A “well-developed” child…what does he or she look like? Beautiful? Handsome? Clean and tidy? If the hair is a mess and the eyes look a little sad, is something wrong with him/her? When you see my kid, do you see a well-developed child? When I see your kid, do I see a well-developed child? Who is the well-developed child? What qualifies them as so? What traits does this superior child have?
It is probably one of the biggest worries a parent has — is my child developing properly and growing up “right”? Will the general public think so? Will the private school admissions office agree?
Is the well-developed child the one that is getting straight A’s and never gets in trouble? Is the well-developed child the kid that is socially adept and has the most friends? Is the well-developed child the creative independent thinker?
The problem with our view of children and youth today is that, amongst some, there is this belief that there is one standard for qualifying your child as well-developed; there are developmental milestones described to you since your child’s birth and if they are not meet, on a timely schedule or on schedule with the average child, then they are judged — or rather you are judged, because they are not developing right. The problem with this is that there is no development pattern that every single children should be expected to follow; each child develops in a unique way and there is much variation between individuals. My child is no less, or more, well-developed than yours.
As a society, we need to stop focusing on our children’s achievements and perceived “successes,” but rather on their ambitions and self-established goals. Our only objective, as the parent, should be to ensure that our child is healthy and happy and feels competent and confident. We should further encourage our child to feel a sense of purpose and help them to find what they feel passionate about–whatever that may be.
Instead of pushing our children to be “rockstars” in certain areas of their life or directing them to aim to be “top of the class,” we should be simply be providing opportunities for intellectual, physical and emotional growth. Many parenting books will tell you, that rather than applauding your child’s “wins,” you should, instead, make recognition of all of their hard work and their steadfast motivation that resulted in their perceived achievement.
As a group, parents also need to stop comparing our children to other children. It is so easy to pick up on differences between your child and your friend’s child and wonder if yours is falling behind or lacking in someway. Do not do this. Do not compare siblings, either. Every child grows at a different pace and because of different experiences. The way your child learns best is unique to them.
Let’s make the effort to identify our child’s specific learning style and meet them where they are comfortable.
Let’s forget about milestones. Let’s stop making judgements. Let’s drop all the labels.
Let’s let our children be who they are and who they aspire to be…and let’s let them take all the time they need to get there.
The longest journey for your child will be their journey of self-discovery — be their travel partner.