I'm a parent of a child who's striding into adulthood, eagerly awaiting the start of his college career. And I also spend a lot of time in the company of small children and their parents. I see a lot of parents who worry about their children's milestones. And I must confess that I too have been that parent - the parent who wonders if her child will ever walk, talk, graduate from diapers, eat solid food, complete homework assignments on time, or clean his room.
It’s a cliché that your child won’t go off to college still wearing diapers. The more important issue is what your child’s experience of childhood will be, on the way to mastering all these important milestones. When you relax and celebrate all the things your child can do, you give your child an experience of confidence, which can last the rest of your child’s life. However, if your focus is perpetually on the next step not yet achieved, your child may experience this as never quite measuring up. This is a much less secure feeling for a child, even if it originates out of your love and concern for your child.
All through my son’s childhood, whenever I pushed him to master a milestone before he was ready, we both were frustrated. When I relaxed and let go of expectations, he calmly and happily walked through whatever developmental door I had tried so hard to shove him through. And in the long run, it didn’t matter if he did it before or after his peers – he’s going off to college fully competent in all of the skills that matter.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t wait for your child to advance to the next step, my suggestion from my years of parenting is to relax. Enjoy the person your child is at this very moment. Savor the things your child can do now, without thinking ahead to what they’ll do next. This moment is pretty wonderful, whatever your child’s age. The future will come in good time, and you don’t have to push to make it come any faster. If you can do this, you’ll have less work, less worry – and more fun for both of you!