Most of the time, babies don't mean to be cruel. But unfortunately, babies are demanding little beings that need a lot of care. But as they grow, their personalities start to show. For some moms, this isn't necessarily a good thing.
Most experts will tell you that it's impossible for babies to be "spoiled." However, they are usually referring to infants that need food and comfort 24/7. For older babies who are becoming mobile and learning about the world, it's possible for them to become spoiled.
Whether just based on their personalities or because of mom or dad's inability to say no, some babies spoil early. They might get away with getting into things, fighting nap time, or straight up ignoring the word "no."
Fortunately, there are ways to nip those bad habits in the bud. While there's no reason to suspect your infant is purposely scheming against you, older babies and toddlers know how to get mom going. It might make you question your sanity or your mothering skills. But relax- it's not just you, and it can be fixed!
Here's how to un-spoil the baby whether you're starting out with a newborn or your tot is approaching toddlerhood.
15 Cover The Basics
If you've ever faced down a toddler temper tantrum while cooking dinner, you know this trick already. It's not so much a trick as a proactive measure, but checking on the basics is the first step to un-spoiling. When your baby is already in distress- hungry, wet, tired- you're going to have trouble getting anything taken care of. Even if you're just trying to make dinner, your toddler won't understand that food is coming. Hence, the screaming and melting down. And punishing the tot won't help- it can even make them shut down and not want to come to you for comfort.
Therefore, the first step in un-spoiling the baby is to address his or her basic needs. Think about a newborn baby that cries.
Newborns don't know how to be manipulative, they just know that if they cry, mom or dad will respond and help. So check for hunger, fatigue, or any ouchies.
Sometimes pain makes babies act out, kind of the way an animal does when it's wounded. Checking on those essentials first can make the difference between a quick solution or a prolonged meltdown. Then, you can concentrate on correcting the behavior that's truly a problem, not the behavior that comes from being "hangry."
14 Play Time Is Me Time
Modern moms worry about a lot of things. They worry about giving their babies too much attention (spoiling them). They worry about not giving their babies enough attention (neglect). They worry about feeding and playing and everything else parenting-related. But here's one thing they shouldn't worry about: letting baby play alone. Science says playing alone is good for kids. That means mom needs to back off early on so the kiddos don't get spoiled by her playing with them 24/7.
Momtastic explains that playing alone fosters kids' creativity and allows them to express themselves. Playing without adults hovering helps kids figure out who they are and what they can do.
But here's the catch: independent play shouldn't happen with technology. Experts say that kids should play alone, with open-ended toys, instead of with tech. To start weaning your kiddo from mom-based play, offer her fun items that she can get creative with. Momtastic recommends things like empty egg cartons, play scarves, or books. Start by showing your child the items, then move away once she begins to explore on their own.
Stay nearby, but start your own activity. Make sure to offer comfort and make supportive comments, but let her do her own thing.
13 Too Attached To Mom
For most babies, mom is the number one caregiver and playmate. So when dad or the other partner comes home at the end of the day, baby might resist. Most of the time, people consider a baby that's "too attached" to mom a prime example of a spoiled child. While the idea that socializing infants is a good idea is questionable, babies should be just as happy with dad as with mom. Having strong bonds with other caregivers, like grandma or the babysitter, are important, too.
If you think your baby's attachment to you is reaching the point of insanity- like you can't leave his sight or he screams bloody murder- it might be time for an intervention.
If you can't seem to leave the room without your baby freaking out, start small. Gradually move away over time, going in another room or stepping out of his line of sight.
In the best case scenario, you can do this while another caregiver (like dad) is present. That way, the baby has someone else to turn to for comfort.
Ideally, you don't want to run out the door while your baby screams his head off. But eventually, you should be able to work up to the point of leaving him with dad or grandma for longer amounts of time.
12 Time To Take A Break
If the previous tip doesn't work for you, you might have an extreme case on your hands. While being securely attached to mom is good, having a major meltdown when she leaves isn't exactly healthy. Some crying is okay, hours of screaming are not. It's also not great if baby shows signs of being mad at mom when she comes back. It's worse if the baby is downright mean to mom when she returns. Those are signs of unhealthy attachment, according to child psychologists.
But in some cases, desperate times call for desperate measures. Even children who resist leaving mom for any period of time can eventually adjust to new situations. That might mean mom has to duck out the door after saying her goodbyes, leaving baby crying behind her. But according to Today, keeping your goodbyes "upbeat" and brief can help ease the transition. So if your baby is "spoiled" and doesn't want you to leave her at daycare, staying positive and smiley as you leave might help. After you develop a routine, your tot will likely show less signs of being spoiled. At the same time, showing your baby that you always come back for her is a good way to reinforce healthy bonds.
11 Routines Can Right Things
While most babies don't operate like clockwork, some depend on routines to get through the day. If you find that your baby is acting out at certain times of day, like when it's nap time, setting up a routine might help.
When even young babies learn what to expect, it can help make their moods rosier. For example, young babies that eat every two hours basically make their own schedules. Keeping their tummies full keeps them happy and ready for playtime or nap time.
For older babies, sticking to a routine can not only make planning your day easier, but it might also end power struggles.
Since babies don't know what's best, it's up to parents to figure that out. If you know that your baby gets tired around noon, it might make sense to have an early lunch or at least a snack before 12pm. If baby is fighting nap time, maybe push it back half an hour or so. But at the same time, don't feel like you have to stick to an exact schedule down to the minute.
Make changes where you need to, but try to keep a steady flow for each day so that your baby feels comfort and familiarity.
10 Crying Gets You Nowhere
For tiny babies, crying is a means of survival. But as babies get older, they might take advantage of this built-in communication. Think about a time when your baby wanted something and you took it away. Even a nine-month-old recognizes when mom or dad says no, and they might cry in response. The key is reacting the right way so that you don't encourage meltdowns with the word "no."
Some experts recommend redirecting instead of saying no. Start early with this, and you might avoid future meltdowns. On the other hand, you might already be dealing with extreme reactions to taking things away. If that's the case, changing the way you talk to your baby could help.
An expert from Parents Magazine says that after a while, toddlers stop listening when you say no. There's also the fact that younger babies probably don't understand it anyway.
Experts say to guide children toward alternatives. For example, if your baby is digging in the flower pot, instead of yelling "no!" you can say "Let's go outside and dig."
By changing the way you approach "naughty" behavior, you can change your baby's reactions. But at the same time, you're also enforcing limits without upsetting the baby more.
9 One-On-One Makes Peace
Often, people blame parents for kids' bad behavior. That's because a lot of negative behaviors result from kids not getting enough attention. So if you feel like your baby is becoming spoiled, looking at your reaction to him can help. For example, crying when you redirect his behavior or staring right at you while he does something "bad" are signs that he's not getting enough attention.
According to Today's parenting expert, misbehavior stems from kids' need for attention. They need "belonging" and "significance" to develop good behavior.
Belonging has to do with emotional connection and positive attention. So if you don't address your baby unless it's to correct bad behavior, you're missing an opportunity. In fact, a baby that seems spoiled could really just be a baby that needs more attention, not less.
Significance has to do with kids feeling capable. While it's not as relevant for babies as it is for toddlers and older kids, babies still sometimes want to do things themselves. If they see you brushing your teeth, they might want to try. If they see you drinking a cup of water, they might try to drink some, too.
Making sure babies feel significant and like they belong starts with early bonding, but there's plenty of time to change bad behavior before the teen years.
8 Paring Down Perks Them Up
If your baby has lots of "stuff," that might be the first indicator that she or he is "spoiled." Even as an infant, your baby might have a room full of stuffed toys, books, and other "stuff." And it's true that kids with a ton of belongings seem spoiled because they never want for anything.
You might blame a child's personality for them being spoiled. But actually, too many toys can cause the problem you're trying to fix. So it might not be your baby's attitude- it might be their bedroom full of stuff.
Psychology Today reported that kids actually play better with fewer toys. More toys means a lower quality of play, because kids from infant to tween have trouble focusing when there's too much going on.
Toddlers with fewer toys played better and longer than a control group with more toys, the study reported.
So having fewer toys reduces parents' guilt over spoiling their kids, but it also leads to better outcomes for babies. With better play, babies work on their self-expression, fine motor skills, and problem-solving.
If you've been looking for a reason to downsize, here it is. Minimalism has more benefits than just mom's ability to not step on toys strewn all over the house.
7 Let Sibling Rivalry Reign
If you only have one child, it might always feel like you're spoiling him or her. If you have more children, however, you probably won't notice it as much. After all, young babies need to be with mom constantly the first few months. It's natural to keep them close after that, too.
But here's where many moms encourage bad baby behavior instead of avoid it. Especially if your baby's siblings are much older, you might let the little one get away with more. Maybe they freak out if you try to take away a toy, or they cry if you change the TV away from their toddler programming. But enforcing limits for everyone can help with that.
If your kids are relatively close in age, your youngest might be better off following the natural order of things. Instead of always protecting the baby's feelings, like not giving the toy she just took back to its rightful owner, you should stick with the rules.
Don't make exceptions for the baby, and he'll learn to go with the flow. Obviously, you shouldn't let the bigger kids push the baby around, but letting him "run with the pack" might just be helpful to un-spoil him.
6 Wear Them Down
Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt like a truck just ran you over? And then you get the baby up and she is so perky and energetic that you need five cups of coffee to keep up? It's great when someone in the house is getting sleep, but if your baby is the only one catching Z's, you're in trouble.
The more tired you are, the less likely you are to correct negative behavior or try and "fight back" against your tot. While the solution may be more sleep, good luck with that until they're older.
Instead, consider trying to wear the baby down until her behavior is easier to manage.
If you're constantly running after her around the house, one solution is to let her loose in the backyard. She might get messy but she'll also get tired, making her less likely to tantrum. Unless your kiddo gets grumpy when tired- then this could backfire.
But if you can keep your kiddo active and interested in toys, games, the outdoors, or any active pursuit, you'll have the upper hand. It will at least level the playing field as far as sleep counts- and you might even get a nap in when the baby finally conks out later.
5 Limits Lay Down The Law
If you breastfeed, your partner (or snarky in-laws) may claim that you're spoiling the baby. If the little one is always on the boob, people seem to think that's bad behavior. While that's not always the case, there are behaviors that some moms allow that do amount to a spoiled tot.
For example, if baby routinely bites mom while nursing, and she doesn't do anything about it, that baby could become spoiled. Even if mom has a funny reaction, like saying "ouch" or making a face, the baby might keep doing it to see what will happen. Like with any other bad behavior, moms need to set limits.
If baby bites while nursing, it can help to say "no" or "we don't bite" and remove them from the meal. Even young babies will learn that biting is not okay- at least not if they still want their food.
For other troubling behavior, setting limits can help. As long as you're consistent, your baby will eventually learn what they can and can't get away with. Shaping their behavior may take time, and it may not be easy, but deciding what you'll put up with is the first step. Then you have to get dad or any other caregiver in on it so the limits are enforced wherever the little one goes.
4 Change Up The Scenery
Moms who are at the tail end of their maternity leave with a newborn, or stay-at-home moms, on their own all day know how important it is to get out of the house. Being home with the baby is often great and very rewarding, but being cooped up inside isn't good for mom or baby long-term.
Plus, if your tot is climbing up the walls and getting into things, you'll soon grow tired of always being on the offensive.
A simple solution is a change of scenery. If your baby is always unrolling the toilet paper or throwing toys, removing those things can help improve behavior.
Going for a walk is always refreshing for both mom and baby, but you could also plan an outing with friends.
There's a reason mommy-and-me groups are popular, even for newborns. It's because moms need a change of scenery just as much as babies do. Cabin fever can make everyone crazy, even the baby. Staying home sometimes makes mom's job even harder, especially if the baby gets "bored."
Going somewhere new with new people can also help the baby learn positive behaviors. You can't expect infants to play together, but babies around eight or nine months old might notice what other kids are doing and imitate them. Hopefully, it's good behavior.
3 Stop The Screen Time
Did you know that up until a couple years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics told parents no technology for kids under 2? Since the original statement in 1999, the AAP updated guidelines based on new research and technology. NPR wrote that the focus changed from the technology to who is there with kids while they use it.
Parent participation is important, they note, so if you've been putting on cartoons to distract your toddler, that's not a great idea. We've all been there- needing to catch a quick shower or make food for us or the baby. But long-term tech use can make babies' bad behavior worse.
Further, babies under 18 months shouldn't be using screens at all, the AAP's updated recommendation states. That doesn't include Skype or Facetime, though, since some research shows that even infants can enjoy seeing relatives "live."
Babies who watch a lot of TV may not only get mad when mom or dad switches the program off, but they may also have trouble learning language. So if you can, avoid TV time for your younger tot and spend time one-on-one or with toys instead. At the very least, sit with your baby and interact while the TV is on- once you've showered and eaten, that is.
2 Enlist Sibling Support
While we don't expect older siblings to really help out with the baby, you can have them serve as role models. Letting your older kids know what you expect from them can help their little brother or sister learn the ropes. This is more difficult if your older child is a toddler himself, but there are still positive behaviors babies can learn from big sibs.
If your baby's siblings are old enough to understand, they can model positive behavior with the little one.
They can also serve as a distraction from negative behaviors or bad habits. And if you feel like the baby is truly spoiled, the older siblings probably shoulder some of the blame!
Families with older kids and a new baby often heap attention on the little one, which is great for development. But it can also result in baby becoming spoiled because he or she gets away with anything since they're littlest. Let your older kids know that the baby needs to follow the house rules, too. Your toddler and preschool-aged kiddos will appreciate this, but tweens and up might need help recognizing what's acceptable and what's not. For example, extra treats or toys to stop crying is always a no-no.
1 Wait It Out
You've probably seen this viral photo of a dad chatting while his kid throws an epic tantrum. It made for a great photo op, but there's a lesson to be learned from this scene.
Even the grumpiest baby will return to his natural happy state- eventually. Sometimes the best thing you can do is wait it out. That might mean you're waiting out a throwing or biting phase that lasts a few months. Or it might mean waiting out a crying jag over the fact that you took away a knife that the baby was trying to play with.
Whatever the situation, keeping a calm head and waiting for things to cool off is always an acceptable course of action.
One of the best ways to un-spoil a baby is to model the right attitude. That means keeping calm while baby tantrums can help them calm down faster. Being available but being stern keeps the situation from adding to previously learned behavior, the kind that made baby spoiled in the first place.
Fortunately, most babies aren't genuinely spoiled- they just need help figuring out how the world works. When moms and dads are open to guiding them, most tots learn how to live life without becoming spoiled rotten.