Too Much Love?

1 May

This could be one of the more outlandish questions you hear a parent ask. Can too much love be detrimental to your child? This is not a trick question and is something that is causing me to think about how we are raising our son. I know the phrasing of the question sounds preposterous, of course you can never love your child too much but let me explain. Since bursting onto the scene a little over two years ago Max has been central to our little family, he is not an addition fitting in around us he is the singular focus. When I reflect on my childhood I believe that to an extent I fitted in around my parents needs.

Our days are filled with activities that are solely focused on showing him a good time and generally enriching his life. During his waking hours he has the full and undivided attention of at least one parent. I’m big on creativity and imagination. I think it’s a gift to be able to sit and create something or to lose yourself in your own little world. Will my ever presence stifle his ability to discover, create and imagine?
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The majority of our marital conversations are probably focused around The Boy. Money that used to be frittered away on fun things like alcohol and restaurants seem to be channelled towards Max’s bulging toy box, book case and wardrobe. I can still remember my childhood toys, I valued each and everyone. At the extreme end of things we’ve even put down some Australian looking roots because we feel it’s the place for him to be. As a child I would move up and down the country to fit with the needs of my parents and their careers.

I see some behaviours in Max that I think are our own making. Don’t get me wrong he is an absolute delight and has an amazingly happy little demeanour but the penny has dropped that it’s all about him. If you do devote your time, money and attention so emphatically to your child they are surely entitled to make the assumption that their nappy don’t stink.

I was loved unconditionally just like Max is but it does scare me that the way we are going about things might be detrimental to him. Perhaps the fact that we don’t see family regularly causes us to pour more into Max than we would otherwise, we’ve got a lot of love to give and not many places for it to go. I certainly don’t think we are alone in this type of parenting and in my locale it certainly seems to be in vogue, child held aloft on a pedestal doted on to the point of smothering. I’ve spoke to friends who were smothered during their upbringing and felt that it held them back and didn’t allow them to develop as they otherwise would.
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As you can probably tell this post is not coming from a place of knowledge or authority, I am trying to draw some conclusions myself. It would be terrible to invest so much of yourself into loving your child only for it to do them harm rather than good. Is a manual too much to ask for? What do you think, can you love your child too much?

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37 Responses to “Too Much Love?”

  1. nicolekristen May 1, 2013 at 3:31 am #

    Wow – big question!! Wish I had the answer as I’m in the same boat with my 17mth old son who has everyone’s undivided attention (my husband and I live with my parents and sister as we’re saving for a house – so my lil guy is never without someone to adore him and devote their time and energy to him). As I type this my lil man is sleeping in my arms as he woke early from his nap and was still tired and just wanted to sleep with me. So is it possible to live your child too much?? I hope not and I do very much hope it doesn’t do my lil man any harm!
    Hope you find an answer you’re happy with 🙂
    Nicole

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 4:41 am #

      Its a hard topic to word I think Nicole. I find myself wanting to disagree with what I wrote but I thikn somewhere in there I have a point, I think, maybe not, I dont know : ) Thanks for commenting

  2. Kassey May 1, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Such an important topic. I can only speak for my own experiences but I would say…

    Love no. Spoil yes. I think it’s really easy to do, can even become a habit, & should be checked if you’re getting some bad behaviour as a result.

    My step daughter was shamelessly indulged up to the age of 6 (10 now and with us f/t) and it’s obvious to all.
    Our baby son will be getting a very different upbringing to that of his sister.
    I can feel it though. The desire to give him everything he could possibly want. How I want to do that, but I have a living, breathing, storming example of what happens so we will be holding back Big time.

    Good luck

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 4:44 am #

      Thats it isn’t it Kassey, you want to give them the best of everything, its natural. I think he is indulged rathe rthna spoilt (it sounds better) and I’m sure if we have a number 2 they will get a different set of boundaries and Max will have to toe the line aswell. Thanks for commenting

  3. Tina May 1, 2013 at 4:12 am #

    Hm, I do believe you have a point there. Our situation is amazingly similar to yours; I immigrated from Germany over 10 years ago to marry my Aussie man, and eventually some 6 years ago we had our first son (also a Max!). I opted for the stay-at-home role to fully care for Max and hubby’s job took us further away from what little family he has, and we only have Skype and visits about every 2-4 years from my parents. So yes, we concentrated our combined love mainly on making our son happy. 4.5 years later son two came along. They are both wonderful, smart children, but while Sonny is our own personal stand-up comedian and otherwise just goes with the flow of family life, Max still demands about 80% of our attention. It’s not that he’s being difficult, he’s just so used of being the center of our family! So yes, maybe we gave him too much love… and maybe he’ll find it harder later on in life to fit in with the rest of society? But you know what: I think the second thing we gave him with the way we raised him, is confidence in himself. And so I think he’ll manage just fine after all 🙂

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 4:47 am #

      Unless its just a Max thing Tina : ) I certainly dont want to be critical of the way other parents raise their kids, more a deliberation of whether its healthy for my own little one. We had better get cracking on number two to balance things out

  4. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter) May 1, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    I think there needs to be a little balance in terms of not allowing what you are doing to ‘spoil’ him. He will not always be the centre of attention. Siblings may come long, then kinder and school where he will need to learn to be an equal part of a group. You are probably already subconciously preparing him for this, so I wouldn’t worry to much. Just be the best parents you can be would be my advice. Children are pretty resilient and grow and adapt well. But I don’t think you can ever love your child too much.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks for the comment Jodi. I think parents are their own harshest critics and I’m the same. He is an amazing little boy so i dont have any big fears but am curious to see wha teveryone thinks.

  5. rhian @melbs May 1, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Being in pretty much exactly the same boat as you, I do also worry, although I have never thought of it as loving him too much more like whether we spoil him too much. Having had the luxury of family staying with us for a good few months he has never been short of attention and it will be interesting to see how that plays out now that they have all gone and it is back to the three of us. We try to strike a balance that we think fits and works for us but there is always that niggling worry, are we pitching it right, how much is too much? A few more questions there with no answers either, I guess it boils down to parenting in your own way, what works for someone may not for another.
    This parenting gig is a tough one isn’t it.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Its a hard thing to phrase but I think you get where I’m coming from Rhian. I have no complaints about Max, he is a little dude but parents are their own harshest critics. And yes it is tough

  6. Jo May 1, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I tend to agree with what you’ve said…but I’d phrase it as ‘too much attention’ rather than ‘too much love’!! My first 2 kids are 20 months apart, so the elder never had much ‘it’s all about me’ time. My first positive pregnancy test with number 2 was on her first birthday. I was then worried about how she’d deal with a younger sibling, so I trained her to be a bit less dependent on my attention. And, as they grew up, they always had someone to play with. The third child, however, was another 4 years later…and has been a school-day only child. And he’s much more self absorbed, expecting everything his way…probably due to having 4 people at his beck & call!
    I guess as long as you do the best you can, then that’s all anyone can expect! Parenting is NOT easy.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      Thanks for your comment Jo. I’m not overly worried, he is an amazing little boy, I think it was just a little warning light flashing and telling me to make some little tweaks.

  7. Hannah May 1, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    I really want to weigh in but find my thoughts on the topic all higgledy piggledy. The highlights I guess are:

    – Firstborns are often this way, as they enter a world that consists solely of them and their awestruck mum and dad
    – We have a 2.5 yr old and a 7 mth old. Oldest did a lot of growing up when Youngest arrived and has begun (I stress ‘begun’) to learn things like “wait” and “share”
    – Not sure how old Max is since I’m a recent reader but even though they’re walking and talking and acting big, they really are still babies and still need extra love, care and concessions
    – Firstborns are the guinea pigs for our ideas about parenting… I think I’m still waiting to see whether my theories are going to produce the outcomes I want. *nervous titter*

  8. Mrs P May 1, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    I understand your dilemma and faced a similar one albeit briefly before my second arrived. My darling first born still demands the majority of my time where as my second plays independently quite happily. I found Janet Lansbury and RIE and used them as guidelines for how I want to raise my girls. Rah, my first has reacted well to it through her two’s and Ella, my second is thriving as she approaches her first year so I’m a big supporter. They do emphasise the importance of developing independent play 🙂

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Thanks for the recommendations, I will take a look at. Its great to be getting so much good advice.

  9. onemumsadventure May 1, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    There is a line between loving your child emotionally and by being present with them,and then there is giving them a lot of ”stuff.”
    Nick and I have been the overindulgent parents with stuff.
    Now we are the opposite.
    The change in the kids is paramount for our entire household.The kids have learned a lot,and we had to teach them how to not think they needed stuff to make our love feel more powerful and present.
    We value our kids,but there should be no ”value” on receiving their love in return,which we were struggling with for some time.
    I understand how your feeling,but talking about it here and sharing it means you are seeing what your doing may not always work for you guys and your wanting to source alternatives.
    We are no longer bothered or find it hard to live simply.Our kids are more interested in doing craft and reading books now,and I was shocked to realized my girls no longer own any barbie dolls and have yet to ask to replace them,even after a year!
    It would amaze you what kids can do without,when you keep enriching him with your attention and love and dedicated parenting.x

  10. Twinkle in the Eye May 1, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    You can’t love a child too much, but they do need to learn through your interactions with them that they have come to join you in your life and they are one part of the whole. I think this means there are times when they must learn to occupy themselves and their wants need to take second place to others needs. Hard but very, very necessary in creating a well balanced, empathetic young man.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      You’re exactly right Bree, I think I have picked up on it early enough to make a few tweaks here and there. Great advice!

  11. onemumsadventure May 1, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    And on the terms of over loving,it comes down to how your hardwired.You are naturally a hands on dad,and both Anna and yourself seem to enjoy being involved with Max constantly,which is the role of a parent,especially in the early years,when they are establishing who they are as they grow.Your his role model,so think about what you think your teaching him?Is he feeling loved,socialized with other children and does he see you share your time with others and react well?He will naturally rebel at times,but he’s 2,so tantrums when he may not get his way are natural.But at the end of the day,your doing no worse then most of us are,and I am a big one for over loving on my kids emotionally,daily still now,and they’re all fine,independent and thriving as individuals at school and at home.Just do what you do,love on him,keep enjoying his company while you have it.

  12. Rory mouttet May 1, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Maybe too much love is not the issue but more the type of love. Letting your children stand on their own two feet, showing them discipline or teaching them that they are not always number one. I find these necessities easily one of the most difficult things about parenting and the hardest type of love.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      Couldn’t agree more Rory, I think we’re of the same opinion its just correcting some of the behaviours that we have created. Its all good, I repeat he is amazing

  13. Dominique May 1, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I think the fact that you’ve recognised that he’s clued on to your orbit around him means that you’ll give him the right balance of love and attention. Like other people have said it’ll probably be easier to recognise the line between ‘loving’ and ‘smothering’ as he gets older and more independant. Eg. At age 10: Cuddles before bed = love, calling in sick for work because he wants you to play lego = spoiling. I think it’s probably a matter of common sense.
    Thanks for raising the topic, it inspired me to evaluate my parenting!

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      So calling in sick for work because he wants you to play lego is wrong?? Dammit! Thanks Dominique I think your advice is spot on

  14. mumabulous May 1, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Worry too much you do Padwan. He’s only two. The gradual letting go happens naturally as they get older.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      You’re probably right Padwan 2, in fact you’re always right #wisepadwan

  15. catbeloverly May 1, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    I don’t think you can love your child too much. I do think that you can encourage balance in everything though….including undivided attention and time for them to create and be on their own. My first born is an extrovert in the true sense of the word…motivated by having other people around him and he’s learned through being at kindy that he’s not entirely the centre of the world. Truly, I worried just like you are now with Max about if he was too much the centre of the world but really, I felt it was more an opportunity for him to be so totally grounded with love and support that he would never question it. I think it worked. I also think there’s a difference between smothering children and paying attention to them.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      Wise words indeed. He is overwhelmingly wonderful, it might be my inner critic and as parents we all want to do our very best. I think I’ve read enough good advice to make the necessary tweaks.

  16. Zanni Louise May 1, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    It’s a pet thought of mine too. Luckily, my own children don’t suffer from too much love and attention… divvied up it is between them, us, and all the other stuff we do. I think you can’t love your children enough. But when it comes to spending every moment with them, and saturating them in attention, I do think there is such a thing as too much. My antidote to it is spending lots of time with other people. This particular article has been central to my parenting beliefs:
    http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html
    Max is happy and loved. That’s what matters in the end.

    • daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      I will be sure to read that article tomorrow Zanni, looking forward to it. Perhaps we just need to give him a bro or sis : )

  17. Kyla @ Three Quarters Full May 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    I had a bit of a whinge about this the other day, it seems that I’m always opening articles that try to tell me that by telling my son he is special and clever and loving him beyond thought I’m somehow failing him as a parent. It’s rubbish, utterly rubbish, there’s no such thing as loving and supporting your child too much because you are leading by example, teaching him to be a generous and loving soul.

    My thoughts go like this – do you hold him close and love him, spend attention on him but encourage him to try new things and grow? Are you proud of him when he masters new tasks? Left him fall occasionally so he can learn? Healthy, totally normal. Do you carry him everywhere because he asks you to be “up” and you can’t say no? Or maybe you’ve covered every corner in foam and pick him up as soon as he looks a little wobbly? Not healthy. As long as your love and focus leaves room for development, risk and change (which btw it totally sounds like you do) then you’re not smothering, you’re supporting.

    He’s only a wee thing and he’ll be little for such a short time, toddlers are ‘Me’ centric anyhow, they lack the capacity to think outside of their sense of self, it’s a normal and healthy part of their development. I think you’re doing just fine.

    We came home from the UK when I was pregnant, moved to where my family live and few of our friends do, it isn’t ideal for us but we did it for him because right here is the very best place for him to be, even if the UK was the best place for hubby and I… We are insular and, like you, we are firmly focussed on our small family – I’d rather have pretend food cooked in Dexter’s kitchen then go out clubbing these days but gosh I think most parents are the same.

    Oh crap! That was a bit of an essay, sorry! You can tell I’ve got my knickers in a twist about this at the moment. I guess it’s about balance and only you can find the level that’s right for you and the fact that you’re even thinking about it is a pretty good indicator that you’re perfectly fine.

  18. themilkmachine May 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I’ve been thinking the exact same thing recently! My husband and I moved from our hometown to follow job opportunities elsewhere, and we’re away from family and friends in a new town. So what do I do? Devote all my waking hours to the Little Man. As if his father isn’t needy enough, I’m finding the Little Man is starting to get needy too–he gets upset if I’m too far away, he has to breastfeed himself to sleep. I wonder all the time if I’m over-loving him, or if I’m spoiling him too much. I guess the real question is is does this carry on to later life? When he’s older is he going to throw tantrums if I don’t get him what he wants, is he going to become lazy because I’m always bringing him exactly what he needs the second he needs it? Will he shun all forms of friendship because Mother is the most fun and best person in the world (haha)… Is overloving a form of sheltering? But then again, what awful things could a person due because their parent loved them too much? Anyway, it’s great seeing a father who is dealing with these same feelings!

    • daddownunder May 2, 2013 at 3:09 am #

      I think being away from family is a big contributor, there isnt that distraction. There are lots of similarities in what your saying and I’m feeling. But I know deep down that he is getting an excellent childhood and there isn’t too much to worry about, just a few little modifications here and there.

  19. daddownunder May 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Hey Kyla, you definitely win the award for longest and most passionate comment, in a good way. I hope you don’t think I was trying to suggest you or anyone else are failing their kids with too much love. I don’t tend to read the popular opinion too much, it was more of an instinct and perhaps an over reaction, I’m very happy with the way my so is shaping up at the ripe old age of two but perhaps I might tweak here and there. I think we are on the same page and of the same views. Thanks Kyla.

  20. Have a laugh on me May 2, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    I think that as long as it’s not a suffocating love, one that doesn’t let them express themselves or wraps them in cotton wool then there’s NO WAY you can love too much. Sometimes I feel like I’m a bit the same with my three, doting, cuddling, kissing ALL the time (when I’m not a cranky mole face) but I just hope it’s building up their confidence and making them realise how special they are. x Em

    • daddownunder May 2, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      I’m sure we are both awesome parents Em : ) Awesome cranky mole face parents at times, but hey. Yeah i think I’m coming round to the idea that its all good, just a tweak here and there

  21. vickyfinch May 2, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    Love too much? No. Over indulge, yes. For what it’s worth, Max is only two. When he is throwing a tantrum demanding the latest whatever, I’m pretty sure you will be saying I don’t think so buddy. Give him lots of experiences. Things are just that…things.

    The fact that there is a niggle in the back of your mind about this means you already know the answer. Trust your instincts. 🙂

    • daddownunder May 2, 2013 at 3:06 am #

      Your absolutely right Vicky, I suppose I wanted a bit of affirmation but I probably didnt need it. All good at this end

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