Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

The one thing (really!) that makes parenting small children a lot easier

MOM,SON,KITCHEN

Shutterstock

Anna O'Neil - published on 11/21/18

Once you realize this, you'll think about your child's misbehavior in a whole new light...

My son is tall, and he happens to be more articulate than most kids his age. Neither one of these things work in his favor, however, because I keep forgetting that he’s only three, poor kid. He’s developing at the breakneck pace that toddlers do, and every day he seems to have some new skill that catches me off guard. The other day, he woke up with the ability to tell stories. The day after that, he was drawing recognizable pictures. For both of us, it’s exhilarating… and exhausting.

As he hit milestone after milestone, though, I noticed that my frustration levels were rising steeply, too. I didn’t have the words for it (besides “Arghhh”) until I came across the phenomenon of something called the “expectation gap,” and suddenly everything clicked:

The Expectation Gap, writes Psychologist Mona Delahooke, has to do with the assumptions we make about a child’s maturity:

Many parents assume that tots are capable — or should be capable — of doing things that their brains simply aren’t ready to do yet. A major survey by the Zero to Three Foundation, the world’s largest organization dedicated to infant and toddler well-being, revealed that 56 percent of parents believe that children have the impulse control to resist the desire to do something forbidden before age 3. And 36 percent believe that children under age 2 can do so. The truth: toddlers don’t start developing these abilities reliably until age 3-1/2 or 4 at the earliest. The same survey found that 43 percent of parents think children can reliably share and take turns with other children before age 2. In reality, this skill develops between 3 to 4 years as well.”

Parents get frustrated when our expectations are unfairly high. We try everything, and everything fails. That’s because, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with the child — and there’s really no way the child can change to meet our expectations, besides to continue developing and maturing at a steady pace. So I can either wait till my son’s four, and five, and six, for life to get less frustrating… or I can check my expectations.

I actually love this. It means that no punishments, no strategies, no theories, and no schedules are going to be the magic formula that stops my son from following that powerful impulse to draw on the walls if he finds himself alone with a marker. What a relief! I don’t have to change him; I can just change myself.

I don’t love making changes to myself either, to be honest, but at least it’s possible. I can work with that.

Optimistically, I started trying to potty train my son when he turned two. It took a full year for him to get the hang of it. I remembered something my mother (who had seven of us to potty train) reminded me at the time: They potty train when they’re ready, she said. If you start six months before they’re ready, it’ll take six months. If you start a week before they’re ready, it’ll take a week. It was good advice. I’m going to try to remember it with the behavioral milestones, not just the physical ones.


ANGRY,LITTLE,BOY

Read more:
Your child’s behavior changes: Just normal development or is something really wrong?

Tags:
Parenting
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
2
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.