As a new mother I often find myself comparing my little girl’s behaviours to other babies who are around her age. Despite what I know about child development, I still have an irrational obsession over every little milestone that she has or has yet to reach and can’t help but feel a little concerned if she isn’t doing what some other babies are doing at her age. All this stress inevitably detracts from appreciating the present moment and celebrating her daily accomplishments.
To avoid unnecessary worry, I have to constantly remind myself that all babies develop at their own particular pace. Developmental milestones are meant to be useful guidelines about what to expect from your child but not precisely when. University of Victoria child development expert, Dr. Ulrich Mueller, reassures parents that,
“With respect to a lot of skills, children follow different routes and different timetables, but almost all children end up at a very similar end point: they ultimately become competent speakers of their native language (or languages), they learn how to walk and how to “control their sphincter muscles”, etc. Children learn these general skills in their own time.”
Ensuring that you provide every opportunity for your child to interact with you and the environment already provides a strong foundation to help them practice their motor and cognitive skills. As Dr. Mueller further explains that,
“There is nothing super special that parents need to do to facilitate the development of these skills. It suffices that they are there and care for their child –talk to, read to and play with their child, are sensitive and responsive. Almost all parents seem to do the right things intuitively (e.g., talk in a high-pitched voice, hold the baby at the right distance). Parents may be able to accelerate the acquisition of the above mentioned skills a little bit by doing special things, but they should consider whether this creates stress and has an emotional cost (for themselves and their own child). “
So the next time you compare your baby to Tommy-Talks-Alot who is babbling Shakespearean poetry at ten months, here are a few gentle reminders:
- Faster pace does not mean more “advanced”: acquisition of skills early in life does not necessary mean a child is going to be a genius (ok except maybe for Tommy-Talks-Alot – Shakespeare is hard!).
- Play at their pace: Remember that life as a baby is slower than life as an adult. I constantly have to remind myself to SLOW down, listen to her timing, wait and she will eventually respond. Give them the opportunity to interact. Besides slowing down is good for adults, it keeps us present and patient.
- Appreciate the NOW: All babies will learn to walk eventually but assisting them earlier than they can isn’t necessary going to ‘speed’ up her development. Certainly there is no need to hurry. Appreciating my child’s current experiences encourages me to see the world from their perspective as well.
There’s no need to be in a rush to get to the next stage. You want them to remain your little babies after all…