Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Developmental Olympics

At the beginning of Tracy's Hogg's (AKA: The Baby Whisperer) book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All of Your Problems she discusses what she calls The Developmental Olympics. The Developmental Olympics is exactly what it sounds like--this intense pressure and "training" we submit our kids to in the area of development. Don't lie...you've done it. You're at play group and you notice Sally Jane, who is two weeks younger than your little one is saying "Da, da" and "Ma, Ma" all throughout the play group. "Why isn't my little Susie saying ma, ma yet??," you wonder. A wave of jealously, mixed with slight feelings of inadequacy slowly comes across you. You leave the play group and spend the rest of the afternoon in your daughter's face saying, "Ma, ma, da, da! Can you say ma, ma? Can you say da, da?" until she swats you with her sippy cup.

Why do we do this? Haven't we heard a zillion times that "Children develop at different rates?" Sure we have. And we believe it, too.... just so long as our kids are the one developing the fastest! I think much of this is brought on by all of those lovely BOOKS on development. You know which ones I am talking about, What to Expect The First Year, What to Expect The Toddler Years, Your Baby's First Year Week by Week....that last book to me is the kicker. Has anyone read this book?? It tells you, week-by-week what your baby "should" be doing. For instance, "Week 4--your baby is smiling this week!" Um, not she's not! Should I be rushing her to the emergency room???

Books aside, I also think there is something innate with our generation (Gen X & Y) that somehow makes us think that if our kids aren't the BEST at something, then they're not good enough. As a special education teacher, I have had parents come to me saying they thought their child had a learning disability because they were reading at the 50th percentile. 50th percentile, my friends is called AVERAGE. A learning disability occurs when students are significantly below average--think FIFTH percentile, not fiftieth!

I am not saying we should just accept "average" from our kids. Sure, we need to push them so they can become the best that they can be--within reason. It is important to understand what you can control and what you cannot. Maybe your child says her first word 2 months after your friend's child. SO WHAT. It does not mean your friend's child is verbally gifted or destined for some kind of greatness. It also doesn't mean your kid is slow or has weak verbal ability. She just took her a little longer to speak up. That's it. If there was really a problem with some "milestone," your doctor would speak with you about it. And if she's reading at the 50th percentile and not the 95th, maybe you can spend some extra time reading with her. Talk to her teacher. See if there are things you can do to help her along. But for heaven sake, don't put this intense pressure on your child to make them a 95th percentile kid-- it's just not worth it.

I have learned with Brookey that there is a fine line between "firm encouragement" and pushing her over the edge. For example, I firmly encourage her to always try new things and not shy away from unfamiliar situations--because it seems to be in her nature to do so. On the other hand, if I push her too hard, she'll become frustrated and completely shut down. You have to determine the correct balance between encouraging and just letting them proceed at their own pace...and every child has a different balance that works for them.

When you put things into perspective, in the long run, no one really gives a damn when your precious Sally Jane sat up, said her first word or rolled over. So long as it's within NORMAL limits (and I am telling you--"normal limits" encompass a HUGE range!), we all have nothing to worry about. I have to admit, however that it is so much fun to get excited about our kid's many milestones, especially during the infant stage when it seems like everyday is a new milestone...just so long as we don't take it too seriously.

I know, I know, I can say it until I am blue in the face: "Children develop at different rates." I know you--you will still compare. It's okay, I forgive you...because I will, too. Maybe it's just a motherly instinct that we want our kids to be successful. Maybe you are just trying to get a gauge on where your child is compared to others. That's fair. Just make sure as you are comparing, that you are being fair to the child in front of you. Don't force her into the Olympics when she is still struggling at the Regionals.

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