“Don’t cuddle her too much, you’ll spoil her”

Don’t hold her too much, you’ll spoil her
Don’t look at her too much you’ll give her nazr/ayn
Don’t pick her up or go to her when she cries she needs to learn to be independent.

These are some of the things I’ve been hearing since my daughter was born. Yes as a newborn she spent most of the time in my arms, yes she cries sometimes when she can’t see me, yes she still sleeps in our bed even though her cot-bed is right next to us, yes sometimes I cuddle her till she falls asleep. If that’s what you call spoilt then yes, she is spoilt. But you know what I really don’t care and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My daughter was born 7 weeks early and spent a whole month in hospital, I didn’t get to hold her as soon as she was born and for a whole month I had to leave her on her own in the hospital every night. This may be the reason why my husband and I dote on her so much, why we don’t like to let her ‘cry it out’, it brings back all of those memories seeing her in an incubator, struggling to breathe, feeding her through a nasogastric tube, spending our nights wondering if she’s crying and what if the nurses are too busy to comfort her? That yearning to just be able to hold her and take her home.

I would say I’m a fair parent, I believe in discipline and saying no to a child when it’s appropriate, I don’t spoil her materialistically, I don’t believe in giving her everything she wants, I don’t believe in letting her run riot and not having any consideration for those around her. My husband on the other hand is the softie, yes she is a daddy’s girl through and through. We both teach her which behaviours are appropriate and which behaviours are not. But I also don’t believing in strict or harsh parenting, hitting them, letting babies cry it out or letting them get distressed to teach them a lesson.

Loving a child too much never hurt them, but not loving them enough is detrimental to their development and manifests itself in different ways in adulthood.

A baby cries because that is their way of communicating with us, children cry because it’s the brains way of expressing themselves when they don’t know how else to. Before a child can talk it’s up to us to figure out the reason for why they are crying, are they hungry, tired, teething or just need a cuddle? When a child learns to talk it’s up to us to diffuse the tantrum and then teach them to manage their emotions through words, this all takes time and if parenting teaches you anything it’s patience.

Children don’t be naughty just because they want to make you angry or annoyed, they’re exploring their surroundings, pushing their boundaries, learning behaviour. The way you treat them at a young age, will shape who they are when they grow up.

Studies show that holding and cuddling your baby is actually essential for healthy development, it helps them regulate their body temperature, improve sleep patterns, encourages calmness, lowers anxiety and stress, reduces discomfort from teething and other issues and form a secure attachment.

Children who don’t experience cuddling have been found to have lower levels of oxytocin and vasopressin the two hormones that play an important role in stress and social behaviours, this can lead to these children growing up and having difficulties in forming attachments in adulthood.

Showing your child love and affection and having a secure attachment doesn’t cause your child to be less independent and clingy, in fact it helps them to be confident, less self conscious, more outgoing and adventurous.

I don’t where this notion that loving a child too much spoils them but there is a big problem in the south asian community and particularly Bengali background, where showing love and affection to your children is almost unheard of but beating them into oblivion is good because it teaches them a lesson.

Parents rarely if ever show love and affection to their children at an age they can actually remember it. They do of course love us and show it in their own way and struggle their whole lives to make our lives more comfortable. But telling their child they love them, are proud of them, kissing them, hugging them or anything like that is not common.

Forget the expression of love and affection and lets talk about something even more detrimental to children’s’ mental health and well-being, parents taking their anger out on their child. So many mums beat their child, scream at them day and night because they’re angry about something else. The number of times I’ve seen or heard parents taking that anger too far and physically beating a child over the most minor thing like tidying up. Children grow up to be adults who also find it hard to show affection and find it difficult to manage anger. They grow up resenting their parents (at least for a time), thinking their parents hate them or that they can never do anything right.

There are of course exceptions to this and not all parents were like this but more often than not this is what I hear from those around me growing up.

Islam teaches us to treat children fairly, to show them love and affection because this is what makes good human beings.

During the time of the Prophet pbuh some people who were not able to understand the power of expressing love to children wondered why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) played with children and took such an interest in them. Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) 

Allah’s Messenger kissed Al-Hasan ibn `Ali while Al-Aqra` ibn Habis At-Tamimi was sitting with him . Al-Aqra` said, “I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.” The Prophet cast a look at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Al-Bukhari)

Don’t get me wrong I’m not the perfect parent. Sometimes I shout when my daughter pushes my buttons too much, sometimes I get annoyed when she whinges for what seems to me like no reason. But I hope and pray I never take my anger out on her, that I don’t just shout at her without explaining what she has done wrong in a calm manner that I don’t go overboard with the telling her off because I have other issues I’m dealing with that have nothing to do with her. I pray that I never dismiss her feelings and emotions, that I listen to her, never let her feel like I hate her or that she isn’t loved and that I’m able to help mould her into a loving, compassionate and confident person inshaAllah.
The next time someone tells you that you’re spoiling your child by holding them too much, throw caution to the wind and hold them tighter.

My child is mine so I will continue to cuddle too much, love too much, and if that’s spoiling her, then I will spoil too much.