Can you spoil a baby?
A brief answer to the question “can you spoil a baby?”, would be no. Though, to fully understand why not, you have to dig a bit deeper. For some people, the term “spoiled” means to give in to your baby’s want and needs, leniently and at their demand.
To others, spoiled is considered to be a baby who is very attached and craves attention from a caregiver. To me, both definitions sound like accurate, healthy, parenting..for a baby that is.
What does it mean?
The dictionary definition of the word spoiled is; a person or child, harmed in character by being treated too leniently or indulgently or food that is unfit for eating. Hmm…That sounds pretty harsh to label a child, better yet a baby, as “harmed in character” and “unfit” for wanting love, affection and to be cared for. Though this is a term commonly and widely used throughout today’s world.
The truth is, our society expects too much from babies and expect them to grow up so fast. After all, they are just babies and as a parent, it is our job to provide the best care and comfort to them, until they are able to care for themselves. That doesn’t make you an “unfit” parent of a “rotten” child.
Babies who show attachment and separation anxiety are not spoiled, they in fact, have a healthy, trusting relationship with their parents. It’s natural for a baby to cling to what they know as safe, in an unfamiliar environment or situation.
Also, babies who are with their parents majority of the time, as opposed to a caregiver/baby sitter, will develop a closeness and preference to their parents.
Babies Prefer Routine
Some babies may even prefer one parent over the other, whoever they are with the most and provides the most physical care. This isn’t to say one parent is better than the other or more present. It’s just what your baby recognizes as routine care.
Which is why, if your baby is often sent to a family member’s house or day care, they will be used to being around other people. A baby who is home more often, may fear being around many people. Again, this has nothing to do with being “spoiled”.
Another thing to consider when asking yourself “can you spoil a baby”, is parenting styles and techniques. Every parent has their own way of parenting, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent to your own baby. Simply because every baby is unique.
Some examples of common parenting styles are; Attachment parenting, Authoritative Parenting, Authoritarian and Permissive.
While these are not the only ways of parenting, most parents will find that they fall somewhere under one of these categories. Let’s look at each parenting style and consider how each of them affect your baby’s behavior.
Attachment parenting is almost, but not exactly, as it sounds. Basically this style of parenting is the idea of developing a very close and secure, emotional relationship with your baby, so that they will trust your guidance and feel safe in most situations. You rely on your baby as much as they rely on you. Meaning, you’ll follow their cues on development.
The way to achieve this is through bonding and nurturing, throughout the pregnancy and after your baby is born. Some ways to bond are talking/singing/reading to baby in the womb, birth bonding, natural birthing, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, not using the cry-it-out-method, etc…
Parents who practice attachment parenting, will also respond to their baby’s cries or behavior with a sensitive, positive approach. They may believe babies act out with reason and are well aware of their emotions and what they want/need. Instead of hovering, smothering or forcing their babies into strict, harsh routines. They encourage their babies to freely express their emotions openly and develop a comfortable, positive outcome.
The goal is to promote communication, while raising secure, independent and empathetic children. Understanding what their behavior is communicating, while avoiding insecurity, lack of empathy, anger and emotional attachment disorder later in life.
Attachment parenting can easily be viewed as spoiling, because parents fear that a more gentle way of parenting, is also more lenient.
Authoritative parenting is very similar to attachment parenting, without the need to practice physical closeness, throughout pregnancy and after birth nurturing. Parents who choose this style of parenting may or may not practice skin-to-skin, baby-wearing, breastfeed or co-sleep.
They aim to provide emotional warmth and guidance, through communication and understanding, while enforcing strong, consistent limits and boundaries of discipline. Similar to attachment parenting, this style of parenting encourages independence through nurturing and security.
Authoritative parents tend to have high standards, but provide guidance and teachings along the way, to help their child meet the standards they have of them. This differs from attachment parenting, in a way of how they want their child to grow.
Authoritative parents assert authority in aspects of how they expect their child to behave and influence their behavior with a warm approach. Attachment parenting style, encourages their children to be their own individual.
Another trait of authoritative parenting is creating routines. Routines are placed, to set boundaries for their baby/child to get used to, comfortably.
Authoritarian parenting is a parenting style that is characterized by high expectations, with little, to no nurturing. Parents who practice this style of parenting tend to be very strict, not allowing any room for mistakes.
When their child does make mistakes, they believe in punishment, rather than communication. Forms of punishment are more negative than positive. Their goal isn’t to communicate what the underlying cause of misbehavior is, more so to correct it and try to avoid it all together.
Even in early childhood, parents of this style, are pro “cry-it-out” method, and encourage self-soothing and independence early on. From birth, they have strict expectations of how they expect their children to behave, both at home and in public.
Although it may seem that children who receive authoritarian parenting are not spoiled and are well behaved, this can have a negative impact on a child’s empathetic and social development. It can also hinder the parent and child’s relationship and trust, making them afraid to open up. Furthermore, it may even cause a child to act out when parents aren’t around, in result of lack of nurturing.
Permissive Parenting is the opposite of Authoritarian. In basically all aspects. Parents who choose this style of parenting, are known for the phrase “just let kids, be kids”. While there’s nothing wrong with kids being young, playful and careless, it is still our job as their parent to guide them in mannerism, responsibility and safety measures.
Permissive parents do very little guidance. They do the necessary to keep their child happy. While they are very nurturing and care about their child’s feelings, more than anything, they often forget to, or don’t see it necessary to say no, encourage discipline, punish or teach their children.
This makes them come off as relaxed, over-lenient and push-overs parents. Though, they most-likely have a very close, strong relationship with their children. Their children may be very trusting and see their mom/dad as their best friend. Otherwise, they will resent their parents lack of authority and act out with the thought, that they don’t care.
This type of freedom allows a child to be their own individual and learn from their mistakes. The risk is that, they may develop misbehavior, problems with authority, bad grades, temper tantrums, impulsiveness and lack of responsibility.
So, the next time you call a baby spoiled or ask yourself “can you spoil a baby?”, try to consider what that means. Ask yourself, “what type of parent am I?” Consider how that affects your baby or child.
It’s not about whether the baby is spoiled, independent, well behaved or misbehaved…it’s about the child receiving the necessary care needed to be safe, happy and secure in life. Which, may very well, look different on each child and parent.
Think of what the term “spoiled”, actually means. No baby is rotten or unfit. Babies are a true reflection of their parents and the care they receive. Whether it be; Attachment, Authoritative, Authoritarian or Permissive, as long as the baby/child is happy, safe and cared for, that’s what matters most.
Remember, babies aren’t able to care for themselves. It’s important that they know, they can trust us, as their caregiver. Don’t be afraid to love on your little one, in fear of them being labeled as spoiled. There’s no such thing, as too much love! Everyone needs it, especially our children!