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Too Indulgent with Child?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is four and a half-years-old, an only child, and very bright. He is very animated. He often asks very intelligent questions and is always asking "why?" It is my philosophy that I should give my son reasons why not to do things, i.e., don't touch the walls because your fingerprints will make it dirty, rather than merely saying, "because I said so." I also encourage him to make his own decisions.

My question is, I give my child a lot of attention, because I believe it's a parent's responsibility to nurture, teach, and spend time with her child. Is that misguided or wrong? Should my child be forced to sit in one spot if the parent says so for extended periods of time. Should he not talk at all and play by himself. In effect, not interact with us until we say he can?

A: Encouraging your son's curiosity, valuing his opinions, offering him choices, and giving him your attention are all contributing to his confidence, optimism, and self-esteem. I am totally in agreement with your philosophy. This "children should be seen and not heard" concept has always infuriated me. We let kids know they are valued only when we want to spend time with them, beyond that, leave me alone and go play by yourself.

Of course I don't think it's healthy that a child not be able to play by himself or with other kids. But that doesn't seem to be the case here. He needs to understand that his mom, whether interacting with other adults or on the phone with someone, deserves some uninterrupted time. That does not mean, however, that he should stay away from you (and the adults you are with) for extended periods of time, never interacting with you.

He is certainly exhibiting healthy, normal behavior and you would be wise to continue to raise him with the love and encouragement you are presently giving him.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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