Respecting vs pandering to your toddler. Where is the line?

Alice | Letters to my DaughterBlog, Parenting & FamilyLeave a Comment

Header image: Respecting vs pandering to your toddler. Where is the line?

I think I’ve got a problem. I’m obsessed with my daughter. I love her so freaking much that I’m a bit concerned the love clouds my judgement.

A friend told my husband the other day that we pander to her too much. It’s true I’m not as strict a parent as I thought I was going to be, but then I didn’t discover respectful / gentle parenting until I was pregnant. I think a lot of childless people (and many with children too) champion strictness in raising well behaved, obedient children, and negotiating with your young child is seen as a weakness.

I’m of the opinion however, that by acknowledging my daughter as her own person, and respecting and discussing her opinions on matters to do with herself, I can help promote (hopefully) a strong sense of self worth, self esteem and self confidence. As an adult, I confess I absolutely hate being told what to do and it takes a lot sometimes to manage that emotion and rationalise whether an instruction is reasonable or not rather than just instantly rebel (my husband has decided to start telling me off for biting my nails – they’re now the worst they’ve been in a long time!)

I can see those qualities in my child and, if we’re honest, most children…and if we’re REALLY honest, many adults. Generally speaking, we don’t like to be ordered around, and certainly not without explanation, or the chance to speak up if we disagree.

…by acknowledging my daughter as her own person, and respecting and discussing her opinions on matters to do with herself, I can help promote (hopefully) a strong sense of self worth, self esteem and self confidence.

An example… My daughter can be quite fussy about which clothes she wears. If I pick out an outfit for her, she’s not shy in telling me if she doesn’t want to wear a certain item. I don’t force her – I’ll either ask her what she does want to wear, or find an alternative selection and let her choose from that. As long as she’s wearing something weather appropriate, she can pretty much wear whatever she wants. I allow her control, even if it does inconvenience me slightly to go and find another top, because I respect her opinion. I certainly wouldn’t want to be forced to wear something I didn’t like all day just because the person in charge of dressing me couldn’t be bothered to take 20 seconds to find an alternative.

Princess bag lady chic!

There’s a line though of course. There are days when I’ll present 5 tops at once, all of which she’s worn quite happily before, and she says no to them all, and maybe we’re in a rush to get out somewhere… Children are still children, and aren’t able to be fully rational because that part of their brain hasn’t developed yet, so yes, they can be wholly irrational, difficult, and it isn’t always smooth sailing.

On those days I don’t endlessly find different choices for her because our family is a team, and she’s got to work with us sometimes, so I’ll tell her she has to decide between the choices available, or I will decide for her. Sometimes she chooses, sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she chooses then changes her mind when we’ve got one arm in – that’s fine, it takes 5 seconds to whip it off again, as long as she’s chosen and is getting dressed, that’s my goal!

So am I pandering to her in that scenario? I suppose that depends on your perspective.

I’d rather have a two way relationship with my child where she feels confident that her opinions matter, than have an obedient and submissive child who is afraid to speak up. It might be small matters at the moment, but as she grows, she’ll be forming opinions about much bigger things, and I need her to know that her opinions matter and she deserves to have them heard.

She’s a clever, funny, headstrong little girl and I adore her independence and wilfulness that is so different from my own introverted and submissive personality. Perhaps I do let her get away with more than other parents might. Perhaps I do backtrack on my decisions if she protests – but isn’t that what we’d do with another adult? Re-evaluate our decision in light of the other person’s opinions on the matter?

My daughter has a voice in our family, and I’m proud of that and of her.

Every family and every child is different of course, and what works for one child may not work for another. But so many people who have looked after Dee lately have said what a pleasure she is to be with, and that makes my heart overflow with pride!

So whether you think my judgement is clouded or not, I don’t think I’m doing too badly.


Do you think I’ve struck a good balance? Where do you draw the line? Do you ever worry that you’re too soft or too strict with your toddler?

Letters to my Daughter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *