Parenting can often seem like a study in contradictions. On one hand, you have to protect your children and keep them safe. On the other, you must allow them to experience enough disappointment and negative repercussions to form a basis for successful adult behavior.
From managing risk/benefit analysis to comforting themselves in the absence of an adult, independence is vital for kids to grow into healthy adults. But how do you allow them to form those skills when your first instinct is to protect them from ever having a negative experience? Coddling your children may seem like the best way to keep them safe and happy, but it can actually make them more uncertain and less confident as they get older. Here are ten signs your child is being coddled too aggressively, and may need some nudging in a more independent direction.
- She Gives Up Before Trying – When you manage tasks and responsibilities for your child, rather than teaching her how to handle things on her own, it leaves her with no frame of reference later in life. If your child gives up on new ideas, activities or responsibilities without even making a cursory effort, it could be a sign she’s being coddled to the point of not knowing how to function on her own.
- He Can’t Deal with Disappointment – No one wants to watch their child suffer the pangs of disappointment, but it is an inevitable part of life. Shielding your child from these feelings may be a short-term relief, but will only make coping that much more difficult when the unavoidable happens. A child who absolutely cannot process disappointment and has no coping mechanism is often one who was coddled and shielded so much they never experienced this aspect of the human condition.
- She’s Easily Overwhelmed – Managing your child’s schedule, what she wears, what she eats and who she interacts with will ensure she doesn’t have the opportunity to make a mistake. It will also ensure she doesn’t know how to handle these simple tasks on her own, so she’ll be completely overwhelmed when she has to make a tough choice or face the unknown as she gets older.
- He Displays a Sense of Entitlement – Kids who are shielded from disappointment and never hear the world “no” aren’t necessarily the happiest, even if your intention is to make sure your child never wants for anything. Coddling your child and catering to every whim can easily lead to a false sense of entitlement, which will absolutely not serve him well as he enters adulthood.
- She’s Anxious – Anxiety is a diagnosable disorder in children, but it can also be the result of too much pampering and coddling. You can’t manage every aspect of her life forever, nor can you tackle every obstacle she faces. In trying to do so, you just leave her ill-equipped to handle even the slightest adversity or uncertainty.
- He Actively Avoids Trying New Things – An overly coddled child will often avoid new experiences or social settings, simply because they have no model for behavior in situations where the outcome is not controlled by a parent.
- She Demands Instant Gratification – Just as coddling can lead to a sense of entitlement which leaves your child feeling they are owed all the best by virtue of simply existing, it can also leave her incapable of waiting for gratification. These are the children who can’t see the big picture or make long-term goals, because they are so used to having everything on a “right now” basis.
- He Frequently Needs to Be Rescued – Do you find yourself needing to constantly rush to your child’s rescue? If you’re feeling like your child’s own personal superhero, it could be a sign you’ve coddled him so much that he doesn’t know how to manage even the slightest difficulty.
- She’s Fixated on “Fairness” – Your child forms a world view based on their experiences. If you make a point of shielding her from every injustice, she’ll spend the rest of her life fixated on how “unfair” life can be. When even common disappointments seem like a raw deal to your child, it may be a sign you’ve coddled her too much.
- He Struggles to Meet Common Demands – You can’t expect a child to meet common demands, like cleaning up after themselves or taking responsibility for their own actions, if they’ve never been exposed to these experiences. A child who freezes in the face of life’s most common demands may not be prepared for adulthood because he’s been coddled and overprotected.
While it’s never easy to urge your little one to spread his or her wings, it’s vital to their development. Squashing the urge to coddle your child may be one of the biggest challenges you face as a parent, but it’s a crucial obstacle to overcome.