This is where I get on my soapbox and say “Stop pushing”. We don’t need to push our kids to develop early. Let them be children. Let them develop at their own pace.

** WARNING: EXPRESSING OPINIONS THAT MIGHT HIT HOT BUTTONS **

This is the third in a series on expectations and what we expect from our children at a young age. I have covered sharing and sitting still and I would like to look at advanced early development. Get ready for me to touch on some hot buttons for people. I am not sorry about that. I come at this from being a teacher, from having worked with children for 30 years and from being a parent. While I am not prescribing that what I say is right and you should totally agree with me, I am not going to shy away from my opinion on this. 

Since I started teaching I have seen an increase in pushing our children younger and younger to do things that they might not be ready for – from things like toilet training to reading, from vocabulary to creativity. Schools are pushing academics earlier. Kindergarten is the new first grade. We are moving away from allowing some things to grow organically to pushing them earlier, that advanced early development is a good thing. A quick look at child development and we can see that there are years and decades worth of research on how and when our children develop but sometimes we are throwing that out the window. 

With this push you would think that there are studies and research to show that it is right to accelerate intellectual development but in fact there isn’t any and the research that is there is showing it’s counterproductive.  

Part of the reason I love unschooling is that I am getting to see my girls learn and develop organically. They follow their interest and move ahead at their own time. Without really any formal instruction they are starting to read on their own, they are building up skills like cutting and writing letters on their own volition. 

young girl with painted face
letting children learn organically can be a very good thing

DO NOT COMPARE

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to not compare your children with others you know, or your own children…… They are walking earlier! Their vocabulary is so much more advanced. Why are they riding a bike without training wheels when mine can’t? Look! They are reading! My child is still wetting the bed at 5 years old. How did their child toilet train at 18 months? So many observations. So many questions.

Just stop. Don’t do it. I know it’s hard. I have twins and I find myself comparing too often, and they are the same age. It’s counterproductive. 

Here are some average ages of different developmental milestones:

  • Toilet training: 18 months to 3 years (that is a wide range!)
  • Walking: 9 months to 16 months
  • Simple sentences: 18 months to 2 years
  • Reading: by 6-7 years, even though some may read at 4 or 5
  • Writing legibly: 5-7 years
  • Basic math: 5-7 years 

Here is a list from the CDC that provides approximate milestones for birth through age 5.

girl with toy camera
there are a range of ages with developmental milestones

OTHER THINGS

Then there are the other things like doing chores, how they interact with others, how they play, gross and fine motor skills. It is quite a long list. Don’t get overwhelmed with it. You children will let you know if you are pushing them and they are not quite ready. 

(I did a vlog post on Doing Chores and what is deemed age appropriate. Check it out here.)


DON’T PUSH

Here is where I get on my soapbox and say “Stop pushing”. We don’t need to push our kids towards advanced early development. Let them be children. Let them develop at their own pace. We could in fact do some harm if we push them too soon. Reading at 3 isn’t really going to make them a better student in the long run. Trying to get our 2 year olds to do things that really 5 or 6 year olds are capable of, is only going to perhaps create a great big push back.

We are stealing our children’s childhood. As parents we need to be giving our children something they will never be able to experience again as adults….a childhood. Let your children run and play. Be free! 

As an adult:

  • You can’t just play with toys all day.
  • Being carefree seems to be a privilege and not a right.
  • You can’t just run around in your undies in the backyard being pirates.
  • You can’t just shove a baby doll up your dress, pretend to be pregnant and then pretend to give birth in the neighbor’s yard. 
  • Doing tricks on your bike in the cul-de-sac while everyone claps doesn’t really happen (and it probably should)
girl playing in water by rocks
Being a child is great! Let’s give our children a childhood

So, as I get down off my soap box, let’s not push our children too soon. Let’s not try and get them to meet developmental milestones before they are ready. We don’t need to push advanced early development. Of course, if you are concerned about delays, then seek advice from your pediatrician. I am also happy to chat with you and talk through ideas. But children are going to develop at their own pace in their own way. Let’s remove some of the expectations from them doing as well as your cousin’s roommates’ sister’s neighbor’s niece, or even your older child. 

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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