Dear Dr. Bill,
My husband and I have a darling little girl who has the classic chubby cheeks, Shirley Temple curls, and a wonderful sweet personality to match. Ever since she was a baby, everyone in the family — grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc., have loved to dote on her. But now that she’s 4-years-old, I’m wondering if she’ll ever grow out of this “cute baby” phase. She loves being the center of attention and will “perform” on cue if given the opportunity. Is this normal, healthy behavior? What, if anything, should we be doing differently?
Given what you’ve told me, it’s no wonder your daughter will “perform on cue” for her relatives. After all, she’s been receiving positive reinforcement for her performances since she was a toddler.
The danger is that she’ll grow up to believe that her value is based on her looks and her performance, not on her character. The bible tells us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” What matters to Him are a humble heart and a life that displays the “Fruit of the Spirit”—qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The good news is that you mention your daughter has a wonderful sweet personality, so it doesn’t sound like the attention she’s received has caused her to be overly spoiled
I’d suggest you work at praising her when she displays positive character traits, like kindness, honesty, and compassion for others. Look for “teachable moments” to talk about why these characteristics are the things that God truly values.
In addition, look for opportunities to teach her how to serve others, whether that’s helping to care for a neighbor’s pet when they’re on vacation, or donating some of her toys to a local homeless shelter.
Thanks for writing Erica. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.
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