8 Things That Won't Actually Make Your Kid Co-Dependent

Ad failed to load

As soon as I became a mom, people started criticizing me for doing things my way. I constantly heard from elderly relatives, mom friends, and strangers in the grocery store that I shouldn't hold my baby "too much," wear them in a baby carrier, breastfeed them, comfort them, or talk to them like adults, lest they become co-dependent. It's hard not to worry, especially about your child, but honestly: there are more than a few things that won't actually make your kid co-dependent. Oh, and science agrees.

So what is co-dependency anyway? Most of the time when people talk about co-dependency they are referring to an adult relationship where one (or more) person is dependent on the other for validation, decision making, and a sense of self-worth. According to Mental Health America, they can have a tendency to do anything to please the other person in the relationship, have trouble making decisions, but are simultaneously obsessed with being in control. According to Raychelle Cassada Lohmann MS, LPCS when it comes to a parent-child relationship, co-dependency can mean that your child has extreme separation and social anxiety, which can persist into adulthood and affect their future adult relationships.

So, how does this happen? According to Lohmann, it goes back to communication, the expectations you set, and the spoken and unspoken rules you expect your children to follow. If you don't talk about problems, tell your kids to tough it out or not to cry, and expect perfection or set unrealistic expectations, you might be setting your child up for a low self-esteem and constant need for validation that are the cornerstones of co-dependency.

Ad failed to load

From research (and years of experience as a parent), I have learned that those things that people typically associate with clingy, co-dependent children — offering praise, comfort, affection, and help when they need it — can actually help prevent co-dependency. It might seem counter-intuitive, but drawing your kids in close when they are little, praising them as they grow, and being a stable base from which your kids can explore the world, will actually help them grow into independent, resilient kids and adults.

So, next time someone tries to warn you about your kids becoming co-dependent, you can rest easy (and maybe send them here for a dose of science).

Ad failed to load

Comforting Them When They Cry


I can't stand to hear my kids cry. But I've learned that if you respond too readily to your crying infant, toddler, or kid, people accuse you of coddling them or making them co-dependent.

Science, however, shows that not only will comforting your child not make your kids co-dependent, it might actually make them feel secure and safe, and in the long term. Your comfort will help your child feel a healthy attachment to you and greater independence. This is not to say that you have to rush to your child's side whenever they cry, or that letting your baby cry for brief amounts of time — like during sleep training — is a bad thing, but it definitely won't make them co-dependent if you comfort them.

Breastfeeding Them

I have heard time and again about how breastfeeding — on demand, for comfort, at night, after a certain age — causes co-dependency. According to Jean M Twenge PhD, author of The Narcissism Epidemic, breastfeeding isn't the problem, unless it's paired with over-indulgence. Research shows that when all other things are held equal, breastfeeding and formula-feeding are equally valid choices, and neither will impact your child's mental health. So as long as breastfeeding works for you and your child, you should feel comfortable continuing, and when it doesn't, it's OK to stop.

Holding Them


You can't spoil a baby by holding them too often or too long, and you certainly aren't going to make them co-dependent. Please don't misunderstand, I don't think you need to hold your baby all day, every day. It's totally OK to put the baby down if you are tired, need a break, need sleep, don't want to hold them while you poop, or are so completely touched out at the end of the day that it makes your skin crawl. You won't mess your kid up if you need to take a break, but you also won't make them co-dependent if you want to hold them all of the time.

In fact, a study published in Pediatrics showed that pre-term babies who were frequently held skin-to-skin in their early days had fewer behavioral issues and stronger social skills 20 years later, compared to pre-term babies who weren't. Wow.

Ad failed to load

Listening To Them

You wouldn't believe how many times I've been accused "letting my kids run the house" because I do things like stop touching them when they tell me to, or let them wear mismatched clothing to school. For me, listening to my kids' preferences is honestly easier than trying to force them to do something else. People see this as giving in to "co-dependent" children, but I see it differently and, well, science backs me up.

A study published in the journal Child Development showed that kids who have parents who listen to them and respond to their needs do better both in academics and relationships when they reach adulthood. According to other research shows that stronger communication and responsiveness with your young child results in them being better able to cope with challenges when you aren't there, which means less, not more, co-dependence.



Co-sleeping is one of many things I swore I would never do. I knew it was dangerous, and was told that it would mean my kids would be co-dependent. So yeah, like many parents, I started co-sleeping out of desperation, then worried that I would totally mess up my kids.

The good news? Research shows that co-sleeping won't impact your child's cognitive or behavioral development at all. As Michael J. Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist writes for Psychology Today, as long as you do it safely — never before age 1, and no drugs/alcohol — stay on the same page as your partner, and stay aware of sleep problems when they arise, co-sleeping can be a great fit for your family.

Talking To Them Like Adults

There's a fine line between talking to your kid like an adult and expecting them to act like one. For me, talking to my kid like an adult means that I offer them respect, I don't seek to control them, and I want to help them learn to make good choices on their own. If you think about it, that is pretty much the opposite of co-dependency.

According to researchers at Stanford University, speaking directly to your young child and using complex sentences can greatly impact your child's language skills and vocabulary.

Ad failed to load

Offering Help When They Need It


When you offer your kids help when they need it, you teach them two things: that they can rely on you, and how to ask for help when they need it. What's more, offering and giving help can actually help your child develop social skills.

According to one study published in the journal Child Development, when moms let their babies and young children try tasks independently, but also offered help when things got too difficult, those children benefited both socially and academically in adulthood. According to the study, the key is to get to know your child and when to intervene, let them try it first on their own, encourage problem-solving, and only help them when they ask or appear frustrated. So, yeah, forcing your kids to power through, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, might be counterproductive when it comes to encourage independence.

Giving Praise

According to Mental Health America, co-dependent people often have a low self-esteem and seek praise from others to feel good about themselves. This doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't praise our kids for fear of making them co-dependent. According to experts, praise is important in building your child's self-esteem and as they grow.

As Gwen Dewar, PhD writes on, certain types of praise can actually make your child more resilient and persistent. Dewar advises parents to be sincere, specific, and descriptive when they praise their kids, to only praise kids for things they have power to change — think hard work and mastery of a skill versus being pretty, tall, or thin — and to try to avoid praising kids for things that come easily or that they already like doing.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills