Ages and stages

This is a first in a series of blogs that explores various aspects of parenting. The first one is called Ages and Stages, offering a glimpse into the various stages that notably the child goes through but also ways in which the parental role changes as the stages change. Future blogs will explore Loving our Child, Discipline, The Power of Thoughts and finally How well do you know your child.

It is our hope and objective that by raising the awareness of these topics, we will provide a platform for parents and children to share their experiences, to engage in a meaningful discussion on what works and what doesn’t and so ultimately we can all benefit from the shared wisdom.

Ages and Stages
It’s early morning on a day when summer seems to be holding on to it’s warm temperature, yet the morning does feel chilly. Or is it the occasion? Ah yes, the first day of public school for your child. And you are eagerly waiting for the bus to come and whisk your little baby away. Why just yesterday he was learning to walk and now all grown up with a back-pack containing his school lunch and snack. You are a little bit excited but under the surface there is a lot of fidgeting and nervous energy. The other parents are also waiting at the bus stop with their little ones telling them to be good on the bus and not be afraid.

Yes, a whole bunch of emotions on the first day at the school bus stop. Will he be okay in the big kid school?, will she make new friends?, will he remember to eat his snack? will she get on the right bus coming home? It’s the first big adventure when the child goes off on his or her own – for a whole day no less……that was a great age and stage in your child’s life.

Fast forward another dozen or so years. Your baby is not on the school bus anymore but behind another set of wheels… yes, learning to drive and you are just as nervous as the first day of school. A constant stream of “keep your eyes on the road, fix your mirror, don’t go too fast, slow down, use your turn signal, watch out for the old lady… “ and before you know it your baby has passed the driving test… and yes this also is a great age and stage in your child’s life.

And there will be many more milestones that your baby will achieve, such as graduating from high school, going off to college, dating, marriage and so on. And these too will be great ages and stages in your child’s life as each life event triggers a different set of emotions and behaviors.

In my experience, age is more than just a number. As the child ages, factors such as emotions, feelings, level of maturity, previous experience all play a big role to create stages that are not easily forgotten regardless of the outcome. As a child goes through these different ages and stages of their life, as parents how do we help them navigate? do we navigate? Do we deal with all the different situations in the same way? Perhaps a better question is what are we really trying to teach our child?

Let’s take a closer look by picking a simple example, say of food. If our child wants a piece of chocolate, what is our response? No! Yes!, Well, as parent you know that it’s not as simple as that. Is it good for them? What if it becomes a habit? And at such a young age, will the child get a mouth full of cavities? If I give in to chocolate, what will be next? Soda, sports drinks?

In this age of ever changing technology, let’s take a look at another example. How do we decide when our 10-year old asks for the latest cell phone? The child will reason that everyone in class has one and s(he) is the only one without one. Part of you will agree that it is a very helpful tool to have in case of emergency and part of you will be worried about rampant usage of of unfiltered content on the internet. What I have found is that none of these things (food, drinks, cell phones) are good or bad in themselves. it’s how we are using them that either can be beneficial or lead to big problems. Like everything in life, usage in moderation is the key and a series of steps have to be taken, including:

defining and agreeing on boundaries and limits of usage,
defining and agreeing on consequences of not following the limits,
defining and agreeing on how usage will be monitored.
If the definition and agreement is an open dialog between the parents and the child (instead of a unilateral dictate), then the buy-in to the limits and consequences will be easier. And of course, as the ages and stages change, the limits and consequences have to be re-visited and re-evaluated.In summary, perhaps the biggest question parents should be asking themselves is: What do we want our child to learn? Is it really about power or authority. I think it’s neither. I think it’s often about self-control. It’s about seeing the good and the not-so good about any choice. And ultimately, it’s about self-confidence. In any given situation, will the child call on their experience, their learnings, and their confidence to know for themselves what is the right thing to do and act accordingly. After all, isn’t that what we want for our children?

Use the attached spreadsheet below to track the age and the latest challenge that you are facing with your child. Join our Facebook Group to discuss the challenges and get some support and answers from other parents.

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