How many of us have come across parents who gloat about how their child is developing faster than everyone else’s? You know, the “my son walked at nine months,” and “my daughter was speaking in full sentences before she was two” comments that make you feel inadequate as a parent. Meanwhile, you’re looking at your 19-month old wondering when he’s going to get off his hands and knees and remembering your daughter was three before she really started expressing herself clearly with her words.
Judgements, comments, comparisons and expectations are EVERYWHERE when you’re a parent. It’s like it’s in our DNA. It happened to me all the time because I had a kid that walked later than anticipated and another that took his time learning to talk and use the toilet. And many times I’d hear “What? He’s still not using the potty? Really?” And lately, if I hear, “Are the training wheels off yet?” one more time, I’m gonna…I’m gonna…haul off and stew about it!
As a parent, I try not to focus too much on the nitty-gritty details of my kids’ development, but as a professional, I know that being informed and realistic about what your kid can be expected to do, learn and master at a particular age leads to an understanding of what they most likely can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do, learn and master. That understanding decreases conflict and fosters a parent/child relationship of love and acceptance. This I truly believe and have seen play out in real life in my own home. When I am understanding, calm and patient my home is a much more pleasant place to be.
The realistic expectation measuring stick that I use to answer the age old questions, “How are my kids doing developmentally?” and “What should I expect of them this year?” does not involve the perceptions of the well-meaning masses, Johnny down the street, every kid in their class, their sibling or their prodigious cousin twice removed who started college at 11! The NDDS screens were a great start and then by knowing my kids’ temperaments and tendencies, reading and responding to their cues (although far from a perfect science) came naturally. Eyes, ears and heart open; mouth closed (mine that is). That’s what I think kids need.
Should a 2 year-old be expected to share toys? A 3 year-old resist the eye-level snack foods calling his name in the supermarket checkout line? Can a kid under 4 really be reasoned with when upset and angry? Ummmmm…no. Not likely. But we do it. We all do it. We expect a level of behaviour out of these little ones that is convenient for us yet that they just don’t have the brain development to give. We get annoyed when their behaviour inconveniences or delays us, our annoyance creates anxiety in both us and them, their behaviour goes south quickly and then…presto – the situation is right outta hand (and right in the middle of Target)!
I guess what I’m saying is what I’ve learned in my whopping nine years of parenting that knowing each of your kids – the person they are and how they tend to behave in a given situation is vital to a happy life. Whether or not they are developing exactly in line with expectations (of either “the system”, your peers, your mother or your nagging, little inner voice) just being observant, accepting, responsive and warm is more than half the battle won. Hugs before flash cards, ya know?
Now if only we could get rid of these darned training wheels! LOL! 🙂
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About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)