It’s not about the milestones!! An exploration of the psychology of child development, the non-interference theory and how to help your little one to develop self-esteem and confidence from early infancy.
I‘ll never forget the day my son crawled for the first time. I had let go of attempting to ‘teach’ him, which I had tried a little, here and there. I feared that he had no one to model it to him, apart from a kid or two at our weekly playgroup.
But I let that go and decided to trust.
After all, babies have been learning how to crawl, naturally on their own since the birth of humanity. Why do we feel a need to control everything and to tick off the milestones like a to-do list?
The moment he ‘got’ crawling, and it all came together for him, was just beautiful. ‘I did it’ was written all over his face. It was so self-validating for him.
He got to fully own that achievement rather than feeling like he’d just finally done something mum & dad wanted him to do. Believe me, children can feel the difference!
Getting out of the way!
Magda Gerber, of Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) in Los Angeles, is a child development specialist and advocate for ‘non-interference’ – letting the infant develop at their own rate.
This approach stems from the view that there’s is a tendency for adults to force children to develop too rapidly. The speed of development through these early years is already a pretty amazing accomplishment!
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Parents’ often want to speed up the process even more due to a desire to have a ‘smart, accomplished’ child. Ironically, pushing towards new movements and skills that the child isn’t yet neurologically prepared for disturbs organization, and can actually cause the child to be what’s referred to as ‘inefficiently integrated.”
The key is giving the child freedom of movement. Spontaneous and self-initiated movement gives the child far more joy and they become intrinsically motivated to learn.
Parents often want their child to “progress” as quickly as possible with their neuromuscular and intellectual development. However, research supports allowing children to take their time moving within the transitional stages between each ’milestone’.
These transitional stages seem to be really important, not only to their neuromuscular development but to their psychological development as well.
Each child has her own unique way of the body integrating itself into the world. Bypassing some of these steps might initially seem beneficial because it accelerates a child’s development. But this practice may not be in our children’s best interest in the long term.
So what is Respectful Parenting?
Having faith in your child’s competency and their ability to figure things out! And what a beautiful message for your child to absorb – that someone has faith in their ability, that you believe in them & regard them as a whole person.
This fosters incredible self-confidence!
Otherwise, we could be creating patterns of dependency that can make our lives harder in the short term and our child’s life harder in the long-term.
So what CAN I do to support my child?
Janet Lansbury outlines 4 necessary factors that children need for natural development
- A safe space for free play
- Freedom of movement
- Uninterrupted, unrestricted floor time
- Responsiveness, without interference. Simple checking for safety when needed.
Giving them space
Many parents believe it’s their job to keep their children constantly occupied and stimulated, so they fill their environment with things to do.
But children actually learn best when they do less and have more time to digest, integrate and assimilate their experiences.
Being bored is good for them and encourages independence and imagination.
Giving your child control over her body and environment.
This involves placing your baby on her back, in a face-up position, so she will have the greatest access to their hands and legs as well as a full view of the world around them.
From this position, they develop good hand-eye coordination and as well as the transitions needed to turn from back to stomach to begin the process of crawling.
Refrain from placing children in positions they can’t maintain on their own, including on their stomach before they can roll from their back by themselves, or sitting or standing, until they can achieve these positions on their own.
This includes using “jolly jumpers,” or in seated walkers for long periods. Allow your baby the process of natural development involving moving through all their natural transitions.
How can I develop trust?
- Honour our child’s free will – let them choose, trusting their individual learning agenda rather than imposing ours on them. Refrain from imposing preconceived notions or comparing one child to another.
- Honor each child’s unique developmental process rather than focusing on results, accomplishments, and milestones.
- Lovingly support them through their frustration, disappointment, and failure, normalizing these difficult, but healthy life experiences.
- Let them do it their way, even if we believe our way is better!
If the idea of ‘Respectful Parenting‘ is feeling right for you, I highly recommend these two books to learn more:
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
Each child is a unique and capable person with innate ability to learn without being ‘taught’. If we can come to view our children in this way, we’re giving our children a great gift, and creating opportunity for far greater connection with them too 🙂