Other adults have chosen to enforce infantilism on older children. They have forced certain children to wear or use objects normally associated with the care for an infant. This forced infantilism has been viewed by some parents as a legitimate method for disciplining a misbehaving child.
Those divergent ways of looking at infantilism illustrate the need for more research on child development. Obviously, not all people agree on the correctness of parents who either encourage or demand the exhibition of infantile behavior. Perhaps more research should be focused on baby infantilism.
Normally a baby exhibits new skills at designated, and often expected, points during his or her development. If a baby becomes reluctant to learn a new skill, then could that be a sign of baby infantilism? If so, then how should a parent deal with such behavior? When and how should a parent act to encourage behavior that is more in line with what society sees as “the norm”?
Until child development experts can provide good answers to those questions, then people will continue to have two very different ways of looking at infantilism. In a real sense, the arguments surrounding infantilism underline the absence of clear guidelines on child development.
Some TV shows have capitalized on the inability of parents to understand how to direct child development. Hopefully today’s parents will be exposed to more information than what existed in the written materials available to their grandparents. At least one of today’s parents had a grandmother who felt that small children should not be given choices. She thought that they should be told what to do.
Yet one must wonder when respect for parents’ wishes might cause the development of a touch of infantilism. When might a dependence on the dictates of parents slow the ability of a child to think for him or herself? And how does the ability to take on responsibility relate to the ability to listen to parents’ orders? Does a child who follows the dictates of his or her parents automatically learn how to take-on adult responsibilities?
All of those questions deal with the issue of child development. All of those questions focus on topics that relate to the issue of infantilism. All of those questions underscore the difficulties that arise whenever someone wants to define infantile or childish behavior.
Parents who lack information on child development often resort to unusual forms of discipline. Some resort to the old, traditional method—the belt. Some use enforced infantilism. Some seem to abandon almost all forms of discipline. While any of those approaches might produce a better behaved child, none can really guarantee what every parent wants.
No disciplinary measure mentioned above and no attempt at complete leniency can help a parent to guide a child into the role that he or she should be prepared to take on—the role of an adult, an adult who can contribute to society.