Within the last three days my daughter started to walk. Achieving this milestone at 14 months plus + is considered by some to be a little behind the ball game. With my second child I have become more aware of my parenting instincts and have been committed to parenting with my heart and not my mind. My gut instinct told me to not stand her up, not “practice” and not rush things and here’s why.
In my opinion, kids are less physically self-assured when their motor skills are not allowed to develop naturally. We see proof of this every day when the toddler steeps thoughtlessly off the steps or a child climbs up a play structure only to realize where is he and sends out panic cries for his parent.
As a society we have begun to value competition and pressure one another to be the first at everything. The motto “if you are not first you are last” sounds loud in our society. In child development we consider there to be a range of “Normal”.
Whether or not your child is in the 2nd Percentile or the 98th or they reach their milestones on time or ahead of schedule they are still just “Normal”. Someone has to fall above and below the average and where your child falls within the “Normal” is rather meaningless.
This fictional prize to be at the top is perpetuated by the pressure doctors, friends, and parents whom all make us feel our children need to advance as quickly as possible. One of the most common questions we get asked in the first year as parents is “is she sitting up yet?” “Is he crawling yet?” “Has she started walking?” This inadvertently puts pressure on us making us feel we need to fast tract our children or worse worry there is something wrong.
As parents we need to relax and feel comfortable knowing that each child’s development is uniquely directed. For instance, an infant given the opportunity to explore will discover “tummy time”, how to roll over, pull-up, stand and eventually walk on their own. Magda Gerber founder of resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) says; “Readiness is when they do it”. It is 100% true children will never hold back. They will always do exactly what they are capable of doing at this moment in time. To foster this innate desire to learn children should be allowed to freely explore their environment.
Children are naturally wired to advance their physical abilities without being taught how to do so .
Allowing your children to develop on their own terms will give them a sense of self-accomplishment. In addition their muscle strength, flexibility and coordination will develop in such a way that allows them to accomplish their next milestone. These children develop a keen awareness of their abilities and their surroundings. Practically speaking allowing children to progress naturally promotes physical safety. Children naturally seek balance and when they are constantly helped they develop the false illusion of physical competence which is dangerous. When we help children up and down play structures, stairs, etc they believe they can get down by themselves. They may reach out expected to be helped, when you are not there.
As an alternative stand close and allow your children to climb up and down themselves but don’t touch or help them. Assist them by allowing the opportunity but let them be the leaders in their own self-discovery. The child needs to be given the opportunity to practice and develop their own skills and abilities on their terms. Remember faster or earlier is not better. If a child becomes stuck, coach them through the process of getting down using the least possible interventions. A child allowed to fight with a problem will learn most from the experience. These children will also learn the important lessons of perseverance and how to overcome difficulties.
The separation between us and other species is not that we need to be taught how to move.
Babies and children are unique, capable human beings with the natural ability to learn without being “taught”. Give your children the opportunity to grow, learn and discover in the best way independently and at their own pace.