Popular Parenting Myths No. 3: You Can't Love A Child Too Much
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. 

Parenting advice has to make sense to be worth considering – but it has to have a lot more to it than that. In the 25 years that I’ve been a parenting psychologist guiding parents with typical childrearing issues, I’ve seen some advice elevated to an absolute belief – never examined, just accepted as truth.

Parents are finding that some of these beliefs need to be held up to the light, because the results don’t live up to the promises. Some myths need to be updated and corrected to help parents do the thoughtful, wise, validated childrearing job they’re trying to.

Parents love their children. We are amused, delighted and thrilled by them. Many times, we're also frustrated and angry,  worried and sad about the issues going on with them. However, a lifelong love of our children is the overriding experience for most parents.

Myth: Some parents believe that loving our children means doing as much as possible for them:  carrying your young child up and down stairs when he wants you to, making and remaking a meal till he's finally willing to eat something, or picking up his toys for him because he's not willing to.  Some parents function on the basis that it's impossible to do too much for your child and that you should constantly tell him how much you love him, even when he behaves terribly and is old enough to know better.

Loving your child means showing him, with your words and tone of voice, the look on your face, your physical affection toward him and your bone-deep conviction that you would take any pain for him  if it would protect him from it.  And a lot more. But it also means a responsibility to teach our children how to do the things children their age are supposed to do and not do things for them that they should be learning to do for themselves, just because we mistakenly believe that loving them means we can't say no to them. We do need to say no to them, even though they may respond with “you're the meanest mommy/daddy in the world.” Children all have to learn that when parents say no, it doesn't mean we don't love them. Remember, children will naturally try many ways to change our mind, including the perennial “you don't love me” or “I don't love you.” We should be clear with them when we are unhappy and annoyed with their poor behavior. Telling our kids we're disappointed in what they're doing now conveys to them that we think a lot of them but that they're letting us and themselves down with their behavior.

Parents can easily over-nurture – overdo the giving and the giving in – sometimes just because we feel this shows our love and sometimes because we don't want our children to get upset, with all the feelings their reactions raise for us. Here's the most important truth about this issue: Children who are over-nurtured are not going to be giving and loving people. This is the opposite of what over-nurturing parents thought. If you always put their needs ahead of yours throughout the preschool years, and beyond, children stay self-centered and feel they should come first. Parents will find themselves troubled that the “love” that led them to do much for and give much to their children has been too much and has made their children into selfish and unloving individuals.  Here's your chance to check for this in your parenting style and make any course correction necessary.

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015