Our daughter is one year old! After what seemed to be the longest year of our lives, we decided it’s time for a break. My lovely parents volunteered to move into our house for two weeks, to look after our kids whilst we jetted off to a better, more peaceful, less sleep deprived place. Then we got THE phone call.
It was mum. I asked how is everything, all the obligatory pleasantries, she said she is loving spending time with our little darling, but there is something I needed to know. After monitoring my daughter’s behaviour for a couple of days, she deemed her a bit spoiled.
“She is running the house! It’s very cute, but she shouts at the dog, shouts at me.. When she doesn’t get to mash a banana with her mini fork and spoon, whilst sitting in her baby chair, watching GoCompare ads, she goes ballistic.”
I know exactly what she is referring to (for some reason she took a shine to the big-attempting-on-opera-singing guy from the commercial). When my daughter wants something badly, she lays on the floor, screaming like a dolphin that woke up in a sand pit, until someone comes and saves her AKA gives her what she wants. It got me thinking.. Can you spoil a baby that young? At what age should you really start considering those kind of situations and start acting upon them?
Parents have their views on the way they want to raise their kids sometimes way before they even have a fertilised egg. There is the “I’ll give them everything I never had” school of thought. There is also “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” The last one, a twist on the latter: “Do whatever makes you stronger, just don’t kill me.” We mostly want to be tough but fair parents, not letting our kids run us into the ground. Until our baby arrives. As a general rule, we get softer each and every day, but does this constitute spoiling? If we don’t want to hear them cry and catch them, before they fall? If we let them mash their banana and wipe the spoon all over the furniture: Is this spoiling?
“Spoiled children” are kids, who have learned to use negative behaviour to get what they want. According to Sandy Bailey, family life educator working closely with BabyCenter dot com, babies under six months old are too young to purposely manipulate or annoy you. They cry to communicate their needs, whether it’s hunger, the need for a dry nappy, or a little cuddling with mum or dad. If you give your baby prompt attention, you’re building their sense of self-worth (someone listens to them, we all like to be listened to). You’re also establishing a foundation of trust that can last for years to come, as now they learn to trust you to fulfil their needs. Your baby will feel more secure, less anxious, and instead of constantly worrying whether they are “on their own”, they can concentrate their efforts on discovering the world, while feeling loved.
Sandy believes, that if you take your baby’s cry seriously (in their eyes this is every time you attend to them when they sob), they will be less likely to cry for no reason. In the long run, responding promptly to your little one’s needs will make them less demanding and less clingy.
I would agree with this statement. Having frequented more baby play groups in the last year, than I can count, I have seen a good mix of babies and parents. Now that I think about it, most of the babies in constant need of attention, clingy, not able to enjoy themselves, were the ones, whose parents were either constantly on their phones (ok, ok, I am not whiter than white here, but we are talking about non stop phone use), or busy ignoring their kids, whilst talking about how much they’ve spent during their most recent shopping spree. Kids need to know you care and should they need your time, it’s available. When you are with them, be with them. It’s not spoiling. It’s investing in your sanity in the long run. Ignoring them, when they are little will probably bite you in the a** few years down the line.
Your baby needs all the care and attention you can give. They will have time to learn their independence very soon, but for now listen to your inner voice, and if they cry for over 10 minutes, there is probably a reason.
By the time your baby is 6 to 12 months old, they start to pay attention to cause and effect (they did not have this ability before, so you see: they couldn’t possibly cry at night only to annoy you). They start noticing, that when they throw a toy out of a shopping trolley, you will pick it up. If the fork gets pushed off the table, it falls down. That’s the time they start to see a direct link between their actions and your responses. Not before. This is the time to act and set some limits!
If your baby wants to eat dog biscuits out of your dog’s bowl and starts crying, when you stop the fun, give them a hug. Hold your ground. Remember: your future sanity is at stake here!
Give praise when they behave and be persistent in fixing any bad or hazardous behaviour, when they don’t.
As I am writing this, my daughter is asleep, getting her energy levels up, for some kicking and screaming tomorrow, when she doesn’t get to wipe the banana all over the furniture again, and stuff phone chargers in the washing machine. We will look at her with love, as she is trying to get everyone to just let her do it, but being over one now, this behaviour won’t fly anymore. Because we love her not because we are mean.
We will all get there in the end. The good news is: no matter how much attention you give your baby, it’s never more than they need. x