What is people pleasing? 

Children often learn to please people, particularly their mothers, as a way to gain acceptance and belonging within their family and social circles. However, this tendency to people-please can also have negative effects on a child’s development.

How do Children learn to People please?

One way that children learn to please their mothers is through observation and imitation. From a young age, children are constantly watching and mimicking the behaviours of those around them, including their parents. If a child sees their mother consistently reacting positively to certain behaviours, such as sharing toys or saying please and thank you, the child will be more likely to repeat those behaviours in an effort to elicit a similar response.

However, this constant need to please can lead to a lack of authenticity and individuality in the child. They may become so focused on meeting the expectations of their mother and others that they lose sight of their own desires and interests. This can result in a lack of self-awareness and difficulty forming their own beliefs and values.

Another way that children learn to please their mothers is through reinforcement. When a child exhibits a behaviour that is pleasing to their mother, they are often rewarded with praise, attention, and affection. This reinforcement strengthens the behaviour and encourages the child to continue pleasing their mother in the future.

However, this constant need for reinforcement can lead to a reliance on external validation and a lack of self-confidence. The child may become overly concerned with seeking approval from others and may struggle to make decisions and assert themselves without seeking validation from their mother or others.

Children also learn to please their mothers through the attachment process. Attachment refers to the emotional bond that forms between a child and their primary caregiver, typically the mother. This bond is important for the child’s emotional and psychological development and helps the child feel safe and secure. When a child pleases their mother, it can help strengthen the attachment and deepen the emotional bond between them.

However, this need for attachment can also lead to codependency and an inability to be independent. The child may become overly reliant on their mother for emotional support and may struggle to form healthy relationships with others or function on their own.

Furthermore, children may learn to please their mothers in order to meet their own needs. For instance, a child may learn to share their toys with their mother because it allows them to spend more time playing together and strengthens the relationship. By pleasing their mother, the child is also able to receive the emotional support and care that they need to thrive.

However, this constant need to please in order to meet their own needs can also lead to self-sacrifice and neglect of self-care. The child may put their own needs aside in order to prioritise pleasing their mother, leading to resentment and potentially harmful behaviour towards themselves.

In conclusion, while the desire to please others, particularly one’s mother, is a natural part of development, it can also have negative effects on a child’s emotional and psychological well-being. It is important for children to learn healthy ways of expressing themselves and standing up for their own needs, rather than constantly striving to please others. This can help them develop a strong sense of self, healthy relationships, and the ability to function independently.

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