It is important to raise your child as an individual.
People often confuse developmental milestones for a developmental blueprint. This can either inappropriately inhibit you and your child or put undue pressure on you and your child. Just because the average child is toilet trained at three years old does not mean your child is average or must be. I learned this one from personal experience. When Beth* was 2 ¼ she wanted to play on the computer like her older siblings. (She was a petite little thing and back then the mouse only came in one size… bigger than her hand). I felt she was too young, but how do you explain “older” to a two-year-old? So, I decided to give her an understandable concrete milestone that she would reach when “older” that she could look forward to without asking me every day “am I older yet?” “Computers are for children who are toilet trained.”, I told her. Guess who trained herself the next day! On the flip side I was eager to train one of my fall babies so they could start school as they were turning three. Nothing doing. Disappointed, I did not register Kalie* and instead was compelled to give my babysitter a raise. While I was certainly relieved when Kalie decide to train on her 3rd birthday and that the school let her join mid-year I was not happy to be paying for both the babysitter and the school 😏
I share these stories to illustrate that developmental milestones are a blueprint for the sequence of development, not necessarily a date of “guaranteed delivery”. You want to make sure you are not inhibiting your child with expectations that are too low and also that you don’t put undue pressure, or even start to panic, because your child has not met the deadline. It isn’t a deadline. If your child is not of average height you keep an eye on his growth. You then consult with an expert if you have concerns that intervention is needed to facilitate growth. However, you don’t hear of people actively trying to stop their child’s growth just because they are above average/more typical of an older child.
It is important to understand that there are windows of opportunity in development. This is the time when it is easiest to teach your child this particular skill because he has the prerequisite skills and is able and interested in taking the next step. Parents sometimes make the mistake in missing the window of opportunity i.e. inhibiting their child. For example, when the child is ready for toilet training but it is an inconvenient time for the parent. Your child cannot understand and if he loses interest it will be harder for you to get him on board down the road. It is for this reason it is recommended parents be alert to their child’s speech and language development. If the delay is due to hearing loss you want it addressed as soon as possible. If the child is already 3 years old and the hearing loss is not addressed there will be permanent irreversible effects. The longer the child has to wait for amplification the worse the effects.
This information is not meant to cause worry, but simply to help you be an informed alert advocate. Development needs to be relative to both typically developing and to your individual child. If your child isn’t talking at 12 months look into what the earlier speech milestones are and see if your child has met those. If your child is showing more than a three-month gap consult with a professional. If a 12-year-old has a 1 year gap but has been consistently progressing and there is no widening of the gap then he is developing properly.
Next time: How to best facilitate individual development.