What lies beneath

By coddling we mean doing everything you can do as a parent to keep your child from feeling hurt, upset or disappointed. You know, giving them a trophy for finishing last, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Why do parents coddle their children? Why might you coddle your child?

Here’s one theory.

If you’re a parent who does coddle your children, you intellectually know it’s not good for their future especially when they will have to one day go out and deal with a world that doesn’t treat them that way.

Is it possible that you may engage in such counterproductive parenting because you remember when as a child and felt hurt, upset or disappointed that your parents weren’t so nice? In fact, they may have responded to you with criticism, ridicule or just plain ignored you.

And when they reacted in any of those ways, you not only felt more upset, you felt angry and on occasion even rageful. You may have acted on that anger, but more likely you kept a lid on it, because you were afraid that if you showed it to already critical or neglectful parents that they would become even more so.

Furthermore is it possible that knowing unconsciously how rageful you were capable of feeling towards your parents underneath your hurt, upset or disappointment, you project that on your child, imagine that is what is going on with them and then coddle them because you are trying to avoid their feeling rageful towards you?

In other words, are you coddling them to avoid their feeling hurt, upset or disappointed or to avoid them feeling enraged at you just as you felt towards your parents when they reacted poorly towards you?

If that’s true, that might explain why you coddle your child.

But here’s the deal.

Your parents not responding in an optimally empathic way when you felt hurt, upset or disappointed may have ticked you off, but it also contributed to making you stronger and better able to deal with whatever the world throws at you. It may even be something that you now appreciate.

However as long as you unconsciously don’t make the connection between your parents’ tough and even rough love towards you and your becoming stronger, it’s likely you’ll just remember it as something that made you angry at them.

And that might be what causes you to coddle your children because you want to avoid them feeling that towards you.

If you are coddling your children here’s something that might cause you to want to reconsider doing it.

Every time you coddle your child or protect them from feeling hurt, upset or disappointed or facing adversity or bail them out of from paying the consequences of their actions, there are literally at least ten million other children at the exact moment and the exact same age as your child who are not being coddled, who are facing and dealing with adversity and the consequences of their actions. Because of that those other children are becoming stronger, tougher, smarter and more resilient.

One day, one of those other children is going to grow up and become your child’s boss and fire your child.


  • Mark Goulston, M.D.

    Author, speaker, podcast host, psychiatrist

    Dr. Mark Goulston is the inventor and developer of Surgical Empathy an approach that helps people to break their attachments to counterproductive modes of functioning and frees them to connect with more productive and healthier alternatives. He is the host of the “My Wakeup Call” podcast where he interviews people on the wakeup calls that changed who they are and made them better human beings and at being human and the host of the LinkedIn Live show, "No Strings Attached." He is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on deep listening, radical empathy and real influence with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world, translated into twenty languages and a topic he speaks and teaches globally. He is an advisor, coach, mentor and confidante to CEO’s, founders and entrepreneurs helping them to unlock all their internal blocks to achieving success, fulfillment and happiness. Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry and crisis psychiatrist for over 25 years, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Goulston's expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations including being a boots on the ground suicide prevention specialist and serving as an advisor in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. Including, “Just Listen,” he is the author or co-author of nine books with multiple best sellers. He writes or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Biz Journals, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and has appeared as an psychological expert in the media including: CNN, Headline News, msNBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Psychology Today and was the subject of a PBS special. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, California.