Did you know that it is never too early to start raising an emotionally competent kid (who then grows into an emotionally competent teen and adult)? In my opinion, one of our major tasks as new parents is to help our little ones learn how to handle feeling upset.
I decided to write about this topic for two reasons. First, as a new mom myself, I often find myself jumping to attention the second either of my kids needs anything. And second, as a psychologist, I have noticed that many of my young patients (kids ages 7 and above) have a great deal of difficulty handling any upset, disappointment, distress or discomfort. I started to wonder how these two observations fit together.
Is it possible that by being over-responsive to our babies needs, we are raising kids who can’t soothe themselves?
New moms have all sorts of beliefs about what their babies needs and how their responses to these needs reflect on their skills and abilities. Do you recognize any of these thoughts?
-If I don’t soothe him right away, I’m a terrible mom.
-If I don’t play with him all the time, he’ll be lonely.
-If I let him “cry it out”, he’ll be scarred for life.
-If I don’t make sure he is constantly amused, he won’t be learning as much as other kids.
The problem with thoughts like these is that they cause new moms to run around in a panic, behaving as if the house is burning down instead of the baby simply needing a bottle! Furthermore, they cause new moms to neglect themselves. If the baby needs to eat when mom is about to step into the shower, mom turns off the water to go and feed her. If the baby looks like he needs amusing right when mom is about to take five minutes to read the front page of the newspaper, mom puts the paper down. If the baby needs to be rocked to fall asleep every time he rouses in the middle of the night, mom neglects her own need for sleep.
And, perhaps most importantly, we deny our babies the opportunity to learn to soothe themselves, to learn to play independently, to learn to get to sleep on their own. My hunch is that those babies grow up to be 10-year olds with exactly the same problems.
The Calm Mom is by no means suggesting we don’t pay attention to our babies. What I am suggesting is that you give them a chance to draw from their own resources.
The moral of the story: While we want our children to learn that we are always there for them, we also want them to learn that they can rely on themselves.
Want to learn how to raise emotionally competent kids? Read my Calm Mom Tips on this topic.