Most parents have kissed a boo boo, or snuggled a little one who is scared by something. Recently though, I've also realized that a lot of parents out there seem to think it's important to raise a child that's "tough." No one wants their kid to be a whiner or a cry baby, but I was somewhat disturbed by things that I've heard some parents say to and about their very small children (barely toddlers) with regards to them not being, well, babies for lack of a better term.
As someone who has spent nearly ten years studying children and their development, I'm hardly a seasoned expert or doctor. But I feel like I know enough to speak on a friendly level to the general mom-population and say that affection is important. It's not just important, it's essential. I would guess that most people who have not studied children or child development are not necessarily familiar with attachment theory. If you're one of them, this simple article gives a good, concise explanation. Attachment theory basically explains the connection between parenting styles and child development. Everything from physical to emotional health is affected by a child's bond with their parent or primary caregiver. The stronger the bond, the more secure and well-adjusted the child becomes as they grow into adulthood.
I can see how people might think withholding affection will make their kids less dependent on it. It's logical thinking that making too big of a deal over minor issues might teach even a baby to over-react and require lots of attention. I certainly wouldn't suggest that. But I'm a strong believer that if your baby or toddler is crying after a fall that probably didn't hurt, they are looking for the love and reassurance that all children need. Maybe they're actually tired, or hungry, or over stimulated, or maybe they just need a hug. They simply need to know that when they "fall" physically, mentally, or emotionally, that their parents are there for them. Someone once told my baby that she should "get over it" when she had been startled by a fall that probably didn't hurt all that much. That person was not a parent but I sure hope that when they are, they will be a little more understanding with their own 1-year old. I have heard other parents brag about their children, again toddler-age and younger, being tough because they fell down and the parent didn't give it any attention. It's one thing to ignore something your child ignores, but if your baby is upset, just give them a hug! This article even discusses a connection between "extravagant affection" from parents and adults who experience less anxiety, emotional distress, and hostility. Just saying.
So if you're a parent who gives lots of love and hugs and kisses, don't feel bad. You're doing them good. If you're a parent trying to make your kid "tough" by not giving affection when your little one asks for it, then you're probably just making them cry and whine more to get the attention they need. If you're someone who thinks that my baby is "over-loved" well, stick it.