Written by: Jenny Smith
There are certain things that most parents swear that they are not going to do, and then they end up doing them! One of the classics is the intention not to indulge or ‘spoil’ the youngest child.
Letting your child develop
Indulging can be subtle or overt, whilst from the outside it looks as if the behaviour is about the child, more often than not, the drawing out of the baby stage is fulfilling the needs of other family members. Having a very little child in a family can feel a very precious thing, their innocent pure energy can be delightful and it makes sense that parents hanker for those stages of parenting to stretch out further than they do. However, like everything that is unhealthy, indulging it will ultimately backfire for both you and your child, if you don’t support them to appropriately grow at each developmental stage.
It’s not all about you
Typical ways of indulging might include doing things for them that they are more than capable of doing for themselves, speaking to them in a childlike voice or encouraging them to speak in a childlike voice, even laughing when they do so subtly gives them the message to keep doing so. Holding onto them physically and ‘making them give you cuddles’ is much more about meeting your needs than theirs, and again gives a very clear message that they are still small, that they need to be held on your lap.
Letting the baby of your family grow up is the job of all the family, not just them. For parents it might involve grieving the end of having little ones around, expressing any sorrow not to have more children if that has been a difficult choice. Letting go of baby clothes and equipment can be a supportive act that makes a clear statement. Enlisting the help of older siblings to support their younger brother or sister to step into the next stage can also be useful.
It might be a pattern that you are not aware of and so it might come as a surprise to find yourself doing it. If this is the case, don’t be hard on yourself, there are always reasons why we relate to our children in the ways that we do. See if you can become gently aware of it and maybe talk to your partner or a supportive friend about how you would like to change.