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New Views on "Spoiling" Children


The good news is that, contrary to what you may have heard, you can't spoil a baby (or an older child, either). Like all babies, your newborn entered the world convinced you are a perfect parent giving him ideal care. Your responsive love is the measure your baby uses to gauge his worth.

Gratifying your child's wishes, especially his desire for your attention, will not spoil him. Doing so will not make him hopelessly self-centered or unable to postpone gratification. In fact, your child's all-encompassing need for your focused attention will decrease when he is certain of your unconditional wish to respond. When you try to make him as happy as possible and soothe his cries, you sustain his inborn optimism and give him an inner sense of well-being rich enough to share with others. Your child will find that life does not always give him what he wants, but he can always have a positive, loving response from you.

"Spoiled" children behave in ways that antagonize adults because they have received too little rather than too much positive attention. Parents are sometimes told that their crying baby is trying to manipulate them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Assertions about an infant's wily motives are disproved by scientific evidence; the data completely contradict the notion that infants can fake unhappiness. Crying is not a calculated act. Babies cry because they feel overwhelmed and need your loving assistance. When their tears are not responded to, babies can grow up to feel unlovable.

On the other hand, because you are the source of your young child's greatest joy, when you freely supply your loving attention you give your baby a storehouse of well-being that will last a lifetime and help make him strong and resilient, seeing him through virtually every disappointment and frustration.