I was painfully shy as a child and refused to speak to anyone I didn’t know. But when a waiter asked for my order, or a friend of my parents asked me a question, my mother would forcibly remove my head from her lap and make me answer for myself. Even though I was young, I knew that it was incredibly awkward not to respond at that point, and I greatly resented my mom for making me do something that made me uncomfortable instead of just answering for me. In fact, I thought she was plain mean.
The more I was put in these situations, the easier it became to speak to strangers, until I no longer needed to be pressured to do so. I eventually realized that it was much more comfortable to do what is socially acceptable (i.e., answer when spoken to) than to indulge my own fear. Had my mother coddled me and spared me the discomfort, which obviously hurt her to witness as well, I believe that I wouldn’t have developed the confidence to speak to people I don’t know and wouldn’t have the accomplishments and success I have today.
But where is the line between nurturing and coddling?
Parenting experts define coddling as when parents try to manipulate a child’s surroundings in order to spare her from disappointment. To nurture your child is to see that their emotional and physical needs are fulfilled. The line between nurturing and coddling depends on the age and maturity level of your child and will shift as your child develops.
For instance, it wouldn’t be considered coddling to intervene in a dispute over a toy between 2-year-olds because neither child is old enough yet to understand how to settle it themselves. However, to do the same for your first grader would be depriving your child of the opportunity to practice problem solving and interpersonal skills that she should have by that age.
According to Dr. Lauren Solotar, chief psychologist at the May Institute, it’s all about finding the right balance. “Parents should provide guidance, but to constantly intervene prevents a child from learning,” she said. “You put your child at risk when (s)he doesn’t learn to communicate and interact with people.”
What’s your philosophy on coddling vs. nurturing? Tell us in the comments section!