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Do you think children can be 'spoilt' by too much attention?

(19 Posts)
PenelopeChipShop Wed 22-Jul-15 19:04:28

I would be really interested in opinions from mumsnet as I've heard this from a couple of different sources and am starting to doubt myself.
I have one DS, he's just turned 3. My DH and I have had slightly different ideas about parenting from the off - he's quite hands-off, just lets him get on with it, sort of thing, I am very playful and happy to be reading, cuddling, down on the floor making toys do voices etc.

I think I am like this partly because my parents have both had a lot of illness and I have a sense that life is short and I don't want to regret not playing with DS, if you know what I mean - if I'm cleaning for example and he's saying 'come and play' I always do because to me that feels more important. I have a sort of paranoia that I might inherit illnesses from my family and not be around forever and I want all our time to count, if you know what I mean. I'm mentioning this because it explains why I am the way I am with him.

Anyway both my DH and a couple of close friends have mentioned comments along the lines that DS is not very independent/ seems too attached to me. I am questioning whether I have 'babied' him too much I suppose. He's a lovely boy and, yes, he is very mummy-centric (in soft play, for example, he'll want to play with me even if his friends are there - is that normal?) but he does go to nursery fairly happily and spend time with my parents without pining for me. It's just that if he has a choice his first choice is probably being at home with me, playing.

I am questioning whether I've done something 'wrong' because his behaviour is a bit challenging at the moment - saying 'no' to everything, potty training is a fucking nightmare challenge to say the least and he wants me to help with everything like getting dressed, getting shoes on, etc - other kids the same age want to 'do it self' and he is more likely to say 'mummy do it' - does that sound bad? Just want to canvass opinion on how independent 3-year-olds are I suppose.

thatwouldbeanecumenicalmatter Wed 22-Jul-15 19:20:12

Challenging behaviour? Always says 'no'?

I'd say you have a pretty typical 3 year old on your hands there wink smile If he's happy, you're happy and he's happy when not with you then I don't see a problem.

80sMum Wed 22-Jul-15 19:28:53

I think it would be a good thing to encourage him to do some things for himself. He is no doubt a bright little chap who knows which buttons to press in order to have you wait on his every whim! My DD was the same.

ladyflower23 Wed 22-Jul-15 20:57:18

Sounds like my 3yo ds! He has always been a total mummy's boy and not very independent. I've recently had another baby and he has basically had to start doing more things for himself and learning to play on his own as I have been less available. I think this is a good thing and has helped me to feel more confident about him starting school next year. Not sure whether this would have happened if he was still my only one as I did always baby him and be a bit precious about him. It is lovely to have such a lovely close relationship with your child though. You sound like a lovely mum btw.

RiverTam Wed 22-Jul-15 21:01:01

You have obviously had very good reasons for parenting how you go, but perhaps you could start gently backing off? I don't think it goes DC any harm to know that their mums have to get on with other stuff in the house. If you're cooking or washing up can you settle him down with something in the same room as you?

PenelopeChipShop Wed 22-Jul-15 22:17:24

Hmmm 80sMum you may be right I do sometimes feel like I'm being played!!
Ladyflower it's good to hear someone else's was like that too! Most of my friends with similar aged dc are starting to say that they struggle to get attention from their DC or they don't want to come home from nursery - mine would never say that!
I think the problem though is that he massively prefers me to my DH and it's causing problems.

Goldmandra Wed 22-Jul-15 23:52:53

You don't make children more clingy by giving them attention when they ask for it. Children who feel secure in the knowledge that their parents will respond to their needs when necessary are the best prepared for becoming independent when the time is right for them.

Instead of stopping what you're doing to play with him, why not get him to come and join in with you? Get him drying dishes, washing potatoes, etc. If he'd rather play, that's fine and you'll join him once you've finished.

It is very normal for a 3YO to go through a 'Mummy do it' phase so don't resist too much but do let him know that you're pleased and impressed when he does things by himself. "Wow, look at you putting your coat on all by yourself!" can make quite a big impression.

So what if he's playing you a bit? Having the skills doesn't mean you have to use them all the time. If he knows how to do buttons in time for school that's all that matters and it doesn't mean you can't do them for him some of the time. I doubt he'll still be wanting you to do it for him when he's 15.

What do you friends mean by too attached? How attached should a child be at 36 months? Do they just mean that he's different from their own children and that makes them feel uncomfortable? Some parents need to force their styles and choices on other parents in order to validate them. If you don't feel like he's too attached and you're not actively stopping him from becoming independent you're doing fine. Children are individuals and they don't look at their friends and think "Oh I need to be like Johnny and spend more time away from Mummy." He'll do it much more readily if you let him choose when he feels it's the right time.

Postchildrenpregranny Thu 23-Jul-15 00:03:27

It must be a bit rough on DH though .Can you persuade DH to do more with him.? In my experience men are often 'better ' with DCs as they get older .I know it's a bit 'sexist' but does DH for example kick a ball with him ? Build Duplo structures and the like?
I have a friend who did most of the parenting of their son as DH was away a lot (high /.flying business man) His father found it hard to relate to child as he got older and in his mid twenties he is very much his mother's (lovely) child .Its a bit sad
I think you sound like a lovely Mum ,but you might be subconsciously clinging on to DS babyhood?Tell
to MMOB, but do you intend to have another child?

ThisFenceIsComfy Thu 23-Jul-15 00:06:39

I think that encouraging kids to play by themselves a bit at this age is a really useful life skill. It teaches them to use their imagination, make up games, amuse themselves. I use the ratio of 70/30. 70% of the time I'm involved either actively or nearby commenting. 30% I'm doing other things.

ThisFenceIsComfy Thu 23-Jul-15 00:08:34

But I have to say, with potty training, I wouldn't force the issue. He'll get that in his own time.

tumbletumble Thu 23-Jul-15 06:04:57

I think you sound lovely and I don't think playing with children when they want you to does any harm at all.

If DH wants to be closer to DS some father-son time would be a nice idea. If DH struggles to play naturally with him at home, maybe it would work better for them to spend it outside the house, eg a trip to the park on a Saturday morning?

It's tricky when you have different parenting styles and it's good if you can talk together about possible approaches, but don't let DH or anyone else make you feel guilty about being a wonderful mum.

The challenging behaviour sounds completely normal by the way!

PenelopeChipShop Thu 23-Jul-15 06:33:19

Ooh so many useful thoughts, thank you. Goldmandra, I totally agree with the theory of giving attention when needed in order to foster independence - right from a baby I would carry him and cuddle him all the time! I think it's a good idea to get him to try to help me instead though, might try that. Actually he did 'help' me put clothes away yesterday which evolved into quite a good game and I was pleased I'd got something done!

Yes we are actually trying for no.2 now! Part of me hopes that will sort of 'force' DH to be more hands on, as surely he cant just drift about if I'm dealing with both of them!

My DH is definitely a high-powered type - has own business bad works all hours. We changed things so that he works at home for 2 days a week (I work too but p/t so I do longer days on those days) so he can do drop off and pick up, and dinner, so now he does see DS during the week, but it hasn't made a huge impact. (I'm talking he goes out before 7 and returns after bedtime on the other 3 days. Feel like a single parent sometimes!)
Thank you for the input though. I have to say on the rare occasions that he occupies himself I do let him get on with it - I'm not hanging around desperate to play again!!

PenelopeChipShop Thu 23-Jul-15 06:43:03

I was also going to say... Sometimes at the end of a day at home just us I feel utterly drained (much more so than when at work if I'm honest, even though that's a longer day) and when he goes to bed I just collapse!
Then I think, well, I've only got one and he is 3 now, am I making things more work than they need to be, if you know what I mean?
(Most of my friends with a similar-aged child already have no.2 and I just think, surely they should be more tired than me but they don't look it?!)

tumbletumble Thu 23-Jul-15 07:14:04

Hmm, your last post gives me a slightly different impression from your OP.

From your OP, I gathered that you were happy with the amount of time you spent playing with DS but you were receiving criticism from your DH and others.

But your most recent post implies to me that you might the one putting pressure on yourself to be the 'perfect' mum. Maybe you felt a bit neglected by your parents as a result of their illness, and decided that you'd do things differently with your own DC? And now you're finding yourself in a position that you are worn out and never get anything done because you're in the habit of always saying 'yes' to a bossy 3 yo? (Not meant as a criticism - they're all bossy at that age!) But you feel guilty because you are trying so hard to be a great mum.

If that's the case, there is no shame at all in trying to carve out some time and space for yourself, in sometimes saying to DS 'no, Mummy's got to finish this job / her cup of tea before she can play with you' or 'try putting your shoes on by yourself, I'll help you if you get stuck' or whatever.

Sorry if I'm way off here. Just my reading of your posts.

tumbletumble Thu 23-Jul-15 07:17:22

PS If your DH doesn't step up when no.2 (hopefully) arrives (or before that in fact!), make sure you ask him for help. Don't suffer in silence trying to do everything yourself!

nooka Thu 23-Jul-15 07:31:59

If you automatically drop everything to do things with your son the moment he asks then your dh may not have much opportunity to 'step up', especially if he thinks that it might be good for your ds to be a little more independent. I think it's quite easy as the non primary parent to become a bit disenfranchised and opt out if the other parent does everything. I'd look to see if you can carve out some father-son time every week where your dh takes your ds off to do something without you being there and you can get a proper break.

The other thing I'd watch for is running with this dynamic until you have another baby because although you won't be able to be as hands on with a new baby as for your son (given that he is an only right now) you also won't be able to go on prioritising him all the time. That could create some really difficult dynamics so better to encourage more independence now I think.

The general toddler stuff seems fairly normal, especially as he's only just three. I would look to encourage him to spread his wings a little though, he should be starting to feel confident enough to play with friends and not just stick to you over the next little while.

Kel2013 Thu 23-Jul-15 10:42:53

My DS who has just turned two and enjoys playing and a lot of interaction from both myself and my partner but I try and get the right balance. I explain to him that I will play with him but then I have to go and do some chores (he will sometimes try and help). When he tries to get me away from my chores to play, i explain that I am busy just now but will play after I am finished. He is quite attached to me but I always just think that he wont be looking for me in a good few years so try and enjoy it the now. They are not young for long so I thinks its best to try and make the most it until the time comes when he will probably not want me walking beside him lol. smile

DeeWe Thu 23-Jul-15 13:11:01

I think if you automatically drop things for your ds then, yes it can "spoil" him in the sense that he'll expect you to do it. Not with him being nasty, but just he expects it. So it might seem fine now to stop the washing up because he wants you to sit and do a jigsaw, but it will come across and demanding in a couple of years time if he can't wait for you to finish.
Problem is also that as he gets older he'll go to people's houses and if he goes in with the attitude of "I need a drink and I need it now" he may get marked down as rude, which you wouldn't want.

The other issue I can see is when the new baby is born, if he expects things immediately and your full attention there will be times that you can't do that, and it could be something for him to blame the new baby for, and resent.

Also at 3yo they are generally becoming more independent and playing on their own, but for a lot of children it isn't something they just can do, they have to learn it like any other skill, and that with a bit of encouraging.

It isn't a failure to say to a child "I'll play that when I've finished..." and find that when you've finished they're engrosed in another game. You can join in that game or suggest you go back to the original one.

PenelopeChipShop Fri 24-Jul-15 14:14:39

Tumble tumble there may be something in that... Of course I enjoy playing with him, am not complaining about the opportunity to hang out with him because he is becoming great company on his best days. In fact this morning we just played at home then went swimming and it's been a lovely morning actually - but the day I wrote my OP he had been stroppy and clingy and I'd cleaned up 3 poo accidents and countless wees! I did collapse at 7pm that day with a bottle glass of wine but it was a particularly bad one.

I think maybe I'm starting to realise that my perfectionist tendencies might actually be counterproductive if they stop him becoming independent - though hopefully it's not too late, he is still little after all.

I think I've had a tendency to 'blame' my DH a bit as he isn't very proactive but maybe I'm making it hard for him to be.
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful responses. It's so useful sometimes to see others' impressions especially since they don't know you personally.

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