Every mother has the temptation to indulge their babies; it is almost like an innate part of each of us. However, when you have to wait a while for a baby, it sometimes takes this up a notch…often to a fault! I am yet to meet a woman who experienced a delay before having her babies, not doing exactly this. We often have to remind ourselves that we are going over board with the treats, and often let a lot of things slide. Sometimes, it’s our mothers, mothers-in-laws, husbands or well-meaning friends that caution us from spoiling our kids. It’s so hard not to pamper, when you have loved that child longer than he/she has been alive, when you waited month after month for when you could hear his voice and look in her beautiful eyes. Our sisters who fall pregnant easily still have that battle with child discipline, but we who waited for a bit have a harder time spanking or scolding our precious little ones. As my friend Chidinma put it, it sometimes made her feel as though she was not appreciative of God’s gift; whenever she found herself raising her voice at her son, or spanking him.
Another of my friends was terrified of spoiling her kids, because she had witnessed, firsthand, how unruly they could become when over-indulged. She was an only child for about eight years before her parents finally got a son. Her brother was over-pampered and wasn’t allowed to lack for anything. He broke a toy today, he got another one tomorrow. He threw trantrums in school about another child’s stuff, despite having his own toys, and his mom was bound to rush and get him exactly what he wanted. At some point, she was buying toys almost every week because he got bored with the ones he had, and easily and deliberately spoilt them, so he could get more. By the time he was a teenager, he was even more spoilt and was starting to be a pain in the neck of his parents. Thankfully, he found Christ in the university and was able to redeem himself. The fear of any of her children giving her grief made Nkoyo really strict. One day she gave her five year old daughter a good spanking for something Chidinma and I thought was flimsy, at a birthday party we all attended, and when other guests turned to see the evil mother that wanted to kill her child, she was quick to respond to everyone’s hearing “I know what I went through before I got her, my own child would not be spoilt under my watch”.
Her husband was however the lenient, over-indulging one, buying sweets for his kids almost every night, no matter how Nkoyo lamented about their cavities and blood sugar. “I don’t work hard at the office, to deprive my children of basic fatherly love” was his ready excuse. Their kids soon learnt to report their mother to their father, as Nkoyo’s husband was sure to raise hail and brimstones the minute he heard “Daddy, mummy beat me today, because I wanted to watch cartoon.” Ignoring Nkoyo’s explanations of the kids refusing to do their homework and ignoring her threats and shouts, he would say “NK, stop torturing my children, they are not your slaves. If they want to watch cartoon, let them watch cartoon. That’s why I put a TV in their room!”. Nkoyo found herself resenting her kids, and her husband, for over-indulging them. It took the intervention of her mother-in-law to make her husband realize being a good father wasn’t about giving children what they want, every time they want it. When he stopped supporting their behaviour, Nkoyo became less strict, only disciplining when it was appropriate, because she didn’t feel the need to over-compensate their dad’s leniency.
In my case, I was the lenient one and DH was the strict one. It’s not that I don’t believe in scolding a child, I just felt a one year old child was too young to be scolded. Many nights we would quarrel about me being too easy on her and he being too hard on her. Some times all my maternal claws would fly out and I would clutch my baby to my chest and remind him of how I cried and begged for a baby, plus the hours I spent in labour. He would accuse me of insinuating that he didn’t love our daughter just as much as I did, and would remind me that he was right there through the TTC journey and in the delivery room with me, and blah blah blah. Over time, we realized that our daughter was getting too scared of him, that even when he wanted to play with her, she would cower and run to me instead. On the other hand, with me she had gotten quite disrespectful and naughty. There was nothing I would tell her to do that she would do without me having to yell a thousand times. With him? He didn’t even have to speak; she understood his body language well! It was so bad that the day she was to go for her school interview, I had to beg him to take the day off work and go with us, because if I went alone with her, she go fall my hand no be small.
When couples disagree over parenting issues, the strict parent gets angry when the lenient parents allows somethings to slide, while the lenient parent gets angry when the other is being too restrictive. What then happens is that the strict parent gets stricter and the other gets more lenient until the child notices and begins to take advantage; pitching parents against each other. It’s amazing that even my one year, eight month old daughter has mastered this. When she is doing something, and her dad yells at her, or collects whatever it is she was playing with, she automatically runs to me and starts crying, knowing that I would retrieve whatever it was for her, or comfort her with something else. Then my hubby would say “Keep spoiling her oh!” and I would retort “She is just a baby please. Allow her to act her age.” It wasn’t long before I realized that I, a grown woman was being played by a little girl who is still learning to talk. I joined team-strict parents sharply.
It came as a shock to her, and even my husband, when I didn’t coo and sooth her after a deserved scolding. She would come to me crying and I would pretend not to notice. She would increase the tempo of her voice and even start pulling at my clothes, but I wouldn’t budge. One day, when she had cried and cried and I still refused to notice, she took my hand and used it to wipe her tears herself. I think my major motivation was the fact that she was starting to really take me for granted, and I didn’t like that. I liked the way she respected and obeyed her father, and I wanted that too. Funnily enough, as I became stricter, my husband relaxed a bit. He was now the one telling me “It’s okay” and comforting her when I scolded her silly. One night, he admitted that he liked the way she ran to him for comfort whenever I shouted or spanked her. We have now become united in our discipline; there is no good cop-bad cop. It could be me disciplining her today and hubby doing same tomorrow. This way, she gets disciplined by both parents, and also pampered by both parents.
If you follow this advice, what will happen is that the two of you will begin to move closer together, and co-parenting becomes much easier. When the strict parent is supported, then he or she can stop over-compensating for the leniency of the other. The strict parent becomes more flexible and generous in parenting. When the lenient parent sees that the children are not suffering, and, in fact, are benefitting from the more firm rules and structure of the strict parent, the lenient parent can learn to be more firm in his or her parenting, and come closer to being on the same team with the strict parent. Now, the two of you both become kind and firm parents, each supporting each other, feeling confident the other is disciplining the children with the best of intentions, actions and results. You can have beneficial discussions on what to do with the children, and each of you feel that you have someone on your side when the parenting gets tough.
Doesn’t that sound much better?
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