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Ask Dr. Sears: Every Woman Is "Momm"

Q. My 2-year-old calls every woman we know "Mommy." I correct her when I can, but it is really embarrassing. How can I get her to stop?

A.
Try to see this for what it really is -- not an embarrassing faux pas, but rather a compliment that your child appreciates all you do for her.

Many kids ago, Martha and I learned a valuable parenting lesson: It's easier to understand kids' quirky behavior when you try to imagine how she sees things from her point of view. Consider the reasons why your child calls every woman "Mommy."

"Mommy" means "woman." Your daughter is growing up equating womanhood with motherhood. Not long ago this may have been considered politically incorrect. Women were expected to grow up to be more than "just a mother." But what group of individuals has more power to affect the world than moms?

A mother in our medical practice recently told me a story: "The teacher asked all the children in the third grade class what they would like to be when they got older. When my daughters turn came she proudly announced, 'I'm going to be a mommy.' The teacher only had this putdown, 'Well, that's fine, but what else are you going to be...' I was shocked that the teacher would give impressionable little minds the opinion that motherhood is not a real profession."

You can pat yourself on the back that you have planted the aspiration of motherhood into your daughter at such an early age.

"Mommy" equals "need-filler." In the early years babies are takers and parents are givers. You are probably a very giving mother, and your child uses "mommy" to describe a person who makes her feel good and does nice things for her. But this doesn't mean that every woman shares the same value as you. TYou are the only total mother in your child's life.

Mothers who use multiple caregivers for their children often worry that their child has become too attached to the other caregivers. Try not to fret -- your child knows who her real mommy is. You could never pay a person to give the kind of care that a mother does, and children instinctively know this difference in care.

"Mommy" means "friend." I've noticed that some children are particularly appreciative of people who are loving and caring. These kids grow up to become caring individuals who connect with people more than things. Perhaps you have a child who just loves being around nice people, and so she latches onto any "mommy" who communicates well with her.

Let your child have this stage where she is uninhibited to express her feelings. Our son, Stephen, went through a similar phase where he called every man "Daddy." I can tell you it does feel embarrassing, but most people understand these childhood inhibitions and treat them humorously. So can you.

As your child grows, have no fear that she will become more socially aware. She will learn the appropriate titles for people and you will sooner or later become the sole wearer of the mommy medal.

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