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How not to spoil our children

When you don’t let you children cry – they maintain their inborn signals and create new ones to communicate their needs to you.

A child will put her feast in her mouth, stick her tongue out, or kick her legs and arms when lying on the stomach to signal she is hungry.

A child will rub her eyes, yawn and stare blankly to the horizon when tired.

A child will try to wiggle out of a sling or make a funny face when she needs to go to the toilet.

Responding to those signals not only helps keeping you child happy – it also rewards her signaling efforts and teaches her that communicating her needs to you is worth while. In turn she will quickly develop new signals, and communicate more complex notions to you.

Later on, when your children tell you what they want – while you don’t have to grant the request – you should still reward a coherent, well thought of request. You might say, “I respect that this is what you want, you communicated it very effectively. Maybe you can have X instead for now”.

Signaling a need to a small baby is hard work. When a child matures we might expect more than just asking, but as long as the child makes the first move, and invest a significant effort to do so – granting the request – or even all requests – does not spoil our child (although granting all requests might make it much harder for her to deal with failure later in life, not being able to practice disappointment in a more shielded environment).

What spoils our children is giving them the things they never requested. Helping them when they don’t need or ask for your help, and give them lessons they don’t want to listen to.

Making the first step for our children teaches them passiveness – they learn to wait for things to happen to them, never learning how to achieve them. Helping them when they don’t need and before they ask – make them doubt their abilities and think they need our help – and eventually – stop trying themselves.

Teaching them lessons that they will not listen to, or continue trying after they had enough – ruins their innate craving to learn and causes them to resist learning and stifles their curiosity.

It is sometimes hard to not push the ball to our infants’ hands when she is trying to reach it, or not to ask yet another math question our 7 years old son, after he solved problems much above his age we did not even know he can – just to see what else he can do. It is hard, but as parents we should not shield our children from making an effort or even from failing. We should let our children lead the way, and not to be the ones who make the first or last step.

Not making the first step does not mean we should not show them new things. We should. As much as possible. But just a taste, when they want it, and always stop before they want to stop, to keep them asking for more.

We should give our children a taste – not spoon feed them.

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