Every parent can tell you they’ve had some version of The Milestone Conversation with fellow parent friends. Everyone means well enough, but it’s all too tempting to compare children who are close in age. When did she start crawling? Is he pulling up yet? Is she talking in sentences? When did he start making animal sounds? It’s nearly impossible for all parties involved to walk away from The Conversation without feeling inadequate, worried, or stressed out. Inevitably you’ll feel that your own child has fallen short in one way or another at some point during their early development. Frantic Google searches, online baby board posting, and devouring of books can only add to the worry at times. But how concrete are the guidelines for when children should hit milestones? And what good can come from all of the worrying? We’ve compiled four reasons you should stop stressing about milestones.
Don’t trust parental memories
Here is a perfect example from a parent of ours:
“I started watching my friend’s four-month-old every now and again when the new parents needed a night out, alongside my son who is seven months older. Almost immediately I became concerned about my friend’s son, convinced that he was experiencing delays. I clearly remembered my own son being more interactive and inquisitive at the same age. But when I went back and looked at pictures of my son at that age, I was shocked at what I saw. Picture after picture of a disengaged baby, not making eye contact, smiling, or laughing with any consistency.
Bottom line: My sleep-deprived new parent brain was not to be trusted. I couldn’t help but wonder how many parents were unknowingly leading me astray about when their child had reached milestones. Even my own mother was convinced that I had been speaking in full sentences around my first birthday, though follow-up questions proved that to be incorrect. The truth is that those first few years go by so quickly and developments happen at such a rapid pace, that anecdotal evidence isn’t really worth a whole lot.”
This is pretty typical. Memories don’t always align with the facts.
Kids tend to have one-track minds
If you’re worried that your daughter isn’t talking when you think she should, take note of what she IS doing. It’s entirely possible that she is devoting her time and energy to mastering walking instead. Focusing on the negative is all too easy as a parent, but taking stock of all of your child’s abilities, whether they appear on a list of milestones or not, will more often than not reassure you that they’re just developing at their own pace.
There is no typical child
CDC guidelines indicate that a 2 year old should say sentences with 2-4 words and a 3 year old should carry on conversations using 2-3 sentences. Those are modest standards compared to popular parenting website Babycenter.com which tells parents to look for those 2-4 word sentences as early as 18 months. WebMd.com indicates parents should expect their child to know 50 words by age 2 while Parenting.com says the same about 16-month-olds. The truth is that kids around the world and in the same neighborhood can reach speech milestones at very different times. When the “normal” range is so large, it’s easy to worry before you really need to.
Worrying won’t make anything better
A popular aphorism cuts to the heart of the matter- “worrying will never change the outcome.” Needlessly stressing about perceived deficits or missed milestones and comparing your child to others can rob your days with your child of joy. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and entrepreneur Richard Branson all were considered slow to develop as children. Of course you should always listen to your doctor’s advice and advocate for your child if your gut strongly tells you they might need intervention, but more likely than not your child is simply developing at their own pace.
Do you have any concerns or questions? Let us know and we’d be happy to chat.