It’s very tempting to compare your baby to his playmates. But there are some strong reasons why we should not.
We put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves as moms. We want to give our babies the ideal entry into the world, we want to fit into our pre-preggie jeans right away, and appear to have it all under control. Most of us also desperately want our babies to be developmentally ahead – or at least - on the curve.
“It’s natural for us as moms to want the best for our little ones and to want them to be the best! There is comfort in knowing that your little one is developing similarly to others. If our little one stands out as different, we want it to be because they are quicker, faster or better!” says occupational therapist for Nubabi Carly Tzanos.
But, the real measure of your child’s development is how he’s progressing compared to himself - not anyone else.
There are certain skills which are in the developmental spotlight at certain times and if you watch your little one, he will give you clues as to what he’s working on at any given time. If you are able to spot these and provide opportunities for him to practice them more, then you will help consolidate the skill. This will allow your baby to use this skill as a building block for the next one.
Babies do not always have the same developmental challenges in their spotlights at the same time. Thus if you are too busy comparing him to others and pushing him to do what his peers are doing, then you will miss out on this opportunity to help her cement what she is wired to do at that time. Rather look out for what she is interested in doing and help her to develop that milestone so she progresses according to her own developmental sequence, says occupational therapist Lourdes Bruwer.
“Invariably as your baby is excelling at one (gross motor), he may be a bit slower at another (speech). The brain picks it’s battles and focuses attention on where the greatest learning potential currently is. Montessori schools actually align themselves to this - allowing children of different ages to be in the same class and allowing a child to learn something when they are ready as opposed to when the curriculum is ready to teach it,” explains Lourdes.
All children develop at their own pace and they will move on from one developmental milestone to the next when they are ready and when they have been given the opportunity.
Spending all your energy on getting to the next major milestone leaves little time to revel in, enjoy, celebrate and really cement the skills they are learning.
“When my little one was little, he was so busy working on his speech and coming up with new words daily, that he didn’t spend much time on his fine motor development. His little friend of a similar age was clearly working on his fine motor skills and was able to manipulate very small objects easily. However, I was not concerned, I knew that my son would catch up when he was ready and he did a few months later,” says Carly.
“Spend some time finding out what the mini milestones are for your little one. Think about what his eyes are doing, how he is holding objects, how he is making his needs known or how friendly he is with others. These are all just as important as the big milestones we all tend to notice. It would be great if all moms looked out for these little successes and pointed them out to each other instead of asking when the next major milestone was going to happen!” says Lourdes.
This brings with it a wonderful shift from the anxiety of what’s not happening to a positive focus on what is happening. What a breath of fresh air it is to know that each of our little ones is so unique and different and has his own marvellous timetable which we can observe and support.
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