Milestones for kids… so many parents are guilty of this.
I had a close friend share with me that she would question whether her daughter was far enough along, developmentally. Her son was speaking full sentences by the age of two and counting to 100 by 2-1/2. She looked at my son (who started riding a bike with training wheels around 2) or another friends two-year-old who was learning ice skating and rock climbing, and was doubting her parenting skills and whether she was doing enough.
Now, I’ll just say that this friend is a rockstar mom and that she did take a step back and look at the scenario big picture (her two year old daughter was outrageously advanced verbally), but it’s just one example of how much pressure we put on ourselves (and, inadvertently) our kids to “measure up.”
We recently spoke with Caroline Mathis, who emphasized the fact that we have to stop comparing our kids to others or feeling as thought they SHOULD be excelling in ways other than what they are.
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Milestones are a Parameter, Not Absolute
Okay, I’ll admit it… during my son’s first year of life, I periodically looked up milestones to see how he was “developing.”
And while I still don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily (milestones are there to help you recognize if there might be an underlying developmental problem), you can’t let yourself get too caught up in milestones. They can become the equivalent of self-diagnosing on WebMD (i.e. you can blow a situation way out of proportion and see things that aren’t really there).
“Ages to reach milestones are just a parameter, not an absolute,” explains Dr. Tracy Mihalynuk, a family physician in Victoria, B.C. She advises parents: “Rather than worry about stages and their timing, focus on how beautifully unique your child is. Treasure his health and existence – not his rate of development.
Stop Shoulding (On Yourself and Your Kids)
Chances are you do this in your own life.
“I should attend that PTA meeting.”
“I should be participating more at my kids’ schools.”
“My kid should be doing better in math…”
We’ve all done it. I know I’m guilty. Especially with myself.
But start to be more cognizant of what you’re saying to yourself and to (or in front of) your kids. It’s easy to let “shoulds” slip out in front of our kids without realizing it. And while you may mean well, oftentimes what kids hear is that they don’t measure up.
If you ARE guilty of this, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just commit to being more aware in the future.
Celebrate Strengths (Don’t Dwell on Weaknesses)
This applies for kids of any age. Mike talks in the podcast episode about how his son is extremely advanced with videography, whereas math isn’t his strength, and he’s okay with that. Rather than focusing on the fact that her two-year-old wasn’t biking yet, my friend reminded herself of just incredibly verbal her daughter was and how well she could communicate at her age.
As Caroline says, every kid is different, even if they come from the same family!
Life would be boring if every kid was the same. Celebrate the variety your child brings into the world (and your life) and look for all the things that he/she is teaching YOU.
Final Thoughts on Milestones for Kids:
As Caroline Mathis explains, one of the best single pieces of parenting advice is to avoid falling into the comparison cycle. If you feel like your child is happy and healthy and your pediatrician is happy, don’t stress out about developmental milestones and where your child “should” be. And try to resist comparing your child to siblings, cousins, or friends’ kids.
Every child is unique and special in his or her own way. Three things to remember are:
- Milestones are a Parameter, Not an Absolute
- Stop Shoulding on Yourself or Your Kids
- Celebrate Strengths
And something else to consider is what YOU are learning from your kids. Each child has his or her own unique strengths and can teach us something, whether it’s compassion, patience, or seeing the beauty in everything.