Showering love on your child, in other words, giving your child plenty of attention and affection and responding to their (developmentally appropriate) requests for more attention and affection has many benefits. It will help to develop your child’s confidence, to strengthen your relationship with your child (a boon for other aspects of parenting), and increase your satisfaction as a parent. There is however, a persistent myth that showering love on your child will spoil them. In fact, the opposite is true. Showering love on your child from birth is an excellent strategy for preventing misbehaviour. In this post, I’d like to explore one important reason for this. Psychologists call it stimulus satiation but you can think of it as the ‘not another chocolate principle’.
Here’s how the ‘not another chocolate principle’ works. First of all, let’s assume that, like most people, you enjoy a nice chocolate. In fact, you think chocolate is absolutely delicious and it is your favourite treat. Now, imagine that you are in a foreign country, far away from home and have been for some time. In this country food is quite different and, here’s the important point, they don’t have chocolate. They don’t have anything like chocolate and, boy, do you miss it. One day, you meet a fellow traveller with a proposition. You see this traveller has a stash of chocolates and he offers to sell them to you for twice the price that you’d pay back home. Tempted? I’d be handing over the money! What about four times the price? Or ten? Hmm…maybe… Now imagine that you are home and that you have won Willy Wonka’s lifetime supply of chocolate. Your pantry overflows with chocolate, you can cook anything and everything chocolate related and every guest leaves your house with as much chocolate as they can carry. One day, you meet a traveller with a proposition. You see this traveller has a stash of chocolates and he offers to sell them to you for twice the price. Tempted? Ha! I think not!
So what’s all of this got to do with showering love on children? Children enjoy their parent’s attention and affection. They enjoy it an awful lot more than anyone has ever enjoyed a chocolate. But here’s the key message. If parental attention isn’t plentiful then it is worth their while to do all sorts of things in order to get it, just like it may be worth your while to pay twice the price for chocolates in a foreign country where chocolate is scarce. On the other hand, if parental attention is plentiful and easy to obtain, well, why go through all of the elaborate effort of a temper tantrum or a mischievous plot if a simple, ‘Mum! Dad!’ does the job?
Apply it to your life: How do you give your child attention and affection? Do you respond to their developmentally appropriate requests for attention and affection? If not, try it. What happens?