By Perri Klass:
In the pediatric office today, parents often bring up spoiling, as that mother did last week, in reference to young babies, sleep and feeding. It’s as if the later, more confusing questions about how to respond to a child’s demands crystallize in those early months when the new baby cries and the parents worry.
The official pediatric line — I said some version of this to that mother last week — is that you can’t spoil babies by taking good care of them. But even that doesn’t turn out to be simple.
“It’s important to be there and to be responsive and responsible, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to be totally at the whim of the baby,” said Dr. Pamela High, a professor of pediatrics at Brown University and medical director of the Fussy Baby Clinic at the Brown Center for the Study of Children. “You’re teaching them patterns and routine and regularity.”…As children get older, setting limits and establishing family routines and expectations gets more complicated. But it’s still a question of balancing immediate gratification and larger life lessons…
Though parenting style is hard to study, he points to a body of research that cumulatively suggests that children benefit from strategies that build self-control and emotional resilience….
With older children, you get into the issue of stuff. “When I think of spoiling, you’re talking about attention and you’re talking about things,” Dr. High said. “I don’t think you can spoil with too much attention to what your kids are doing and thinking and suffering from, but I think you sometimes have to be careful about things.”