Guiding our little ones through early childhood is one the hardest jobs in the world. And there’s no single go-to manual that tells us how we should manage this difficult task. Of course, bookshops and websites offer many parenting books, and – given the opportunity – anyone, from relatives, to friends, to complete strangers, will weigh in with their bit of advice. But how can you be a ‘good’ parent and try to make sense of all this information to create an environment in which your children can flourish?
Surf Excel believes that childhood is so important, and we want to help give you the power to let your children really unleash their potential and experience life to the fullest. Here is some helpful advice about child development and how you can give your child the best start in life.
Monitoring Your Child’s Progress: Stages of Child Development
Parenting books are all well and good, but they often contain conflicting points of view: different child development theories that attempt to give you a framework for understanding your child. These theories tend to suggest a particular timeline or strategy according to which a child must progress. Child development stages attempt to define the point at which a child is expected to achieve certain physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills.
The word ‘milestones’, also usually crops up, as theories for different stages of child development tend to hinge around specific events – like learning to walk, or saying a first word. Of course, when we recognize that our child is following similar patterns, it’s easy enough to believe that these theories are correct. But what happens if your child doesn’t fall neatly into those categories, or doesn’t acquire skills exactly as they ‘should’?
While theories of development can be helpful for parents and educators – who have the challenge of judging whether a child is progressing appropriately – clearly they can also be a great source of stress. And stressed adults make for stressed children, which is not a great state of affairs!
Comparing your children to others of the same age is also not a helpful strategy. These days it is generally accepted that children reach different milestones at different times. Additionally, various cultures rate the importance and timing of developmental milestones differently.
This is why UNESCO is has been working on a project to produce a ‘holistic index ’ against which child development can be measured – an important tool for parents, teachers, health professionals, and policy-makers alike. If you’re worried about your child’s progress – if they haven’t met a milestone, or seem out of sync with their peers, try to give both your child and yourself some more time to work things out, and then bring up your concern with a health professional.
Pressurising your child into making a developmental leap –for which they are not ready – may be counterproductive. Often a wait-and-see approach works best.
How Parents Can Encourage and Influence Child Development
Well, we’ve all heard of the nature vs. nurture debate: regardless of the individual theory of child development that we subscribe to, we all acknowledge that certain childhood experiences and influences contribute to our identities later in life. Since our parenting styles and the choices we make on behalf of our children will influence who they later become, it’s very important to think carefully about our behaviour, our values, and our expectations – are we creating the best environment for our children, one where they can develop and grow?
Children look to those around them for guidance; a consistent, yet adaptable and positive approach to parenting will provide your child with the right environment in which they can thrive. Clear communication, particularly about boundaries and moral codes, also means that everyone will know what to expect. And simply spending quality time with your children will do much to further your parenting goals – kids love playing with their parents, inside and outside.
Just meeting the basic needs of your children – by providing them with a safe, stable, healthy, supportive, and loving home – will give your child ample encouragement and opportunity to develop at their own pace.