Bringing Up Baby (To Be a Do-Gooder)

Most moms and dads I know are constantly second-guessing their parenting practices. I’m no exception. Sometimes I look at my kid and wonder just exactly how she became who she is: strong-willed, yes, argumentative for sure, occasionally over-the-top dramatic, I’ll admit… but also sensitive, fair-minded and incredibly compassionate.

If you listen to Dr. Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the qualities my kid has now may have something to do with the way I dealt with her as an infant.

Dr. Narvaez’s research suggests that children who are cuddled, carried and held a whole lot during their early years of life – basically, the way our ancient ancestors used to do it while they hunted and gathered – grow up to become more compassionate and morally healthy. Breastfeeding on demand also does it, and responding right away when baby fusses.

So when granny says you’re spoiling your baby by picking her up every time she cries, she’s right. You’re spoiling her capacity for cruelty. (How’s that for a clever turnaround… did you see that coming?)

How about you? Did you hold your infant a heck of a lot, and respond to her every whimper? How do you think that’s shaped your child’s development?

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