3. Expectations of Your Children
One of the most important parts of developing empathy with your child is to understand their normal capabilities so you don't expect too much or too little from them. Sometimes the child is not normal and it will be up to you to investigate the reasons behind this situation and try to understand why the child is not normal. If the child is not doing well in school you should have him or her tested to determine if outside help is necessary. Talk to your child's doctor. Ask questions and learn everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you.  If your child is in school ask the teacher if your child has been showing worrisome changes in behavior. Share this with your child's doctor or health care provider. Keep in mind that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language, motor, and social skills, varies from child to child. Ask if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems. Specialists may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and behavioral therapists. Educators may also help evaluate your child. For example, it’s normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, daydream during class, act without thinking, or get fidgety at the dinner table. But inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are also signs of attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), which can affect your child’s ability to learn and get along with others. The first step to addressing the problem is to recognize the signs and symptoms.
There are basic things that we know about child development:
- The expectations of the parents impacts the development of the child. So don't expect too much.
- All children have certain innate skills that are pre-determined through genetics and as children these skills are still being developed. The environment (parents nurturing, peers behavior and surroundings) can change the child's point of view and cause a change in personality.
- All children move through life experiencing different stages of development. Each of these stages need to be understood and managed to successfully move to the next stage.
There are generally four stages of development that all children go through.
- Physical Development
This is how children develop their physical attributes. Gross motor skills are developed such as jumping, walking, crawling and running. Fine motor skills are also developed such as eating with a fork and spoon, cutting with scissors, etc.. All of these skills are important to the natural development of children.
Physical development of children should be monitored closely. When I was growing up, my parents designated one of our closets as a growth monitoring area. Starting at about 5 years, they put a mark just above our head ( me and my sister) on the wall to measure height and weighed us and wrote that number in pounds next to the height mark. This provided a record of our height and weight through the years. Of course, when we turned 14 we didn't want to do it anymore. This height and weight monitoring actually serves three purposes. The first is to monitor the child's physical growth and the second is to show the children that you care about their physical development and thirdly, it gives the parent an ideal opportunity to teach the children about proper health and physical growth . Also, it is really cool, if the parents have the same house, to go into the closet and look at the 10 years of growth that the children attained.
2. Intellectual Development
It is important that parents stimulate the child's mind based on the proper stage of development. It is always important to challenge the children's metal development, but child's mind should not be challenged is such a way that they become frustrated that they don't understand what is going on. Make sure that the mental activities are age appropriate. Typically, the child will learn more as they get older. Without the proper stimulation, the child will not develop as quickly as the child with the proper mental stimulation. All learning is sequential and mostly the child relates to new skills based on old skills. For example, the child learns their abc's and at the next stage of development, the child learns how to take the abc's and form a word, and at the next stage of development, they form a sentence with the the words and so on. If the child does not develop proper understand at any stage of this process, they will be hindered as they progress to the next stage so it is very important that the child understands the details of each stage of their development. In the intellectual development stage, It is up to parents and teachers to ensure that this happens.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, the child’s world expands outward from the family as
relationships are formed with friends, teachers, coaches, caregivers, and others.
Because their experiences are expanding, many factors can alter children’s actions
and impact how they learn to get along. Some situations can create stress and
affect self-esteem. The early childhood period is a time to prepare for adolescence.
Children develop at various rates. Some children in early childhood seem very
mature while others seem very immature. During this stage, behavior may depend on
the child’s mood, his or her experience with various types of people, or even what
happened that day.
Proper metal stimulation of the child is important in developing mental growth and self awareness. Research has provided strong evidence that the changes necessary to make the brain an effective learning organism take place at early ages and if not completed by then it may be too late for those changes to ever take place. These changes seem to be stimulated by exposing young children to situations that catch the interest of the child and arouse his or her curiosity. They include:
- Talking to them at length while they are still babies
- Arranging interesting mobiles and blinking winking toys around the crib
- Programming learning activities throughout the toddler through 5 years
- Providing mentally stimulation games for 6 and older
- Providing mental stimulation with an older children by growing a garden, building a play house, preparing a meal, going to the zoo, and talking about how things are built. Some of these activities will require the parent to do a little research of their own so it is a win/win situation. Not only do their children learn something, the parents learn new things also.
One form of mental stimulation is by doing it with the child. When I was young (7 or 8), my mother would help me plant a garden. This can be done in the city. All you need is a 4 foot by 4 foot plot. From this gardening experience, I learned about preparing the soil for proper growth, fertilizing the soil so the plants had the correct nutrients, and cultivation to make sure the weeds do not take the nutrients and water away from your plants. Once the plants in the garden were fully grown, we harvested them. My mother would help me do that with great pride and sense of accomplishment. She took it one step further, when she and I picked the corn, beans and carrots and we carried this bounty into the house and she had me help her prepare the meal. All of this provides significant metal stimulation and understanding of where our food comes from and the journey it takes to get to our mouth. Once again it also serves another purpose where it allows the parent to become closer to the child and understand the child better. This closeness will significantly improve your empathy and communication with the child.
3. Language Development
Language is the prime tool for communication for 5 to 12 year olds. To be able to communicate properly enhances the child's self esteem and allows the child to explain situations to others, which is important when the parent is trying to find out more about the child. The language development chart presented below provides a guide for parent's expectations.
Language Development Chart
Age of Child
Typical Language Development
4. Some Development Concerns
Some children develop late and some are early. Get your child involved in diagnosing any abnormalities. Ask the child how they feel and what do they think the problem is. If the child is weak in a particular skill see if they do better in another setting. Always work on the child's self esteem using praise and methods that make the child feel good about themselves. Set your expectations of your children a little higher than where they are now. Children and teens like it when adults have high expectations of them and support them when they achieve success. However, we set high expectations and then react with disappointment and anger when the child doesn't meet the goals, then this defeats of purpose and we lose ground in improving the child's capabilities.
When I was in the first grade, my first grade teacher told my mother that I was the dumbest in our class and my twin sister was the smartest. My mother reacted with extreme outrage and talked to a principal of another elementary school that was in our neighborhood. By happenchance, the principal was also a twin and when he was in school, the health care providers separated him from his brother (different classes), because it was noted that if they were in the same class, one would be dominant and the other would be subservient and not do as well. My mother took this to heart and moved us to a new elementary school and put us in separate classes. She was with me every evening making sure that I did my homework and did well on the tests. I actually remember this today as a very difficult time for me, but it made an extreme difference in my life, where I have achieved many wonderful accomplishments including a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering. So it is important that the parents correct deficiencies as soon as possible so the child as a chance for success.
When correcting deficiencies, don't expect progress instantly and don't get overly frustrated and discouraged when changes doesn't come right away. Remember your child has a developmental weakness and it will take time to correct. Managing your expectations and frustrations is an important part in continuing your child's development.
School age developmental skills (5-12 years) are usually separated as physical, cognitive(relating to thought), social, and emotional. Some of these are presented below:
SCHOOL AGE DEVELOPMENTAL SKILLS (5-12 YEARS)
- Slow, steady growth: 3 -4 inches per year
- Use physical activities to develop gross and fine motor skills
- Use language as a communication tool
- Friendships are situation specific
- Understands concepts of right and wrong
- Rules relied upon to guide behavior and play, and provide child with structure and security
- Perspective taking: 5-8 yr: can recognize others’ perspectives, can’t assume the role of the other
- 5-6 yr: believe rules can be changed
- 7-8 yrs: strict adherence to rules
- 6-9 yr: have questions about pregnancy, intercourse, sexual swearing, look for nude pictures in books, magazines
- 8–10 yr: recognize difference between behavior and intent
- age 10-11 yr: can accurately recognize and consider others’ viewpoints
- 8-10 yrs: rules can be negotiated; Begin understanding social roles; regards them as inflexible; can adapt behavior to fit different situations; practices social roles; takes on more responsibilities at home; Less fantasy play, more team sports, board games.; Self esteem is based on ability to perform and produce, alternative strategies for dealing with frustration and expressing emotions.; Sensitive to other’s opinions about themselves.
- 10-12 yr: games with sexual activity (e.g., strip poker, truth/dare, boy-girl relationships, flirting, some kissing, stroking/rubbing, re-enacting intercourse with clothes on)
- 10-12 yr: puberty begins for some children. This is a time of great change when the child becomes an adolescent.
As you can see from this list, the child changes significantly during these early childhood years and it is up to the parents to stay in touch with these expected changes.