't valuable, so in order to have a voice he needs to act out, scream, and go against everything as extreme as possible to feel like SOMEONE is paying attention to his needs. Not to mention, he feels angry for being controlled and imprisoned by someone else's choices forced on him/her, leaving him a powerless victim.

Tarana said...

Very true, Chris. It's so important for children to feel that what they say, and think, is valued.

Chronicallysickmanicmother said...

I couldn't agree more. Not only does listening to your child show them they are important to you but it also keeps the lines of communication open for them to speak freely with you as they grow.

Tarana said...

Keeping those communication lines is so important. Glad you agree!

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