Parents often do not realize that a helpless baby the day before has today developed substantially, and is ready to tackle larger challenges. Inadvertently, we may choose actions and habits which effectively inhibit the child’s development as a giver and sharer of his energy and resource to better the condition of the world in which he lives.
It is fine to talk baby-talk to an infant as a way of expressing our love and affection. In this case, the words, silly or not, serve as a framework which is adorned with kind and gentle tones of recognition and appreciation.
It is fine to attend to a baby’s needs, more than honorable in fact, and keeping baby changed, fresh, clean, well-fed, and well-cuddled is an essential part of establishing a context of security. Little babies shouldn’t have to cry and beg and contrive a plan for receiving the nurture they need.
It is fine, and most preferable, to rush to the aid of your infant when he tumbles head-long from his car-seat, or is startled by a loud noise. He needs reassurance and comfort as he determines what is life-threatening, and what is survivable.
It is just fine, and perfectly normal to rock baby to sleep, to cuddle him, to carry him all about, and to bond deeply with him, holding him close to your heart. It is good to connect on the level of the soul, and for baby to know he is precious, priceless, and lovely.
But there is a time for these outward actions, and it is short. While the principles behind these activities remain in force, the way in which we express and live the principles must change. We shall continue always to be loving, affectionate and kind. We shall continue always to listen, nurture and care for our children. We shall continue always to protect them and reassure them in life’s events. We shall continue always to bond, to establish profound relationships and to create a gracious, loving context of full acceptance.
But we must choose to change our expression of these principles according to the stages of development. The moment baby is capable of signaling for a drink, he should be trained to do so appropriately. The instant he is capable of expressing gratitude, he should be given appropriate guidance. Once a small child is capable of contributing to the family, he is to be led along that path.
We do not pity the 10-year old child who is mentally arrested around the age of 3, because we understand there is nothing to be done about it. He shall be accepted as he is, and loved for the amazing person he is. But we will define normal for him as normal, relative to his limitations.
What is truly to be grieved over, is the phenomenon in which a 5 year-old girl, with the capacity to help, to serve, to give and to bless the world with her presence has been taught by ignorant parents and misguided beliefs to be a taker; demanding, manipulative and controlling.
When she was well-capable of asking with words, she was granted permission to cry and scream to get a drink. When developmentally she was easily able to express thanks and share in return, she was taught it was her divine right to be pampered; what was hers, belonged to her and what was others’ was rightfully hers as well. When she had the chance to discover that wealth is created through planning, expenditure of energy and investment of time, she was gifted with whatever she wished, and taught she deserved a life of abundance with no involvement on her part, but to receive and to take. When she is little, she may take a toy, but when grown, she may embezzle a fortune.
Let us be aware that the same condition which we find adorable in an infant is frustrating in a 5 year-old, shocking in a teenager and grounds for outright war in an adult. Our children are expressing their growth every moment, they are growing in their capacity to contribute and bless the family and humanity by the day, but do we promote irresponsibility and entitlement by serving them, when they should be serving others? Are we paralyzing them with misguided pampering?
Some of us have fallen into the trap of believing that our love, kindness and service is the way to train a child to be lovely, and that giving only, and not receiving from them is a high art. The fact is, children are already lovely, and will live out a life of service and goodness to others if we but recognize the process and support it with appropriate training. Be kind, yes, and be giving, of course; but train your children to be kind and to give back, every bit as much.
It’s more blessed to give than receive; shouldn’t we guide children to give for others’ sake and their own?