Do you ever worry that you’re spoiling your baby by running to her each time she cries? Or that, by smothering her with kisses and cuddles 24/7 you’re being an overindulgent mother?
It’s actually impossible to spoil your baby during her first year. Spoiling implies that, unless you take a firm hold of your baby’s behavior from the start, she’ll grow up to be selfish and demanding.
Once your baby passes her first birthday, she’ll start to see herself as a little individual with a will of her own and you need to become firm-but-fair to avoid spoilt and demanding behavior later on. This is the age where not giving in and being consistent are important.
Here’s how to tread that tricky line between love and spoiling during your baby’s early years.
At this age, your baby doesn’t even know she’s a separate person from you, let alone that she can manipulate or get into a power struggle with you.
Crying. When your baby cries she’s not trying to control you or wear you down. She simply feels something isn’t right, and crying is the only way she can tell you. Responding to her each time she cries, whether it’s for a feed or a cuddle, helps her to feel secure and settled. Leaving her to cry will only make her more fretful and clingy, or ‘spoilt.’
Kisses, cuddles and carrying. As a new mum, you sometimes feel you shouldn’t hold or carry your baby too much in case it gets to the point where she refuses to be put down. In fact, research shows that physical contact like carrying and cuddling are far from spoiling your baby, actually makes her feel more secure and settled. That means she’ll be more willing to be left to her own devices and amuse herself as she grows older.
During this time, your baby still needs love and kisses, but she also has to start fitting in with family life.
Introducing a few routines and boundaries now will help to prevent difficult behavior later on.
Clinginess. At around nine months you may find your baby becomes more clingy and demanding. This is because she’s realized you’re a separate person to her and she’s frightened that, each time you go away, you might not come back. The best way to handle this difficult stage is to offer her plenty of hugs and attention.
12 months and over
Once your child passes her first birthday and starts to develop a will of her own, it’s perfectly possible to ‘spoil’ her.
Tantrums. One of the golden rules of parenting is never to give in to tantrums or your child will quickly learn that that’s how to get what she wants. If your child learns that she can get things by creating a scene, you’ll make things difficult for both you and her when she’s older.
Don’t give in, and in time, your little one will learn that throwing a tantrum doesn’t achieve anything and start to communicate more reasonably.
Helping her. When you’re leading a busy life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for your toddler, from spoon-feeding to putting her shoes on. Most toddlers love being given the chance to do things for themselves and, if you invest a bit of time in showing her how, it’ll save you work in the long run.
Presents. Constantly showering your child with presents and treats won’t spoil her exactly, but it could teach her how to value things. One thing that definitely will spoil your child, though, is giving her a present or treat to stop her behaving badly.
Bribes just reinforce the behavior you are trying to avoid. If your child gets what she wants once, she’ll just make even more of a fuss next time.