Is It Spoiling?

20140630_063009Is it spoiling?

Is it spoiling when a small child whines because his teeth hurt and he hasn’t developed the coping skills or perspective yet to know that it is a small and manageable pain? And you hug him close and show him that you will always be there for him if he is hurting?

Is it the same as running to a child that has bumped his head and trying to smother them with comfort before they’ve even figured out if it hurts or not, just because you’re afraid that they will ever feel pain and you can’t deal with the fear of what it is that they’re feeling?

Is it really the same as giving a child a toy that you don’t want to buy and don’t need to buy because you’ve said no and he’s pitched a fit that you don’t want to deal with?

Is that the same as telling that disappointed child that you understand how upset they are, but that buying everything all the time is not healthy or necessary and that you won’t be buying that toy today? But that you will be there for them while they are disappointed, just like you will be there for them if they don’t get the job that they applied for or they don’t get into the college that they really wanted to go to?

Little kids get upset by little things because they are little. Because their brains haven’t fully developed yet and because their lives haven’t given them the perspective to know the difference between what is little and what is big. They learn that as they grow. They learn that from your responses. You can honor the fact that something is BIG BIG BIG to your child while still showing through your calmness that it’s not the end of the world. And you can show them how to deal with those disappointments by showing them how you deal with disappointments and little ouches in your own life.

You show them tough love by dealing with YOUR life well. Not by diminishing the experiences of theirs. Be tough when you drop something heavy on your toe and breathe while the pain passes instead of cursing. Be calm when you are disappointed. Be as rock solid as you can be, and they will grow to emulate that as long as you show them how. That’s tough love. By being tough while understanding that toughness is something that they grow into, and by showing them along the way what they can do to become like you.

Otherwise “tough love” is just being mean to someone little because they aren’t as tough as you’ve grown to be.

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