It’s a given, parents can’t help but compare their children’s development with what little learners their age “should” be doing. For instance, a 9-month-old is typically supposed to hold her own bottle and show stranger anxiety (a fear of strangers).
However, Joanne Khaw, a teaching fellow at the National Institute of Education’s (NIE) Early Childhood & Special Needs Education Department, cautions against using these charts as a bible on childhood development. “Holding a bottle and becoming fearful around new people are behaviours that do not magically develop on the first day of the ninth month of life. In fact, there’s evidence from several studies that the fear of strangers does not appear at all in a significant number of infants.”
Many parents take developmental charts too literally, even though these often include a note explaining that parents should expect and accept as normal some variation in the ages at which children can perform the tasks described. “They then turn unreasonably upset if their child is ‘late’, or inappropriately happy if she’s ‘early’,” she notes.
So, quit fretting if your child hasn’t achieved a particular milestone by a certain age - what’s more important is that she achieves them ultimately. “Unless she’s extremely late, it doesn’t matter when she learns to hold a cup by herself, starts to walk, becomes toilet-trained or does any of the thousands of other tasks that we pay so much attention to as a measure of her progress,” Khaw notes.
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Still, this is not to say that such charts or guidelines are useless. “On the contrary, they help orient us to the patterns of child development and warn us of possible problems,” she notes. If, for example, your child cannot hold a bottle by the time he’s a year old (which is well past the average age at which most children do this), you probably should see a paediatrician. Or if your little one still can't read by the end of Primary Two, you should seek early intervention before the problem escalates and get her tested for learning disabilities, Khaw advises.
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