As new parents, whether we are venturing through parenthood for the very first time or navigating parenthood as we introduce multiple children into our growing families, understanding our children’s development can be tricky and overwhelming. We want the absolute best for our children and can become anxious and concerned about what they have or have not achieved, especially in comparison to other children around the same age. These worries can turn into obsessions and panic, driving us to research milestones on Google late into the night, scrolling through numerous child-based/focused instagram accounts or watching other friends parent their children only to wonder what we seem to be doing wrong if our child is not doing what they’re doing. Sound familiar? Do not fear, you are not alone! With this blog, we hope to share the importance of having realistic expectations of our children and what empowering support looks like.
Expectations: Real or False?
We have an interesting outlook in our society where we believe our kids are our “mini me’s”. We extend those expectations beyond looks and personality traits, to how children think and act as well. At times, we can expect a lot out of our children without realizing that these demands are unrealistic and unachievable. We can often force children to meet us where we’re at, in terms of being pulled along to multiple scheduled activities and social gatherings a week, to quick-paced days all the time to expecting milestone developments beyond their age range.
Unfortunately, continuously demanding children to meet us where we are in our fast-paced, super scheduled world is not always realistic. Needed at times? Yes! As a rule of thumb for life? No. Remember, kids can only do what their brains let them do and as such, development comes in stages. Keeping in mind, stages are often large ranges of times where some kids a.) learn skills at the onset of one stage, b.) learn them towards the end of the stage, or c.) learn some skills weeks or months later during another stage of skills and development.
There are a lot of outside influences that try to tell us as parents we can teach our children certain things at anytime. This can sound like, “if you just put in the time as a parent, they’ll learn it”, or “you’re child just needs better sleep or eating habits, to have the energy and nutrition to learn these skills”. These sayings are not always true, and often can be used by media influencers to hook you into their content, using your parent guilt vulnerability. Yes, as parents its important we attempt to foster sleep hygiene, eating habits and support learning - but all we can do is offer these skills, and watch as our babies learn them, day by day.
It’s also important to remember that skills like sleeping through the night, falling asleep on their own and managing emotions can take years to solidify and that is due to brain ability. These things don't develop in kids for years, some starting around age 3 when the prefrontal cortex starts to function and the rest begins developing through childhood. Some things like emotional regulation don't develop until 7-9 years old. With the influences out there, people are often trying to teach their kids skills that they're not ready to develop. So In the attempt to teach these great things, kids are actually developing their stress response (fight or flight). And this can actually cause the opposite behaviors
Understanding child development isn't easy. It can be hard to get out of our adult brains and to see the world from our child's perspective and within their range of abilities.It’s ok to let our children be children and to be learners of the world! They are humans, having human experiences and every minute is a learning experience for them. Just because some learning doesn't look like reading and writing, mathematics or motor skill development in the traditional sense doesn't mean valuable learning isn't happening. This learning is done at the pace of our children, using their own natural inquiry and curiosity, being led by their own creative imagination, thoughts and wonderment. That’s pretty cool too !