When I think of childhood development and the “heavies” of childhood developmental theory, such names as Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson come to mind. When I think along these lines, I also think of childhood developmental milestone charts. For sure these all have their place when we consider our children’s development and phases, as they are both theoretical constructs and suggest average, typical behavior, when looking at large populations of children in studies.
We remember Piaget for contributing the ideas of schemas, assimilation, and accommodation, when it comes to learning and processing new information. He also contributed the theories of preoperational, concrete operational, and the formal operational stages of development, in discussing our transition from early non-logical thinking to logical and abstract thinking in early adolescence and adulthood. When we think of Erikson, we often think of his eight stages of development. His thoughts on purpose and initiative and industry and the ability to learn new competent ices, in terms of preschool and school aged children, make a whole lot of sense. It especially resonates when we think of our children asking why at age three and four and then moving on to their own personal trying, doing, and learning so many new things during the early school years in elementary school.
The developmental milestone charts pediatricians use are also helpful and a real hands on- tool as we consider what our children are doing or not doing and if it seems to be in healthy normal limits. When our children’s development seems lacking, they provide a real starting point for a further conversation with doctors, educators, and special educators alike, when the school or we may need to be doing more for our children.
For these constructs and tools of measurement, I am glad. But just as a carpenter has many tools that build a house, I like looking at the house more than the tools. All too often, we get caught up in what the experts say our children should or should not be doing. As parents, we know our children best. By looking at our children closely and realizing what is their ‘normal’ and when they are outside of this behavior, we can often pinpoint areas of problem and strength better than anyone else. In my opinion, we need to stay attuned to our children and their needs first to gain understanding of an issue. The answers may be right before us. If need be, we can then consult the experts after that. It does take time but your child is worth the effort!