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Dr. Magryta: Too easy

Dr. Magryta

Regarding your children at all ages, think seriously about making life uncomfortable for them now and then. I do not say this lightly.

The thought of this makes a lot of parents squirm. Many people equate loving a child with keeping them happy most of the time — or sometimes at all costs. This plan is fraught with peril.

Think about a crying child. There is the “I am starving” cry. There is the “I want to be held” cry. There is the ‘I am overtired” cry. And on and on. To stop the crying, a parent will have to meet the child’s need. Food, holding, rocking to sleep, giving a toy, etc. will achieve the goal, but at what cost if always done.

To feed a baby at every crying event can lead to obesity. To rock a baby to sleep will create an inability to self-soothe and fall asleep alone. To pick up a child every time he cries will produce an expectant child that can become whiny and spoiled.

To do the opposite could lead to starvation, abandonment feelings and unloved loss.

Clearly there is a balance point. This understanding of balance in parenting is critical to a healthy sense of self. We have to be extremely careful not to let our past influence our current parenting to a point of poor balance; i.e., you were neglected as a child so therefore you choose to overcompensate by attending to every childhood whim.

 

Hence, the idea of randomly uncomfortable events to ensure we keep them learning about self and growth. To deprive your child may be uncomfortable for both parties, but is vitally important to developing independence and self esteem.

When a child cries and you deem that he is upset and should be held, by all means hold your child. However, if he cries every hour to be held or will not go to bed without being held, here is an opportunity to help him self-regulate and learn to move on without direct parental intervention — assuming there is no disease issue at hand.

Self-determination is a very important part of aging gracefully. It is a classic growth mindset that says to the child, “You got this; I am here, but you do not need me.”

The easy thing to do is to give in, but unfortunately is the wrong thing to do. You lose in the long run and so does the child.

I think that the uncomfortable events are not just for the child. We need to be uncomfortable as well. Take, for example, teaching a child how to bake. You set up the kitchen with all of the ingredients and start to demonstrate the process of making bread. Your daughter protests and asks to do it herself with your guidance. The easy thing to do is to say no and just show. The right thing to do is to let her explore, make a mess and even mess up the final product. Then you have multiple teaching moments. You also have a mess to clean up. She can help with that, teaching even more life lessons in taking care of your mess, resilience and completing a project to the end.

Dr. M

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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