How To End The Stress About Achieving Milestones
It is through classes and books written by child expert Magda Gerber, that I discovered how babies develop at their own pace, and there is no need to rush them through developmental milestones. Instead, she encourages parents to enjoy the present, and discover what babies CAN DO in the moment rather than motivating them to do more. She said, "Why do we care so much how soon children achieve developmental milestones? Why do many of us want our children to achieve them as early as possible? Pressure damages a child's delicate self-confidence by telling her, 'Be other than what you are.'"
trust child-led milestones
How’s it going staying relaxed about child-led milestones, awesome mama? Have you deleted the app that scares the bleep out of us when our child “isn’t on track” and trusted in their unique process?
It was such a joy to lay my children as babies simply on their backs (no baby equipment needed!), the most comfortable and relaxed position for a baby, and allow them to move freely and develop at their own pace. Sometimes they'd gaze out the window for awhile, or play with their hands in the sunshine, or reach for a nearby toy.
When we observe a baby on her back, we notice how able she is to stretch, reach, move, and even gracefully achieve a milestone like rolling over, crawling, and sitting up - versus being stuck in a sitting position or in baby equipment. You might also notice the diverse range of capabilities from baby to baby - and how gorgeously unique each baby is when we give plenty of time to freely play. If you’d like to find out more, this is a great read.
If you’d like, you can lay your baby down on her back, or if your baby is crawling, watch what she can do (and resist the inkling we all have to “teach!”). There is so much magic in being in the present with our children, and it changes day by day.
Sometimes It’s Hard
It was hard on some days just to trust (ya know?), but deep down I knew my babies had their own body wisdom and timeline. This means I didn’t prop up my children to sit, or walk them with their hands to teach them. Instead I allowed plenty of free movement and observed (here are 9 benefits including body wisdom and safety.)
Trusting does involve shifting our viewpoints about "being on track.” Though I think it’s important to listen to our doctors, I also didn’t stress too much when one my son was developing “on time” in every way except for walking. He started walking at close to 17 months when he was ready (considered late on many baby apps!), and at 2 years old he runs faster than me!
Child-Led Milestones With Older children
If you have older children, what are they up to these days? Are you observing any new interests emerging?
Even now, as 5 year old Sister starts kindergarten, I try my best to honor her as a whole person and there is no rush to learn as quickly as possible. These days, her developmental milestones includes learning academics like numbers and letters, but also taking a family nature walk with more joy and knowledge about what she observes in nature, and doing something artsy in every free moment!
2 and a half year old Brother has shown a lot of interest in "potty learning" and has led the way with support from us, but without any pressure, rewards or punishments. He's quite proud of himself. He also laughs at a good joke and can build a tall tower with blocks all on his own. Yes, I'm certainly enjoying both children exactly as they are, and the payoff of child-led milestones is confidence and acceptance of who we are.
I share some of my children’s self-directed play in my Instagram stories, if you’d like to be friends?
Trust our Mother Milestones
I wonder, as mothers, if we could relax more about our own milestones, without the pressure and rewards and punishments we put on ourselves to learn parenting as fast as we can. Are you doing that for yourself, sweet friend? It’s such a gift.
Not too long ago, I scolded myself for not being closer to Brother when he licked paint off of his paintbrush like a lollipop. I was probably cooking dinner. "What kind of mother lets a 2 year old paint unsupervised? I should know better," I said to myself as I dialed poison control staring in dismay at his green stained smiling lips (apparently, eating a little paint is no big deal, as long as you don't mind paint colored poop).
To me, it feels like self-care when I don't feel the need to guilt myself and worry I'm not learning parenting fast enough. I'll get there eventually, in my own time and in my own way. Let's allow ourselves to learn at our own pace and feel the joy in what we CAN DO.
Since mamas I meet have the powers of Wonder Woman - and are also creative, educated, loving, and intentional in their relationships with their children, my guess is that who you are is an accomplishment already. If you’d like to hang out sometime, here is a link to my newsletter + playgroups I host.
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Sending so much love to you,