How I see it, my job as a Dad is to prepare my son to be independent and function productively in the real world. I also know of not a single soul who lacks daily limits with respect to their wants. Needs and wants are two entirely different things. Needs are never denied and these include food, water, shelter, heat, affection, intellectual stimulation, and so forth. Wants are all the extra things, these are optional things, like extra food such as sweets, being picked up, taken to see the stray dog, and so forth.
Wants are those things that adults habitually must make sacrifices to attain. We aren’t simply given these things because we ask (or demand) them. Perhaps me setting limits creates a divide with parents who are more lax, but I think doing so is important to creating a well-balanced child. My decisions are never random or spiteful. On the contrary, I do things which I deem acceptable given my limits, time, energy and desire. If I’m busy making dinner and can’t take a moment to pick my son up, less dinner get burned, I don’t – even if he demands it, even if he asks nicely. I make my reasons clear. If I plan to pick him up in a few seconds, I’ll just sign WAIT to him and then do so – I honour my word. I don’t hope he’ll forget his request or move on, or come to me again and ask, I’ll go to him and ask him if he still wants to be picked up. I want my son to have integrity. My denials always carry with them a rational explanation.
Signing allows baby to make very specific requests and allows parents to make very specific acceptance of them or denials as the situation warrants. By the time our little boy was 15-16 months old, we had a pretty clear understanding of each others limits. He knew that not all requests would be accepted and put up very little fuss when I denied them. At the same time, I always made an effort to provide him with his wants, and never left him wanting for his needs.
Only time will tell if this is trumps giving in to every demand a toddler makes, but from the feedback we get from friends and relatives, we’re raising a pretty decent and loving son who’s a joy to be around.
I want a Lamborghini and a million dollars, but no amount of kicking and screaming at the car dealership or at the bank will make anyone cave to my wants.
In my opinion, the sooner children join the real world, the better.