Many new parents are
surprised at how much time, attention, and effort childcare
involves. When they discover that their baby is naturally demanding
and dependent, they sometimes worry about “giving in” to all his
needs. If they pick him up when he cries, offer a bottle or breast
on demand, or keep him near through the day, will he soon become too
dependent? In our society, independence is viewed as a positive
trait, and many parents are concerned if their babies seem too
attached to people or objects. Yet, when parents fully understand
their child’s dependency needs, they can see there’s no need to
worry about their baby’s lack of self-sufficiency.
Infants and young children are almost totally dependent on adults;
this is a natural and necessary condition of early childhood. It’s
nor mal for babies to want the constant comfort of being cared for,
held, fed, changed, loved, and played with, and there’s nothing
harmful about giving to a young child. A child whose needs are met
and who has a strong attachment to his parents develops a foundation
of trust that will allow him to gradually become independent.
Some adults feel that it’s never too soon to start teaching a child
to become independent: “He’s going to have to learn sometime that he
can’t always have his way.” “He has to find out what life is really
like.” And some people also believe that giving in to a child’s
needs in infancy will make it that much harder to get him to give up
his dependencies later on.
Parents who are uneasy about how dependent their young child is may,
in an attempt to foster independence, make conscious decisions not
to meet all of bis needs. They may hesitate to pick him up when he
cries, or hold back on cuddling or frequent nursing. They may feel
guilty and full of self-doubt whenever they do give more than they
think they should.
However, if your baby learns to trust your care and support, he’ll
turn into a toddler who explores his surroundings with confidence.
And as he grows, his natural drive for independence will begin to
show. The ten-month-old will want to feed himself, the two-year-old
will cry out, “I’ll do it myself,” the three-year-old will feel good
going off on his tricycle, and the five-year-old will happily spend
time with his friends.
Your young child will always have a strong need to be cared for, of
course, but as he gets older, he’ll become more and more
independent, and you’ll spend less time giving. Although there will
be times when he temporarily becomes more dependent—when he enters
preschool, when the family moves, when a sibling is born—if his
early dependency needs have been met, he’ll move into the world with
a greater sense of trust and confidence.