We don’t expect our babies to magically pop up on their feet and launch into breakdancing when they’re still taking wobbly steps, furniture surfing because they’re unsure. As they grow, we shouldn’t expect them to do chores or activities correctly if they’re not developmentally ready or we haven’t shown them how we want it done.
Calm, thorough information and training along with practice guided by a patient person who values the child and wants what is best for them, these are the ingredients of love and healthy communication. It’s an ideal, but one more likely to be approached if it’s defined and allowed to float through your brain when opportunities arise.
One example: Emptying the trash seems self-explanatory and trivial. Kids have seen you do it for eight or nine years; now it’s their turn. Let’s go with that. Announce to your child that taking out the garbage is their newest chore. Walk away. Don’t explain. First try includes spilled trash, some inside and some out. The bag is on top of a full garbage can, but not closed securely. The dog hurries to eat what he can grab because he knows he has a narrow window. Said dog grabs a sticky, messy wrapper and drags it behind the couch. You walk in from another room exclaiming, “What is this? Who made this mess? Get outside, Rover!” as you open the backdoor.
Your nine-year-old bops into the room. “I took out the trash!”
How easily could the mess have been avoided, so both of you are pleased with the results? Let them know they’re going to have a new chore. Have them watch as you lift out the full trash and put in a new bag. Ask them to carry it out to the garbage can. If they can’t carry it, they’re not ready for that chore. Next time, your child takes the lead and you’re there for assistance and moral support. When you’re both confident that the trainee is good to go, you’ll be able to say, “Please empty the trash.”
Repeat the model, train, practice, and independent ability cycle as the child grows and can handle new skills. And so, familiarizing yourself with ages and stages of development is crucial to good parenting and positive discipline. (Remember, the word ‘discipline’comes from Greek, meaning ‘to teach and guide.’) By taking an active role in learning about your child as well as exploring parenting styles, rather than assuming you’ve got it all figured out because you have lots of younger siblings or babysat frequently, you are loving and developing a strong attachment bond with your child, a crucial keystone in constructing a meaningful life as individuals and as a family.
Imagine you’re building a house. You draw up plans and meet with a builder. As he looks over your plans and photos of the site, he asks, “I see some sort of foundation poured here. You had someone else contracted before?”
You answer, “Oh, that. No. We were going to do it all ourselves but we’re having issues with cracks from freezing because it wasn’t deep enough to set well. There is a lot of water flooding up around the footings when it rains. Also, we chose a less expensive concrete to lower costs but it had some chunks in it when we mixed it ourselves by hand. That saved us a lot but it was so difficult. We were exhausted and only got a little over half done.”
When someone at the building company suggests you’ll need to tear out what you’ve done in order to make the home safe and functioning well, do you protest because you followed a coworker’s advice and your colleague in the publishing company is very intelligent? Perhaps you want to proceed without removing the unfit foundation, but the builder says you’ll have to find someone else. Another guy you met outside the home improvement store says he can finish the house as is. He explains he can leave holes through which the rainfall can escape. He’s sure you won’t even notice this for 15-20 years.
Likewise, setting a foundation for a life is best done with knowledge and attention. You can do it the way you see it done by friends and family, but the early childhood foundation cannot be torn out and replaced. You might think, “It’s just a baby or toddler. Parent, as a verb, at this stage is just about diapers and bottles.”
On the contrary, while you’re not expecting much from a baby or toddler, you are playing a crucial role in setting the footings and preparing the ground for the next steps. How so? Your infant/toddler thrives on predictability. In the first months, keeping a daily schedule and routine teaches your baby they’re safe. They can count on a caregiver reacting to their cries. Food and diaper changes provided regularly, teaches the child that they are loved, lovable, and their needs will be met. Future learning and confidence will be as strong as the foundation.
Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.
For resources on physical, emotional, and psychosocial development, Google child development for articles, charts, and books. There are printable pdf’s. If you select images, you’ll see many informative charts. Rather than providing links to two or three sites, I think people will respond differently to the colorful styles and layouts.