What do plants need to grow? Water, air, nutrients, and sunlight.
What does your child need to grow? Besides love and chicken nuggets, that is. And how do you know if your child is on track, behind, or ahead of the curve? To answer these questions accurately it is important to have a developmental point of view.
“What does that mean?” you ask.
Cue Dr. Arnold Gesell, founder of the Yale Child Study Center.
In the early 20th century, Dr. Gesell, a psychiatrist and pediatrician, observed and documented patterns in the way children develop. He found that all children pass through the same stages of development; however, the rate and pace varies for each child. In fact, the younger the child, the more variance in development there is among children of the same age.
For example: Walking develops on average at 12 months. But the normal range varies from 8 ¾ months all the way to 17 months. A nine month window seems like quite the gap. But with reading, the normal window is even wider. The normal range spans several years, with 50% of children achieving the feat before age 6 ½, some as early as 3 or 4, and 50% achieving it later, some closing in on 8 years old.
“Why is this important for me to know?” you might be wondering.
Because when we compare our child to our friend’s child of the same age, pediatrician charts, or social media posts, we have a tendency to freak out if our child is trending “behind.” Conversely, we can mistakenly assign superior/gifted status to the child who is first in the playgroup to walk, talk, or potty-train. Savvy parents know that each child develops on their own pace and differences between young children are to be expected.
Here’s another fun fact:
Research by the Gesell Institute of Human Development has shown that a child’s growth is not always an even ride from less to more maturity. Instead, smooth, calm behavior alternates with unsettled, uneven behavior - think roller coaster. Some experts in the field refer to this as going through periods of “equilibrium” when children are more a joy to be with versus “disequilibrium” when their behavior can be more challenging. It is almost as if children need to take two steps back developmentally before taking a huge leap forward. They often gain new skills during these difficult phases.
So, if your child’s behavior seems to take a turn for the worse or if he seems to be more difficult to manage, don’t freak out (do you notice a theme emerging?). It may be that a stage of equilibrium has given way to a stage of disequilibrium. You are experiencing the roller coaster of development first-hand.
Want to learn more?