My older son started Primary 1 this year and sometimes, I worry about if he can ‘keep up’ with the level of work, ability and focus that will be expected from him as he still struggles a bit with his spelling.
I know he’ll be fine, but I can’t help but worry even though I tell myself repeatedly that I shouldn’t.
Why? Because I see the importance and weight that is given to certain “kids’ milestones” that children should be reaching in order to be tagged as “normal” and “healthy.”
Your child’s milestones matter
From birth and beyond, most, if not all, parents worry about kids milestones, and whether or not they are meeting them. | Image source: iStock
Child developmental milestones start right from the moment your baby is born and continue through his or her growing years.
Your newborn’s milestones include such things as gaining appropriate amounts of weight and being able to focus on your face, and continue to rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, etc.
As a child enters his preschool years there are more things he is expected to know how to do within a certain time-frame — reading, writing, spelling… the list goes on and on.
What this may do sometimes is put an enormous amount of pressure on parents — especially first-time mums and dads — to make sure their kids attain these various points of development.
Needless to say, parents worry immensely if their children don’t reach these milestones on time. What’s more, parental stress can easily affect their kids too.
The end result? Totally stressed-out parents and kids!
Different cultures, different milestones
In some cultures, kids milestones like crawling are bypassed altogether! | Image source: iStock
Needless to say, there are certain things that kids should be able to do by a certain age. If they don’t, it may be a red flag for more serious developmental issues.
Equally, it’s natural for parents to compare their children to others, and fret about their development.
But, did you know that some of the milestones we in Singapore consider as crucial to our child’s development are not so important in other cultures?
For example, in Australia, kids often don’t learn how to read and write till they are well into their first year of school. In rural parts of Sri Lanka, potty training is unnecessary because babies don’t wear diapers.
In other cultures, babies bypass crawling altogether because they are always held and carried by caregivers. They are also never expected to learn how to sleep on their own or self-soothe for that same reason.
This shows that some of the milestones we place so much importance on are actually defined by culture and, as such, are certainly not set in stone.
The milestones that parents really need to consider
Bearing the aforementioned in mind, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if we place too much emphasis on some skill sets that are very much valued in Singapore, such as excelling in studies no matter what, or aiming to win at all times.
Perhaps it’s time to teach our children a whole new set of skills that will help them become more well-rounded adults, and place equal importance on the milestones that mark these abilities.
Milestone 1: Your child accepts defeat graciously.
One of the kids’ milestones that you should consider: Does your child know how to accept defeat gracefully? | Image source: iStock
It’s certainly fine for kids to have a healthy sense of competition that will help them ace an exam or win a race.
But, in the real world, we win some and we lose some. A kid who is not taught how to accept defeat graciously will most probably grow up to be a sore loser and an arrogant adult.
So, teach your child humility. Teach her that it’s OK not to win all the time and that this only means she has another opportunity to try harder. Show her how to be a gracious loser and genuinely be happy for the person who ‘wins’.
Milestone 2: Your child is empathetic towards others.
A high IQ is something most parents value and would want their kids to have. But have we ever considered that having a high EQ (Emotional Quotient) is just as important?
Recently, I was standing in a crowded train. A heavily pregnant woman got in and while it was quite obvious that she was very uncomfortable standing, not one person offered their seat to her. One man even pretended to be sleeping!
Eventually, a mother with a child sitting on her lap gave the pregnant lady her seat.
I mentally applauded the mother for the example she was setting for her child in the midst of everyone else who chose not to empathise with the pregnant woman.
Teach your child to be empathetic to the needs of others and you can be sure that he or she will touch everyone they meet with warmth and kindness, even when they are already adults.
Milestone 3: Your child can clean up after himself.
Having a helpful child is one of the many kids’ milestones that may be taken for granted. | Image source: iStock
In Singapore, many of us are lucky to have helpers to assist us with our daily chores.
While this is a blessing for many busy parents, the extra help means that children are often not taught how to clean up after themselves. Such habits will often last with kids right till adulthood.
You certainly don’t want your child to grow up and be one of those people who leaves a huge mess for others to clean up in the office kitchen or in their own home, right?!
Teach your child the importance of cleanliness and order. Encourage him to always clean up after he has finished playing and show him how to place his dirty clothes in the dirty linen basket.
Someday, when your child is an adult, someone else is bound to appreciate your child’s good habit!
Milestone 4: Your child cares for his sibling/s.
A child who looks out for his sibling is bound to show the same care and respect for others too, even when he is older.
That is why you should encourage your older child to help his little brother or sister, even if it’s just with simple things like getting dressed or getting a drink of water.
In addition, teach your children how to look out for each other always, whether at school or at the park.
If you can do this, you’ll see this care for each other blossom into a wonderful friendship as they grow older.
The bonus? You’re also bound to see them care for others in the same way too.
Milestone 5: Your child is courteous, respectful and honest.
Don’t let your child grow up to be an ungracious adult who takes everything and everyone for granted.
Teach him how to be polite and respectful to everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
Also, teach him that it’s not ok to lie to you and others, and always praise him when he tells the truth.
Little words such as “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” go a long way, as does owning up to a mistake. A child who learns to do these things is sure to grow up into a respectful, courteous and honest adult.
Milestone 6: Your child knows how to take care of our environment.
Kids milestones like knowing the importance of protecting our planet are just as important as milestones in education and other aspects. | Image source: iStock
We often take our planet and the amazing resources it offers us for granted. Teach your children to think differently and care for the planet.
Set an example for them and recycle your plastics, glass and paper.
Grow tomatoes in a pot and show your child the wonder and beauty of harvesting your own food.
Go on regular nature walks and encourage your child to appreciate the beauty of nature and, most importantly, the importance of protecting the environment.
Again, respect and care for nature and the environment will almost always translate into respect and care for fellow human beings.
So parents, the next time you are fretting about your 1.5 year old’s inability to speak in full sentences, or are worried that your 4-year-old can’t spell 4-letter words yet, we urge you: stop, pause and take a deep breath.
Instead, see how tenderly your child holds his little brother’s hand as they walk to the park together. Watch the joy and amazement on your child’s face as he sees a butterfly emerge from a cocoon.
Be proud of your little one as he dutifully puts away his toys after playing or gives up his seat in the bus to an older person.
Most of all, rejoice in the fact that your child is well on the way to achieving some of the most important milestones of life.
Do you agree that there are other skill-sets and “milestones” that are important to teach our kids, other than the ones we read about in child development books? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.