Can I Love My Son Too Much?


New parents are prone to gushing over their child; after all emotions have never been higher and there’s this cute buddle of adorableness entirely dependent upon you. However, is this actually a problem? Parents wonder, ‘can I love my son too much?’

Experts agree it’s possible to love your son (or daughter) too much if it leads to extremisms. That is, parents who overindulge, over protect, over stimulate, and micro-manage their child’s life in the guise of love can cause irreparable harm, despite well-intentioned motivations.

I know looking back at the birth of our first child, a son, I felt an overwhelming emotional pull towards him almost immediately. And as time past, my love for him only grew, so much so that I hesitated to even have a second child (which we eventually did, almost 5 years later). Moms especially have conflict wondering if they could love their son too much.

Is It Normal To Love Your Son Too Much?

It’s certainly normalized to be child-centered in today’s familial and educational structures. So, does this make it normal to love your son too much?

It is normal to see parents that love their sons too much. It’s not normal, in the sense of appropriateness, to never self-correct extreme behavior. Parenting experts define loving a son or daughter too much by overindulgent, overprotective, and micro-managed behavior. Good parents self-regulate.

Normalized parenting finds a healthy balance from the spectrum of parenting neglect to parenting indulgence. Over a life span, certainly 18 years, parents will overindulge or be too protective, because they love their son or daughter. But good parents will recognize that and adjust.

One study published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 surveyed 128 ‘parenting professionals’ made up of doctors, psychologists, and guidance counselors in an attempt to highlight common characteristics of ‘overparenting’. Behaviors associated with ‘loving too much’ were evident.

Overindulgence, overprotectiveness, micromanagement, and hyper-affectionate behaviors are loving behaviors taken to extreme levels.

So of course, it’s natural, human even, for parents to find themselves loving their son or daughter too much. This behavior of ‘too much’ can even continue into adulthood, and isn’t always considered generous by children’s viewpoint.

Another study reported in The Journals of Gerontology details what’s called, “conflicted support,” in which adult children describe support from parents with strings attached. This means parents indulge or give to their adult children with expectations in return such as decision-making control. Parents may have started out giving in because they love their child so much, but it can eventually evolve into a control mechanism.

What’s not normal, appropriate, or healthy (according to parenting professionals), is to condone, continue, or propagate extreme behavior even if it’s a consequence of loving too much.

Is It Even Possible To Be Too Attached to Your Son?

Researcher Bartholomew popularized four Attachment Theory styles: secure attachment, dismissing attachment, preoccupied attachment, and fearful attachment. Regardless, all attachment theories relate to a child’s attachment to his or her main caregiver, with most research focused on mothers.

As parents of sons and daughters we’re used to taking control and being the main person to care for and guide them, so forming a strong attachment is critical. Many moms and dads may wonder then, if it is even possible to be too attached to your children?

Parenting professionals agree it is possible for parents to be too attached to sons and daughters. This is because attachment must be adjusted as children grow. Failure for parents and children to make attachment adjustments will lead to conflict and malformed relationships.

One study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology details the importance of parent-child attachment especially through late adolescence. Teens who reported not having good parental attachment had higher rates of depression, anxiety, and worry than those who reported strong parental attachment.

Concerns regarding long-term problems associated with attachments have surged over the past years. As a result, more psychologists and therapists are directing attention to the myriad of problems associated with attachment issues, including the effects on adult relationships.

Example: Dr. Amir Levine, notable adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist and neuroscientist, wrote Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love. It currently has over 7,500 verified reviews and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 on Amazon (it’s also available with a free trial Audible membership).

Levine’s book is one of many dedicated to this area of attachment, proving that yes, it is definitely possible (and quite problematic) to be too attached to your son or daughter!

Signs You Are Too Attached to Your Son (or Daughter):

  • You don’t let him or her visit with others, as appropriate for their age.
  • You resent your son or daughter enjoying someone else’s attention.
  • You don’t have other interests or hobbies (they’re all child-centered.)
  • Your schedule centers around your son (or daughter).
  • Your personal adult relationships suffer, such as your relationship with your spouse.
  • You are always thinking about your son or daughter.
  • You neglect your daughter for your son (or vice versa).
  • Your health needs are overlooked.

Now admittedly there are some studies that negate the idea of ‘too much’ attachment, saying it’s not possible. However, upon further investigation, it is actually not in contrast to what I explained in this section.

These studies, such as the one by child specialist Karen Sullivan, take the point of view of the child. Sullivan explains that children who seem ‘too attached’ or clingy to moms and dads are in fact displaying symptoms of other problems such as anxiety, emotional distress, abuse, or negligence.

In this case, children aren’t too attached. They are acting out for help.

This is not what’s meant by parents being too attached. Rather this is a worthy perspective to counter excuses to neglect or ignore children and/or child abuse.

For related reading about sons, I recommend these articles:

What It Means To Love Your Son So Much It Hurts

Empty Nest Syndrome, the depression parents, especially moms, feel when children move away from home or leave the ‘nest’, is real and it does hurt. However, in normal dynamics, it is fleeting and parents adjust, so what does it mean if you love your son (or daughter) so much it hurts?

To love your son so much it hurts is a reaction to a dysfunctional relationship. It’s normal for moms and dads to feel sadness, even mild depression, over concern for their child from time to time, but lasting pain tied to love is abnormal and unhealthy for parents and children alike.

There are many documented cases of parents, especially moms, who’ve indulged their son or daughter so much that they’ve essentially created an uncontrollable monster. Sons hit, bite, scream, and otherwise mistreat their mom in order to get their way.

It causes not only emotional pain, but also actual physical pain for the parent.

When moms are asked why they give in or overindulge, most commonly reply, ‘because I love him’ or ‘because I don’t want him to get mad at me.’ Well….this is certifiably disordered!

In situations like this, parents have confused the love for their child with giving in and giving too much to everyone’s detriment. This is a symptom of the parent wanting to be ‘the good parent’ or ‘the fun parent’ and not putting the child’s wellbeing first, both emotionally and physically.

Signs That Parents Love Too Much By Giving In & Overindulging:

  • Children are overly emotional.
  • Children can’t self-regulate.
  • Children have frequent tantrums.
  • Children have poor relationships that affect their future.
  • Children are more likely to have mental and emotional problems.
  • Children suffer academically.

Now, true love is not ever ‘too much.’ But the definition of love as sacrificing of yourself for the other, has been lost in these situations.

Ultimately, parents who love their child are willing to give their everything, including their own life, if required. But that’s just it; most of us will never be required to show that kind of loving sacrifice.

Instead, most parents are required to love their sons and daughters enough to say no, and quite often! Not caring if your son or daughter ‘like’ you at the moment is part of it.

Loving your child doesn’t mean overindulging them or saying, ‘yes’ to their whims. Children grow properly when healthy boundaries are established and a big part of being a loving parent is to set those boundaries.

To be clear, parents will hurt because they love their child. It hurts when your child gets mad at you. No parent enjoys teen angst and rebellion.

It hurts when your child makes mistakes that cause themselves pain. Moms and dads feel empathy like no other! We don’t like to see our child suffer consequences, but we also know it’s good for them to make mistakes and learn from that experience.

We hurt when our sons and daughters grow up and exert independence from us. Sometimes our adult children make choices that hurt us, take them from us, or even demean or belittle us, on purpose even! But as parents, we love them anyway and still, we can hold them accountable for their actions.

We accept this because that’s the kind of pain we can and should endure for and from them. We know it’s a good for them. We make that kind of sacrifice because we love them enough to do what’s best for them, even if they get mad at us for it.

Can You Cuddle Your Son Too Much?

Cuddling is used to describe hugging closely or snuggling another person. Often parents and grandparents enjoy cuddling their children and grandchildren. But is this ever a problem? Can you cuddle your son too much?

You can indeed cuddle your son (or daughter) too much as parents and grandparents. Since cuddling involves physical intimacy, it is possible to take it to unhealthy extremes. Just like never touching your child is detrimental to development, so is over touching, even excluding situations of abuse.

One thing parents have to come to terms with is that physical intimacy with their children will change over time. When our children are babies, we pick them up and hold them close to our chest. They are likely to sleep on us for hours, giving us plenty of cuddling time.

It’s a sweet reward for all the midnight feedings, diaper changes, and lack of sleep parents deal with!

But as infants grow into toddlers, it’s rare for them to sleep on us for hours, and most pediatricians recommend toddlers have their own sleep space. We’re lucky to get a quick hug as they run, skip, and play from one toy to the next. And when naptime occurs, it’s wise to leave them alone and not disturb the temperamental beast!

And of course, the affection scale continues to adjust as children move closer to young adulthood.

Have you ever tried to snuggle or cuddle with a teenager? Eek! As a mom of boys, I can tell you, it’s not likely to happen nor do you really want it to! When I ‘threaten’ to even give a peck on the cheek to my teenage boys, they stiffen up, groan, and act like I’m invading their very air to breathe. I can’t imagine how they’d react at anything resembling cuddles! And that’s normal!

Although I love my sons dearly, I can’t really say I would want it any differently either! From the many conversations about deodorant and laundry surrounding our boys, they don’t present themselves as super-cuddly material, to say the least.

Giving A Child Too Much Attention

As a teacher for almost twenty years, I have seen many examples of when children have been given too much attention, and it’s never a good thing.

Parents should be aware of giving a child too much attention. Too much attention is unhealthy and can lead to power struggles with authority figures, problems forming attachments, and long-lasting relationships even in adulthood.

Sometimes parents give too much attention that leads to too much stuff. They give to their kids too much materially, and this causes children to take things for granted, be ungrateful, and not appreciate what they have. They learn a very unhealthy sense of worth and value that will inform their ideals and choices later in life.

Then there are those who give too much attention physically. Children whose parents give too much attention like this lack independence, feel entitled or self-centered, and have problems forming healthy peer relationships.

Example: During a parent-teacher conference for a 3rd grader, my assistant and I met with the student and his mom. This student had had several arguments and even physical fights with peers at recess. His mom claimed the boys were picking on him when all he really wanted was to be friends. Now all during this 20 minute conversation she squeezed his shoulders, kissed him several times on the face, held his hand, and patted his hair. She also told us about how he loved snuggling with her on the sofa for hours at night. I gave several suggestions for setting appropriate boundaries on the playground with his friends, as well as what is appropriate at home with mom. After she left, it was apparent to my assistant and I how the boundary issues surfacing at school had started at home!

Suggestions for Establishing Appropriate Parent-Child Boundaries:

  • Have a set routine. This includes bed time; meals; and regular activities.
  • Maintain proper roles. Adult conversation topics should be off limits with children.
  • Ensure child safety is never a concern. It’s essential that children feel secure for proper development to occur.
  • Keep up-to-date with child well-check ups.
  • Seek appropriate professional help when needed. When looking for support outside of the home, start with the classroom teacher who can connect you with other professionals like the school social worker and guidance counselor.

Can You Give Your Baby Too Much Attention?

Also as a mom, I’ve also been privy to many examples of parents overindulging their babies, giving them too much attention. I’ve succumbed to this myself a bit here and there. Although it’s most common for moms, lately, there seems to be a rise in dads doing this, too. Can you give your baby too much attention, really?

Just like with older children, parents should be cautious against giving their baby too much attention such as holding or feeding them too often. Too much attention overstimulates babies and can affect sleep patterns and eating schedules which inhibit healthy growth.

Too much focus on babies also affects the social dynamics and relationships in the home.

The Boss Baby (released in 2017 and available on Amazon for rental) is about a baby wearing a suit and tie, voiced by actor Alec Baldwin, who runs his new household like a CEO of a company. It’s a very funny movie for kids old and young, as well as their parents. I highly recommend watching! However, in reality, there’s nothing funny about a baby who’s ‘boss’ of the house!

Tips for Parents On Giving Attention to Babies:

  • Follow expert guidelines and recommendations such as those from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Listen to trusted elders such as your grandparents and parents, and heed their advice.
  • Set a daily routine that provides for the baby’s needs as well as the needs of others in the household.
  • Make your marriage a priority. A happy mom and dad is what’s best for the baby!
  • Create a home that’s family-focused rather than baby/child-focused.

Popular TV Mom Who Loves Son Too Much

Marie Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond epitomizes the mother with boundary issues who confuses it with loving her son ‘too much.’

Pop culture has a way of representing real-life problems. For example, the very popular television show called, Everybody Loves Raymond, is about a 40-something male character married with children who also happens to have an extremely overbearing mother living across the street.

Marie, the mom with no boundaries, bursts in and out of her son’s home several times a day in order to bring him un-asked-for meals and make disparaging remarks about his wife’s cleaning and appearance. She also loves Raymond so much that she never sees any blame in anything he does.

Yet with all of Marie’s faults, she chalks it up to ‘loving Raymond’. And though Raymond wasn’t responsible for his mom growing up, he rarely pushes back as an adult, enabling her obsessive and obnoxious behavior.

In fact after watching several episodes, it becomes clear that not only does Raymond’s quiet acceptance of Marie’s actions serve as his approval, his obvious enjoyment of her unconditional attention encourages it.

The Wrap Up for Loving Son Too Much

Yes, parents can actually love their son too much. That is, if their love manifests in unhealthy extremisms such as with materialism, overindulgences, or overprotectiveness.

Parenting a child is the most rewarding experience a person can have, and it’s also the most significant. Parents take on the responsibility for raising, caring, providing for, and guiding another human being. It’s not an easy vocation, nor should we expect it to be.

As parents, we are bound to make mistakes; no one should think otherwise. The willingness to acknowledge your faults, such as ‘too much’ of anything, is the first step to parenting well. After that, aim for a healthy balance!

For further reading about sons, I recommend these articles:

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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