When it comes to parenting, every parent wants what is best for their child. As such, many parents want to make sure that they provide their children with all the love and support necessary for them to grow into healthy and successful adults. Often this can lead to parents worrying whether or not they’re spoiling their baby. In this post, we’re gonna clear up any worry and confusion by answering the question “can you spoil a baby”, and explore its relation to parenting styles.
A brief answer to the question “can you spoil a baby?”, would be no. Babies need love, attention, and affection in order to thrive and develop.
It’s important to recognize that babies need structure and consistency in order for them to understand the world around them. If parents are inconsistent in their responses, babies may become confused and frustrated which can cause them to become fussy or cry more often. That’s why it is also important to look at how a parent’s parenting style affects their ability to respond to a baby’s needs.
Though, to fully understand why you can not spoil a baby, you have to dig a bit deeper. Keep reading for a detailed explanation and answer to the question “can you spoil a baby”, with definitions, baby development, scenarios and parenting styles explained.
Can You Spoil A Baby?
For some people, the term ”spoiled” means to give in to your baby’s wants 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 and healthy baby behavior. 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. Now imagine labeling a child, better yet a baby, as ”harmed in character” and ”unfit”, simply for wanting love, affection and to be cared for.
Spoiled, referring to a baby or child, is a term commonly and widely used throughout today’s world, but 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.
So, while it may seem harmless to label a baby as ”spoiled”, it can actually be damaging and hurtful to the parent-child relationship if mothers try to avoid it, in order to avoid raising their children the way society sees fit. A baby’s need for love, affection, and attention aren’t wants or manipulation, it’s essential in order for them to develop properly and feel secure.
If parents are overly lenient or inconsistent in their responses, this could lead to feelings of insecurity for the baby, which can have a long-term effect on their behavior and relationships as they grow. It is important for parents to recognize this need and respond with consistency and understanding, in order to create a secure and healthy attachment with their child. Let’s try to consider this the next time we’re wondering “can you spoil a baby”.
Attachment Parenting Creates A Healthy Relationship
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 or baby-sitter, will develop a closeness and preference to their parents. In other words, when a parent is tuned in and responding appropriately to their baby’s needs, it’s not spoiling, it’s creating a healthy relationship.
Babies Need Routine Stability
One reason why some babies in early infancy, may prefer one parent over the other, is because of the routine and stability their parents have created. Whoever provides the most physical care and emotional care, most often, will often be the one their baby is most ”attached” to.
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.
So, if you are a primary caregiver of your baby, it’s not because you’ve spoiling them too much by responding to their needs, it’s because you’ve provided much needed trust and security.
This also explains why a baby who is often sent to a family member’s house or day care, will be acquainted with being around other people. On the other hand, a baby who is home more often, may fear being around many people, which 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. The ultimate goal is to provide a safe and secure environment for your baby, while also giving them the opportunity to explore and learn no matter which parenting style you use.
Some examples of common parenting styles are; Attachment parenting, Authoritative Parenting, Authoritarian Parenting and Permissive Parenting.
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 can easily be viewed as spoiling, because parents fear that a more gentle way of parenting, is also more lenient.
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 and 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. Also understanding what their behavior is communicating, while avoiding insecurity, lack of empathy, anger and emotional attachment disorder later in life.
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. While 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. It also helps the parents, in setting expectations and providing structure for their children.
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 and 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.
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?”, and consider how that affects your baby or child. Think of what the term ”spoiled”, actually means and decide whether or not you’d like to label your child that way.
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. 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 or 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! A healthy balance of discipline and nurturing, is key in raising our children. We don’t want to do too much, or not enough. Know that you are doing your best and that’s what matters most!