Monday, September 6, 2010

Wimpy Parent Syndrome

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and I could not fall back asleep.  I had a moment of brilliance laying there in bed.  I had discovered a new medical disorder, Wimpy Parent Syndrome (WPS).  For years I have been seeing it in clinical practice, but have been unable to put my finger on exactly what was taking place.  Then the idea of WPS came to me and everything seemed to make sense.  Unfortunately, this morning I Googled WPS and discovered that I am several years too late.  Someone has already coined the phase and provided some very good explanations of what WPS actually is.  Oh well, so much for fame and fortune. 

So what is WPS?  It is a parenting technique where parents fear making decisions that may upset their child.  They are loving parents that have the best intentions, but they have bought into the idea that "good" parenting and having their child get mad, cry, or angry are not compatible with one another.

WPS becomes very prominent when it is time to stop the bottle or pacifier.  It is well known that staying on the bottle or pacifier too long tends to cause dental problems.  At some point parents should stop giving their toddler these things.  I recommend stopping the bottle by 12 months and the pacifier by 18 months.  For parents with WPS, this is extremely stressful.  Children are creatures of habit and do not like change, and the parent recognizes that making these changes will create an emotional reaction in the child.  The parent will reply, "I can't take the paci away, he needs it."  Let's examine this.  I am fairly confident that, if the parent took the pacifier away, the child could not drive to Walmart and purchase a new one.  I am also pretty sure there is no physical reason why a child would "need" to have one.  So what the parent is truly saying is, "I am scared that taking it away will make my child upset."   Welcome to parenting!

Parenting is full of tough decisions, and many of them will make your child upset.  Do not fear this.  It is called parenting for a reason.  Not to embrace this fact and to allow your child to grow up believing that he can control his external environment by becoming angry, crying, or throwing a tantrum, is asking for trouble.  I am convinced that WPS creates some very poorly behaved children. 

Do not get me wrong.  I am not advocating that parents become unreasonable, abusive, or neglectful.  I am suggesting all parents step back and analyze their role as the parent.  It is possible to be loving and create a healthy emotional environment for your children, without letting the child controlling the family with his emotions.  You can take the beloved pacifier away.  You can let you child get mad and cry.  He will eventually realize that he is not getting it back. This is alright and it does not make you a bad parent.  In fact, it probably makes you a good one.


  1. Perhaps one of the best parenting decisions you can make is to find a medical doctor who is level-headed.

  2. No. let's not listen to this guy. People really don't have enough empathy towards children. It's not being a wimpy parent if you respect your kid's feelings enough to GRADUALLY wean them off of things like pacifiers instead of snatching them away.
    It stresses the kid out and stresses you out, so why bother doing stuff that causes mutual stress when you don't have to? Same with that stupid sleep training.

  3. why not forego the whole 'weaning' off the bottle and pacifier and just not give them to the child in the first place? many children, believe it or not, never use a pacifier or bottle (ie. they go from breast to cup/sippy cup). is it WPS to nurse your child until that time? this advice doesn't even take that into consideration. a bit frightening coming from a medical practitioner when it is common knowledge that breastfeeding is superior to formula in a bottle and the pacifier is just a substitute for the breast.

    why don't you try a preventive approach and support parents in breastfeeding so they never have to get to the point where they have to consider weaning off the bottle/pacifier. it's more than do-able. but maybe it's just too hard. makes me wonder who the wimpy parents actually are? the ones who find it easy to give or the ones who find it difficult to to take away? there seem to be a culture of trying to get things done quickly and easily, now. sad, really. whatever happened to patience being a virtue?

  4. I said nothing about breast feeding so you are changing the topic. But I will play along. I absolutely encourage breast feeding. My wife breast fed all of my children. None of my children ever used a pacifier. They did use bottles, with pumped breast milk, when my wife went back to work. When they were around 11 months the were no longer given a bottle. It was not a big deal. Not one tear was shed.

    When a parent asks about pacifiers I tell them that I do not mind if they use one, there is evidence that they reduce SIDS, but I do mind if the don't have the courage to take it away when it is time.

  5. I def. agree with this bcuz I am a wimpy parent I know that it's not good for him to think he's the one running the show but it's so hard to stop! at this point in his life with him being able to do so much it sometimes seems just a little easier to give in but when u think about it whats a day or two of stress in comparison to months or years of doing something thats not really the best for you or your child

  6. Totally agree with you, doctor!