Why babying your youngest is not always a bad thing

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She runs to me and I stoop down to catch her in my arms before lifting her up. We hold the embrace and I move her to my hip as she chatters excitedly about her day. "I missed you," I say as she snuggles into me, before she wriggles free and runs off to find her friends.

This is how I greet my six-year-old when I collect her from school. It's been like this since I first waved her off to daycare and has become something of a ritual. But lately I've started to notice that none of the other school mums are picking up their first graders.

She is my youngest, and will always, of course, be my baby. But have I been treating her like one?

The evidence doesn't look good – and there is more to it than the frequent picking up. I carry her school bag when she claims to be too tired. Sometimes I even piggyback her home (much to the annoyance of my eldest).

I must admit that the slightest hint of her bottom lip is enough to get her out of any trouble she has created. "But Mama, I didn't mean it!" she says, tears brimming in her big beautiful eyes. I just can't resist my baby (and she knows it!).

I can't help but wonder if babying my youngest is having a detrimental affect on her, so I asked child psychologist Giuliett Moran for some advice. "I'm a big believer of 'never do for a child what they can do for themselves'," she tells me.

In other words, as parents it's important not to undermine a child's ability to do things for themselves. Moran notes that this applies as much to their emotional needs as it does to completing physical tasks, like making their own bed or putting their dishes in the sink.

"While parents may enjoy the feeling of being needed by their child, it is important to remember that a strong, positive relationship can be established with your child without creating a dependence," she explains.

"You can still spend quality time and have lots of cuddles without fostering a dependence."


There is a fine line though, and Moran also notes that some of the 'babying' behaviour that I have been enjoying with my daughter can actually be a good thing.

"Your attentiveness, responsiveness and compassion directed towards your daughter would likely foster a secure attachment, which would have many benefits for her future, including her being comfortable with intimacy and autonomy as an adult," she says.

As parents, it's important to work out where that line falls. Moran warns me that excessively meeting a child's needs could result in a teenager who is dependant on a parent (or someone else) to meet their basic needs.

"This can often result in parents becoming resentful and frustrated, and children - who are now not children anymore - feeling entitled and reliant," she explains.

In my case, it's probably okay to continue the "pick-up cuddles" (which I intend to do for as long as I can physically lift her), but perhaps limit the bag carrying and piggybacking - and letting those big beautiful eyes help her get away with murder.