I have heard a lot of fear-based parenting "advice" in my short 22 months as a momma, much of it related to "spoiling" Little L and raising a monster. Since when does loving my kid and responding to her needs (and on occasion, wants) produce an entitled, demanding ingrate? I mean, if my parenting style was pure indulgence that wasn't tempered by boundaries or the teaching of values, then yes, there would be cause for concern. But in a household that loves Jesus and is teaching Little L to hopefully do the same, I don't understand this concern about her being spoiled.
Here are some of the gems I've gotten:
- don't tell her she is beautiful or smart, or compliment her in any way, lest she become vain or arrogant
- don't pick her up when she cries, especially during a tantrum or when it comes to sleep time
- ignore her when she's throwing a tantrum and insist that she does what I want
- don't cuddle her too much
- don't let her determine when she wants to breastfeed
- don't let her breastfeed just because she asks for it
- don't buy her too much stuff (books, clothes, toys)
- don't let her choose her own bedtime (eg do parent-led scheduling/sleep-training)
- don't let her eat anything sweet before she has eaten her meal (fruit being included as a sweet)
- don't let her leave the meal table before I'm done eating
- don't co-sleep
- don't nurse to sleep
- don't let her snack between meals, especially if she didn't eat at meal time
- don't let her disobey me (punish willful behaviour!)
- don't allow her any technology or books at a meal, ever.
- don't let her explore her food
That's just the tip of the iceberg but you get my drift. All of these well-meaning, misinformed suggestions are essentially based in the same root fear that allowing my 22-month old to "get away" with these things will cause her to definitely become an insufferable, out-of-control, demanding adult with horrible habits one day. No accounting for her personality or our other parenting choices or child development best practices or circumstances or faith, but a blanket set of do' s and don'ts that supposedly yields only two types of kids: the good and the bad ("spoiled").
Last I checked, Little L is still just a baby/toddler. She isn't a moustache-twirling, conniving adversary I need to "beat" at something. She isn't a sociopath who is trying to manipulate me. She doesn't even have the forethought to not eat play dough; she certainly doesn't have the awareness to be deliberately, consciously entitled or disobedient.
She is, however, a person who despite being small deserves the same dignity and respect that we extend to other adults. She is also little - which means that she doesn't yet know how to process big feelings, and needs to be anchored emotionally in the safety of a responsive, trusted adult. Little L is not spoiled, just loved and attended to! And frankly, she is turning out to be quite a conscientious and sensitive little girl, too, which is a far cry from the spoiled brat that some think she is in danger of becoming. She cries out of empathy for other little distraught kids. She will say, despondently, "Oh no! I made a big mess!" when something spills. She will beat herself up thinking that fallen, inanimate objects have hurt themselves due to her lack of care ("The teapot fell on the floor!!" "The blocks fell down!" *tears*).
I guess if she turns out to be an awful, selfish person one day, then maybe someone can tell me that it's because I hugged her and said, "I love you!" and encouraged her too much, didn't enforce my will upon hers enough, and forgot to spank her when she was acting poorly. Yup, it will totally be my bad then.