This Too Shall Pass: Why a developmental lens on your kids will set you free
Being a parent brings up loads of baggage — memories, judgments, regrets, and even feelings of shame. We project these feelings and others- our neighbor, sibling, and or spouse. We get distracted by the thought that we — or they — just aren’t doing it RIGHT.
I’m here to say it’s a load of horse$@*! You can direct your energy somewhere else because we’re all going through the muck of parenting: struggling with our children’s behavior and our very human reactions. While our challenges come in different shapes and sizes, we all have them or have had them over the course of our parenting lives.
For example, we may react/judge/project when the following happens…
- my daughter refuses to walk to school with our neighbor and her longtime friend,
- my son finds a sharpie in the car and decides to “decorate” the interior,
- my daughter runs circles around me every night and won’t go to bed,
- my middle schooler screams, “I hate you” when I ask her to clean her room,
- my kindergartner ‘moons’ his classmates during a music lesson.
This is the stuff of life. This is the stuff of parenting. And the good news is that most of these seemingly unbearable moments will pass.
When you share your parenting struggles with me, I offer my empathy and support. Internally, I usually smile because I feel confident that one day this struggle will become something you’ll find humor in. You will move on and your kids will grown out of the stage (could be 6 hours, 6 months or years) that seemed so awful when you were in. The unbearable can become a tender memory.
We’re human. We all go through growing pains in one way or another.
Whether it’s a bear hunt or parenting (what’s the difference?), it’s true: Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, we gotta go through it.
The pattern of human and child development is not in one direction: it’s a spiral. One direction would be constant motion towards improvement. A spiral is a corkscrew pattern, a back and forth, equilibrium followed by disequilibrium.
Normal Development Can…
- Be sporadic and inconsistent
- “Appear” to have setbacks
- Include negative and positive behaviors, both of which help the child grow and develop
Each age has a predictable personality all its own.
Click here for a list of typical developmental characteristics for ages 6 months to 16 years. Please note: This site describes average behaviors for each age level. If your child’s behavior doesn’t fit a particular stage, not to worry, it may be coming or have passed. Or maybe it happened so quickly, you didn’t even notice it. Some kids travel through the stages more smoothly while others take a more jagged route.
The good news? It’s all ‘normal.’
For example, let’s look at our ‘mooning’ kindergartner and how his behavior lines up with what’s ‘typical’ for a 5 ½ year old. According to the Gessell Institute, during this period kids are likely to be….
- Brash, combative, argumentative
- Can’t make up their minds
- Need consistent rules
- Extremely emotional; emotions can fluctuate to opposite extremes
- Complains a lot
- Shows initiative and tries things – often unsuccessfully
- When speaking, elaborates more than 5 yr. old did
- Is the center of his world – has not yet developed a secure sense of self
- Mom has moved into second place – gets blamed for everything that goes wrong
- More restless, less motor control
- Confusion in spatial orientation, peak age for reversals
So mooning is ok?
Looking at this list, can we see the mooning as a not that weird or unexpected after all? Maybe it doesn’t even merit a big response since we know that our usually quiet little boy is capable of being unpredictable, brash or aggressive without warning.
When we keep the developmental perspective in mind, it gets pretty simple. These ‘bad’ behaviors can feel huge, overwhelming and complicated and our first urge is to react. But maybe they’re a clue that your child is just where he needs to be. Maybe, knowing about development we have room to respond with peace, humor, compassion, and…relief.
Maybe our child is right on track and doing exactly what his or her developmental stage dictates.
I just took a deep breath. I hope you did, too.
- Visit this development resource.
- Do these typical behaviors ring true to you?
- Report back in the comment section below with a story of your child’s typical behavior or simply share what you learned by checking out the list.
Feeling relieved? I hope so
I believe we could change the world if we all understood that we go through stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium throughout our lives. It’s helpful to talk about what’s tough and also typical behavior for children at various ages.
By the way, it was my kid who mooned his classmates and while I was a bit shocked at the time, I’m happy to report that he hasn’t become a serial mooner. We chuckle a lot over that story now 🙂