Asking Baby to Perform

I posted a blog this week about how I’ve basically turned my baby into a more affectionate child. Then a friend sent me this article. It basically says that in asking our kids to perform on cue—whether it’s a hug or kiss or a word or gesture—we are in effect, pimping them out.  She goes on to say,  “And the currency you’re using is the single most powerful in the world: parental love and approval.”

Ouch. That’s hard to hear. But I think the author, Jennifer Lehr, might be onto something.

Here’s the whole article here. It’s short and very worth reading.

Granted, I don’t have to ask for the hugs and snugs as much now that I’ve “trained” her (cringe), but there are still plenty of times I can catch myself pushing her to “do” or “show off” something.  I hate to think she might be getting her self worth from trying to please me.

So where do we draw the line at asking our children to “perform on cue?

For example, her grandparents don’t see her that often. So when they do, I want her to show them everything she has learned. “Fia, can you kiss Grandpa and TT?” “Say “bye!” “Say I love you?”

Is that wrong?

And what about, “Say thank you.” “Say please?”

Is that teaching them to be polite, or is that making them “perform” for your pleasure?

She goes on to say that we shouldn’t make our kids put on a sweater because we feel cold, or eat more food because we don’t think they had enough. Basically, we shouldn’t project our feelings or “know-it-all” behavior as she puts it, on them. They can figure out when they are cold or when to eat more.

Not sure I completely agree with her on those issues. As a mom, I know exactly how much Fia eats in a day. At 6 pm if she’s only had a few crackers and a cheese stick all day, shouldn’t I use my judgment and tell her to eat more? And if it’s freezing outside, I can’t in good conscience let her go outside without a sweater. What if when she is older, like 3, and tells me she’s not tired? Am I to let her stay up late? Um, no.

So there are some things I really think we as parents need to make a judgment call on. And, like with everything, moderation is key, which is what I think Lehr is ultimately getting at. But I wouldn’t mind some other opinions. I won’t second guess Operation Hugs and Snugs, but I might try and tone down some of my other pushy behavior and just let her be. Fi.

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  1. by Kristin Shaw

    On July 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    To compare asking baby to show kisses and hugs to “pimping one out” is ridiculous. Babies love to learn and they get pleasure from seeing our joy as much as we get joy from seeing them learn. This is not “toddlers and tiaras”, it’s teaching them love and affection. Talk to someone who DIDN’T have that growing up (i.e. my ex-husband, who had no idea how to show affection) and you’ll see the difference. Jill, you have been doing the right thing all along and don’t let anyone make you second-guess it.

  2. by Joey

    On July 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Parental authority is about doing what’s best for our kids and others. Agree that when it comes to safety, nutrition, etc, that our knowledge supersedes our child’s wishes. But other areas are harder to discern what is right.

    I wrote about this in an experience with our youngest child ( In some situations (like this one), I’m not sure there is an absolute right or wrong answer.

  3. by Angie

    On July 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Each parent is going to teach and discipline their child the way they see best. I personally disagree with her point of view. I ask my daughter for hugs and kisses when I’m leaving, and I think it is silly to compare that to “pimping” her out. If she says she is too busy, I just drop it. I can see where the other author was coming from in regards to cases where a parent would push the issue or make their child feel guilty, but I think it was a really extreme point of view.

    This topic actually sparked a blog post of my own on the subject if you’d like to see my full thoughts on the subject:

    Bottom line is, different kids will respond to things in different ways. There is no “right” way to teach your child.

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  6. by Kimberly Gucker

    On December 1, 2011 at 3:45 am

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  8. by Shelly

    On August 20, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Wow is all I can say! I realize this blog is a couple of months old but stumbling across it, reading it….I could not leave without saying something. In my opinion I’m assuming your “friend” isn’t a parent yet?! If she is…what makes her right and you wrong? Shame on her. What you are doing is NOT pimping your baby out. We all do it. Why? Because we are so proud of how smart, cute, [insert every adjective you can think of] of our precious child. You are simply engaging with your daughter, giving her attention, playing with her, clapping for her and teaching her what “being proud” means. That poor woman’s child will never walk, talk or go potty if she gives no attention to or boasting about. She may as well save herself the morning sickness & labor and go buy herself a rock. Those of you who are parents know exactly what I’m saying. “If you go pee pee on the potty I’ll give you this piece of candy” Child goes potty. “YAY! you are so smart, such a big girl, let’s call Daddy & Grandma to tell her how big you are!”

    I’m not going to go into all of the wrong things your friend has said to you….I will simply say this: You are being a normal, typical, loving mother. We all have done it with our kids and they have grown up to be fine, upstanding adults with no personality disorders. Our children LEARN self confidence from their parents! They learn right from wrong from their parents! Their who existence relies on…their parents! If you never spoke to your child, your child would never speak. Get it? So tell your “friend” that you will enjoy being a bad mom….because you have every other good mom in the world being a bad mom with you!!!

    I will say this: When my daughter was age 3, back in the late 1980′s there was a popular song on the radio called “Wild Thng” by Tone Loc. One particular line in the song is: “We was all alone and she said, “Tone, let me tell you one thing I need Dollar 50 to make you holler, I get paid to do the wild thing” Well obviously my 3 yr old watched the video of that song on TV unbeknownst to me. At any rate, one day I caught my sweet, round faced, angel with her right arm up in the air and her attempting to move her hips back & forth (in & out) and her saying “Gim fiffy dawwa make u hawwaa i paid for wild fang” I had every emotion flood over me all at once. While some may NOW say…”that was too provacative, how did your baby learn that? It didn’t happen after one time of hearing/seeing the video, where were you?” blah blah blah, the face of the matter was….it was so funny and so cute! E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who heard about it begged & bribed her to do it. She made a lot of money too! I put all of her money in her piggy bank. But she wasn’t a shy baby at all. She was very animated & outgoing. At first she happily did her song and dance for free. Then it got to where ‘she got money to do the wild thing’ lol then when she had enough….she simply refused to do it and that was the end of the wild thing. Your daughter will let you know when she’s “performing” and she won’t care if you are happy, mad, etc about it. Children are by nature very selfish so when she’s done with her performance, NOTHING could make her do it. Relax, raise your beautiful daughter and have fun with her. Don’t over-analyze everything or she will grow up to be an uptight, cranky lady….like your so called friend.

  9. by Shelly

    On August 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Wow lots of errors in my post, but the main one I want to correct is…at the end. Your daughter will let you know when she is DONE performing and she won’t care if you are happy, sad, mad, etc.

    So you aren’t going to “ruin” your child by showing her off to family & friends. I luckily caught my 3 yr old on video doing her “wild thing” and we, my 31 year old Pediatrician daughter watch it every now again and laugh until we cry about it. She has thanked me hundreds of times for capturing cute, good, bad, etc things on video so she can go back now and see herself as a baby/toddler/young girl. We both start out laughing and I end up crying..missing those precious days. Again, let your daughter “perform” she will stop you when she’s had enough. You’re teaching her and giving her valuable tools for later in life.