You want to do your best to raise your child. As such, it’s natural to worry that you pay them too much attention or give them too much love and not enough discipline. You don’t want to validate and reinforce negative behaviors, but you should not fall into the trap of “let them cry” or “let them tough it out,” leaving your kid feeling like a small being alone in a big world.
Experts now believe that the idea of tough love is an ineffective parenting technique.1 Your child needs to form a secure attachment with you to avoid behavioral issues and problems in their future relationships. There’s no such thing as giving too much love to your child — here’s why.
Lack of Empathy and Love is a Societal Crisis
American society dismisses empathy and love as fluff — secondary stuff that hinders productivity and the neverending pursuit of progress. However, you can’t take materialistic trappings with you. Your relationships with fellow humans, especially your children, are the very stuff of life, giving it meaning and creating the legacy you leave behind.
Sadly, your children won’t get this lesson in the classroom or in society. That leaves you. Teaching that love comes first can be as rewarding as playing hooky for a day of unstructured play instead of following the traditional work-school routine. Too much structure, from homework help to soccer practice to Bible study, leaves your little one craving ways to express their innate creativity.
Teaching your child that there is no such thing as too much love helps them develop emotional intelligence. This skill can help them flourish in life. After all, the best managers aren’t necessarily the folks who know the most but can inspire and motivate their staff by treating them like human beings.2
How a Secure Attachment Benefits Children for Life
Embracing the idea that there’s no such thing as giving too much love to your child helps them form a secure attachment. Psychologists have identified four primary attachment styles — one secure and three insecure. Those who fall into the insecure camp often experience future difficulties in relationships.3
The four attachment styles are as follows:
Also known as preoccupied, these folks tend to become overly controlling in relationships, sometimes clinging so tightly that they push the other person away.
Also known as dismissive, these individuals often push others away intentionally, taking the attitude that they are ruggedly independent. They can struggle to form bonds and show affection.
Also known as fearful-avoidant, this style describes people who want to get close but alternatively flee from relationships. They may follow a hot-and-cold pattern, considering someone their soulmate one day and worst enemy the next.
People with a secure attachment style form relationships with mutual respect and healthy boundaries.
Your child’s attachment style develops during their earliest years based on their relationship with you. That’s why there’s no such thing as giving too much love to your child. Showering them with unconditional affection creates the core belief that other people are primarily good and can be trusted.4
Tips for Fostering Secure Attachment
If you didn’t have the best upbringing, you might struggle to show your child unconditional love. After all, you had no model to follow. That’s okay — embracing the following tips will help you master secure attachment parenting.
1. Give the Gifts of Time and Presence
There’s no substitute for your time and presence in your child’s life. They may understand the occasional crunch time at work, but putting in extra hours all the time at the expense of your relationship could harm your child in the long run. It could make them develop an avoidant style, believing they must take care of things themselves because they can’t rely on you for encouragement and support.5
You might not make every soccer practice, but you should attend your child’s games. Make a fuss for their birthday — you don’t need the cash to throw a gala, but you should spend the day together. Schedule at least one activity weekly where you share something you love, whether digging in the garden or running around the playground.
2. Reinforce Love When Correcting Behavior
You can still correct your child’s misbehavior while showering them with love. The trick is to separate the inappropriate actions from the child.
You can reinforce how much you love them as you make the correction. Say things like, “I love you very much, but when you keep screaming when I have a headache, I feel frustrated and hurt.” You teach a dual lesson in identifying feelings and addressing misbehavior while letting your child maintain their dignity.
3. Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Your child isn’t born knowing how to name their feelings — or if their emotions are appropriate to the situation. All they know is that they have “big feels” that make them act out in interesting ways.
Part of giving your child love entails validating their feelings. Instead of saying, “Don’t cry,” ask, “What’s wrong?” Help them label their experience — are they weeping out of frustration or fear? Let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do. What matters is how they manage their emotions. Help them brainstorm ways to soothe themselves healthily so they can manage stress later in life.
4. Encourage Their Interests
Maybe you lived for the Friday night lights in high school. However, your kiddo might prefer chess to contact sports — and that’s okay. Give them love by encouraging their interests, perhaps indulging them with that “Lord of the Rings” board game they’ve coveted forever.
Encouraging your child’s interests says to them, “I love you for who you are as a person.” It promotes self-esteem and confidence. Your child understands that you love them because you’re their parent — they want to see the glow of approval in your eyes that says, “I also think you’re one cool little dude.”
5. Offer Genuine Praise for Accomplishments
Your child desperately wants your approval. Give them love by offering genuine praise for their accomplishments. Maybe that fingerpainting isn’t the best you’ve ever seen — but it is the most colorful or creative.
Offering genuine praise for your child’s accomplishments helps them develop their self-esteem. It also instills agency, the idea that their actions can positively change their world.
Give Love to Get Love
Many people grew up in families that embraced a tough-love parenting model. As a result, there’s far too little empathy and love in society today. It’s time to break the cycle. There’s no such thing as giving too much love to your child. The very continuation of the species depends on forming healthy relationships, especially with the next generation.