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I have a small cuddly bear from very young and have had it for over 20 years. I have it on my pillow every night and talk to it just like I do to a pet cat. I have a very close bond to it and can't imagine living without it.

My wife thinks this is borderline mental disorder. She asked me to make binary choice of the bear or her early in our marriage, which led to a massive fight. Finally she was OK to live with it.

Recently we had a daughter. Now wife thinks my behaviour to the cuddly bear will make our daughter a psycho since it will make the baby believe cuddly bears talk back. So she demands I put it away.

My question is: are there any adverse mental effects on a baby to see their parent talking/cuddling to a toy repeatedly? Does it matter that I'm male? Would it matter if we had had a son?

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    While I hope you get good answers here, it sounds like you really need to go to relationship counseling. A neutral, third-party can often help see solutions neither of you can see on your own (and, perhaps, find and help solve the underlying problems as well.) – Joe Aug 21 '15 at 14:36
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    I think it would make a child feel very disoriented and insecure to watch her father (her protector and role model) talk to imaginary friends and then to witness her mother becoming upset about it. Especially as soon as she gets to school and the other role models (teachers, older kids etc) express that pretend is pretend and stuffed animals don't actually talk. – user7678 Aug 21 '15 at 15:28
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    I think the answer to the following might be relevant: if your wife had not backed down, would it have been the bear or her? – anongoodnurse Aug 21 '15 at 16:54
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    About the relation with the bear, Everyone has some small "weird" habits. The important is up to which extent you're going, which isn't clear. Is you wife worried because she rejects any kind of fantasy or "weirdness" , probably not seeing her own ones, or is it your relation with that bear having a big impact on the one with your wife? answering anongoodnurse's question might help you to figure it out. – Laurent S. Aug 21 '15 at 17:20
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    I really hate this kind of binary question, other examples: "mum or wife", "work or wife" etc. I don't think the asker understands how real life works (or I don't understand how romantic relationship works!). My answer is always, the fact that you are serious in this question makes you unworthy to be my partner. If I back down on this, you'll push me around on all sorts of other things – jf328 Aug 21 '15 at 21:18
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Imaginative play is both normal and healthy for children (read "The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development", posted on Psychology Today, as just one of many sources that support this theory).

Young children regularly cuddle, talk to, and animate their toys. A handful of anecdotes:

  • My son will sometimes have his favorite stuffed cat tell me that there is a problem ("Moppy wants you to know he's bored") rather than admit it himself.
  • My daughter would act out scenes that seemed to be pretty obviously mimicking things from kindergarten; the most memorable was when the toy pots and pans decided to make fun of a toy plate for being friends with a toy fork.
  • All three of my children play together, each holding a Lego figure and having them navigate the living room furniture, and speaking as their character as they adventure around the room.

Modeling this behavior yourself will not "make the baby believe cuddly bears talk back" (see below). If anything, it could help your child see that imaginative play is fun and normal. And as she grows and enacts her own imaginative, creative interactions with toys, engage in that with her; let her imagination take the lead, but interact with her through the toys.

However, if her mother is continually complaining about your imaginative interaction, I would also be concerned that normal, healthy play would be interpreted by your spouse as an abnormal development "caused" by your actions. Instead of allowing your daughter to play without concern or interference, she'll forbid or criticize it. Look into ways to resolve the difference between you and your spouse so that conflict can be avoided.


In your comment, you asked about whether it's possible for talking to the bear too frequently to be problematic. This is rather harder to answer and I have to rely on my opinion rather than research (I haven't read about this, really). However, I believe there are some ways of interacting with a toy that could model "unhealthy" imaginative play:

  • Talking "with" the bear (e.g., pausing when it "responds", answering questions "asked") instead of talking "to" the bear.
  • Talking to the bear more often than to your spouse, child, or other friends and family, or preferring to talk to the bear even when someone else is in the room
  • Talking to the bear throughout the day
  • Talking to the bear when it isn't physically present

I'm honestly not sure what the repercussions of that might be, but these all seem (subjectively) to exceed normal imaginative play even for children, and especially for adults.

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    Thanks for the answer and editing. You removed the word "repeatedly", I wonder if you could comment on if it can be "too frequent" to cause problem – jf328 Aug 21 '15 at 16:15
  • I removed "repeatedly" from the question title because I think that was largely covered in your question (you talk to it every night); if I misinterpreted or you think it is important, please feel free to add it back in :) I'm editing my question to cover frequency. – Acire Aug 21 '15 at 16:23
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I see no reason why it would harm your child. Babies and children live in a world where fantasy plays a role: Santa, Easter Bunny, Disney's talking animals, invisible friends... Having some kind of fantasy yourself is probably less traumatizing than a parent being always serious and excluding any kind of fantasy. From where I see it, fantasy plays a role in developing your child's creativity.

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    I fixed up the grammar, that's not a problem (we've got plenty of grammar folks here and ELU members :looks around: ). I do think that your answer is better now, it's still sort of lacking in content, though. Either reference to personal experience or to studies/articles or something would make it better. – Joe Aug 21 '15 at 20:16

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