Not everyone sees the importance of using child-friendly parenting approaches. Not everyone values the effects of being truly effective as a parent (one of these hoped-for effects of our effectiveness is that our children will grow up to have a greater sense of self, choice, and voice—agency, as it is). And not everyone is willing to see things from another vantage point. But here are a few objections to child-friendly parenting and my responses to them.
Objection 1: Children will become spoiled and selfish if you’re too nice to them.
This false belief is even extended to newborn babies. The incorrect thought is that if you pick babies up when they cry, then you’re teaching them to whine for attention. My response to this is that there is a developmentally appropriate time (around age 2 and 3 once children can use their words) when crying and whining can be ignored in a calculated way for a limited amount of time. Babies have no other way to communicate except by their cries. It is inhumane to neglect a crying baby on purpose unless you think you would hurt the baby out of frustration (in which case you should arrange for someone else to attend to the baby’s cries while you find your calm).
As far as older children go, how else will our children learn what “nice” is unless they learn it from us? Yes, we also teach them responsibility and gratitude and limits and boundaries and choices and consequences—but this is all in increments and as it relates to the moment, within the context of the child’s development.
Objection 2: Children will become unruly and uncontrollable if you don’t make them behave.
Children are, by their very nature, children. We cannot truly “make” our children behave. They must choose it for themselves. When our children are young, they mimic us, and they learn consequences from us. The deterrents we put in place need to be fair, reasonable, and child-friendly. And our expectations need to be the same—including do-able. Achievable.
Too many parents put their children in a lose-lose situation where the expectations are not reasonable and also the “punishments” are out of proportion with behavior infractions. When we focus too much on the negative, we can lose sight of the positive we are trying to bring about. Children sometimes need a reason to choose good behavior. Just like in school how students are more likely to pay attention if the teacher makes the lesson engaging and enjoyable, our children are more likely to make positive choices if we make our home environment and our relationship with our children engaging and enjoyable.
Objection 3: Children will become ungrateful and disrespectful of authority if you don’t lay down the law in your house.
Do you notice that these objections are all fear-based? Reject fear-based approaches outright because they do not work in the long-run (and I would even say the short-run, too, if we’re truly interested in helping our children make choices, not merely cower). Effective approaches are largely choice-based—there is freedom and flexibility on everyone’s part within reason.
With regards to gratitude and respect, our children will be more likely to demonstrate these qualities themselves if they see us show gratitude and behave respectably. I find it interesting that many of the kinds of people who offer up these kinds of objections to something so logical as child-friendly parenting are people who, they themselves, haven’t worked to develop grown-up skills like gratitude and respect. It is important to focus our energy largely on improving ourselves (and following the divine example of compassion and wisdom) instead of trying to rule with rigidity and harshness when it’s not at all necessary in order to raise grateful, respectful children.
What are some objections that you have heard with regards to child-friendly parenting?