I dread raising spoiled children. You know, the ones who whine incessantly and act like they’re the only people on earth with needs and wants and feelings. I’ve always known that I wanted my children to be empathetic, caring, thoughtful individuals. I knew that I would create healthy boundaries, with loving firmness, and never, ever spoil my children.
Then I had babies. Every single time they cried, my entire being yearned to reach out and pick them up – to respond immediately to their need. I wanted to feed them “on demand:” to react to their needs so quickly that they hardly had time to feel the hunger or thirst – no matter what the time of day or night. Every time they looked at me, I was drawn in to the amazing depths of their eyes. I would spend hours just holding and looking and feeling grateful.
Then, one day, an associate of mine proudly informed me that she had her baby on a schedule; that he was fed, diapered, put to sleep and played with only at specific times. She informed me that I was spoiling my babies – and my sleep – by responding to their needs on their schedule, not mine.
Whoa! Was I spoiling my babies? I just thought I was being a good mother, giving them what they needed when they needed it. Were my children going to grow into the six-year-olds who scream at the grocery store when their mothers buy the “wrong” kind of cereal?
I knew then, and I’m certain now, that I was, in fact, not spoiling my babies. Here’s why: babies have absolutely no identity of self. They come into this world, sweet little bundles of physicality. They feel a need – say, hunger – they cry, and they learn that someone who loves them will give them exactly what they need. This isn’t spoiling them. This is creating secure, confident, loving children who understand that they can have their basic needs met.
Every baby needs to know that her needs for food, warmth, love and stimulation will be met. Denying her needs in order to fit them into a grown-up schedule only teaches her to doubt the world, to doubt that her needs will truly be met, to doubt her parents.
A spoiled child is a child who behaves badly. A baby is absolutely incapable of behaving badly. All a baby is trying to do is to survive and grow. Meeting your baby’s needs will not teach him to be “naughty,” it will teach him that he is loved and nurtured. And he will grow and thrive on that knowledge.
Now, when I say, “My baby is spoiled rotten!” I say it with pride. Yeah! Spoil those babies! Nurture them and love them and let them lead you to that inner place of peace and softness and giving. You want to know the truth about spoiling your baby? It’s impossible to do it.