This subject is very near and dear to my heart because I have two perspectives on the subject --given my husband and I are now a blended family. I’ve decided to write about this subject, because lately it has become more and more apparent that many of our young people are not equipped to handle many of life’s challenges. You can go on any social media platform and see evidence of this daily. No one is perfect; I am certainly guilty of some coddling behaviors, and I don’t think a little coddling is necessarily a bad thing. I will share a few parallel scenarios with the caveat that none of them are right or wrong in my opinion, but perhaps some tweaks would benefit some kids.
First, I will start with my biological children. Both of my girls were born via in vitro fertilization (after eleven years of trying on our own and one failed adoption effort). Inevitably, we were so overjoyed with the births of our girls that in the early years we tended to be very “accommodating” to their every request. Needs of course, must be provided by the parent, but some things we did were a little overboard – my extended family included. It got to the point where I had to limit the number of gifts the girls received for birthdays and Christmas as I wanted to teach them about the giving and receiving actions – the purpose and the meaning. It was an easy transition educating our girls on how much more satisfying giving can be over receiving and this stuck with them. I’m really grateful they embraced it and live by this code.
When they were little, I understandably started out doing most things for them; but as they grew, I started to realize I was neglecting myself and running on empty keeping up with their needs. One day, I had this moment that hit me when I reflected on my youth and how my parents had guided us kids but made sure we could do so many things for ourselves. I had actually learned a lot of great things during my own childhood to allow me to grow in independence from my own parents. It just made sense that I should pass along what I had learned. I started teaching them the basics such as folding their laundry, making simple toast and cereal breakfast if Mom and Dad were occupied, and simple problem-solving skills. The latter really seems to be missing in today’s young people’s repertoires.
Now I want to shift to my third daughter, my stepdaughter, and the baby of our family. Her story is quite different. I love her as much as my biological kids and treat her with the same respect and love as I’ve shown her sisters. What makes her story a little different, is that she was adopted by my husband from an orphanage in Russia. She was brought into a family unit that was already rocky, and that lead to a bit of a competition to accommodate her needs. There was literally nothing this child didn’t receive if she wanted it. There was never any instruction on basics such as basic hygiene, basic nutrition, responsibility for personal belongings nor personal actions. I literally came into the family and was expected to take over and make special meals (picky eater was an understatement,) instruct on things like brushing teeth and using deodorant, eat something nutritional once in a while, and so on. There were many occasions where I was dropping off forgotten lunches, homework, and gym/cheer equipment; anything forgotten was immediately supplied. We didn’t want her distressed about anything.
I went along with this for a good while, because I knew there were emotional hurdles: divorce is heartbreaking for children and introducing a new partner for mom or dad is challenging and hard to accept. Abandonment was a fear. Jealousy about Dad’s time being shared was an issue. I was challenged to make it work and find a way to break through and be the friend this young girl needed.
So, I approached my husband and his ex, and I asked if I could offer to do some things that might promote more confidence and self-worth, as well as understanding, responsibility, and motivation. I was excited when they agreed that it might help our daughter. First, we created a reminder checklist for her mirror to consider complete hygiene before she came down for breakfast – she could look up and read what she needed to do to get ready for school. Next, we made food together, including packing lunches and snacks; she soon became a better eater! She found that she liked to cook sometimes, and she even planned and cooked a meal for us! We encouraged her to take pride in her things and room; she started learning to do her own laundry, put things away, and make her bed! (Someone wrote something about making your bed first thing when you get up is one accomplishment that sets the pace for your day… or something along those lines.) Anyway, this beautiful child learned these things later than many children and proved that it is possible to set new boundaries, make goals, achieve little things until they become bigger achievements. This beautiful young lady now calls me “Mom,” and I’ve very confident we moved away from unnecessary coddling to supporting the growth of a fabulous human being ready to take on the world!
There are tons of resources for raising healthy, happy kids. I personally went through an 8-week course to become adoption certified, and it was the best thing I ever did to learn some great parenting skills! I have found that we are all just trying to do our best. Maybe we can stop a little of the coddling and see the advancement of many more grounded, confident contributors in our next generation! In the end, it’s the love and patience we offer that tells them we care, and it’s the letting go that helps them succeed.
Great article: 10 Ways to Tell if Your are Coddling Your Child Too Much