Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
The two words, cuddle and coddle differ by only one small vowel but their meaning and application produce polar opposites when raising children.
To cuddle means to draw and hold close, to embrace affectionately, to interact, to teach and to play. Coddling means to cater to, to treat, to gratify with excessive indulgence, to pamper and to spoil. Believing that children can do no wrong; must not be held responsible for their actions; must not be upset or frustrated; must be free of demands, expectations, or responsibilities; and, given whatever they want are elements of coddling.
I have never met a parent who said they wanted to raise a brat. I suspect that every parent wants have children who will be an asset to society but may know what to do or not do to get the best results. Research in human behavior may help parents to decide on which side of the pole they want to be.
Recent research verified the value of parents being close and cuddling with their children. Findings show the positive impact it has on children’s mental and physical health, and on their social and emotional development. Closeness awakens creativity in children. It teaches them to interact appropriately with their peers. It helps them to focus, develop confidence and physical coordination. It helps them to discover their talents and passion, to communicate their feelings, to make decisions for themselves, and, that helps to prepare them for adulthood.
But coddling children has an entirely different result. We’ve all seen children who throw fits at home and in public, who are disrespectful to their parents and others in authority, who are lazy an uncooperative and irresponsible and, who expect to be served. We are likely to label those children brats.
Still, it doesn’t take long for a child, any child, to get into trouble. That’s okay. They are trying to figure out what the world is all about. But when this happens, it’s time for parents to teach. Children must learn that there are consequences for their actions. All children can learn to follow the rules, to be respectful, and to control his or her behavior. And should be taught these things without being treated with disrespect. I call this teaching discipline. All parents have to teach what’s appropriate and what’s not in their homes and in their lives. Every parent needs to learn how to discipline well.
Three other things that also need to be taught.
So, What Are Parents To Do?
1. Teach children responsibility by giving them responsibilities. Children who are taught to work gain respect for what it takes to get things done, to keep things in order, and in repair. By doing chores and helping out with washing clothes, and dishes, cutting grass, picking up and taking out trash, washing windows etc. they learn to do these things well. These are valuable skills that will be useful later in their lives and will make them more productive adults.
2. Teach children to use time wisely. Children (and also adults) are likely to get into trouble when they have too much unstructured time on their hands and no goals or plans to stretch themselves. When kids are left to just “hangout” boredom is likely to set in. When children are bored they are likely to make poor decision to become un-bored. Parents don’t need to over-book every hour of their children’s lives bu, they can help them to structure their time. Sports, activities and chores are a few things to help give kids something to fill their time.
3. Too much free flowing, unearned money is another way to coddle and create a entitled, bratty child. I’m amazed that too many parents,(even those who can little afford to) blindly hand out money to kids who’ve done nothing but ask for it. It is better to give jobs rather than money. You can pay them for the work they do. Get creative. Even a two year old child can do work. Just teach him or her how to do it and you’ll be amazed at how proud he or she will be when the job is done. He or she will learn that his of her muscles are needed to help the family and later the community, to make both better places for all who live there.
So, which will it be, cuddle or coddle? Most young parents have a lot to learn about how to nurture their children with the right mix that will help them grow into resilient and caring adults. With consistency in discipline, responsibility, time management and handing out jobs rather than money, parents can guide their kids to be helpful, self sufficient, responsible and acquire a great deal of skills along the way.
© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, Psy.D. June 22, 2014
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. A native Tunican, she taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical in Springfield, Illinois for more than 40 years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.