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Milestones that matter



Getting some perspective on developmental milestones

Getting some perspective on developmental milestones


As a new dad, I was unprepared for a lot. Like ‘comparing babies,” where you meet other parents with babies of approximately the same age as yours, and you compare and contrast. When this transpired in our family, my wife and I watched our infant, then his peers, then him, then others. We tried not to make comparisons and failed. We could’ve used writer Patrick A. Coleman’s “The Two-Year Milestones that Matter” on Fatherly.com.

Of course, you want to remain vigilant for anything really dire, but Coleman asserts, and twenty years on, I concur, that far and away most babies are okay, or better than okay. Many books and websites will play on parents’ natural fears just for clicks and dollars. It need not be this way.

Coleman does confirm that the two-year milestones feel particularly important because this is generally the last time your child will be assessed – by you and/or a pediatrician – before they head off to preschool. But as he says, regardless of received wisdom (of which there is a dizzying amount, a lot of it contradictory), “every child will acquire abilities at their own rate and in their own order.”

He puts a fine point on it when he writes: “Instead of worrying if your two-year-old can first walk confidently, run, speak simple sentences, or fill and empty a bucket, parents should look at their kid holistically. To that end, there are two big qualities that parents should look for in the two-year-old: lots of movement and lots of independence.”

READ MORE: Missed Milestones

I was a stay-at-home dad for my son’s first four years, and I recall a mom at a local playground wishing her toddler was cautious like mine. My son was much less inclined to go down the slide backwards, or to try to run up it, because he was careful by nature. This trend would continue throughout his childhood, finally lessening somewhat (to my chagrin) when he became a teenager.

Regarding independence, Coleman has a lot of interesting things to say about the word “no,” and how it’s actually good to hear it, if annoying.

He writes: “An independent child will start developing their own opinions. So, you should be expecting to hear the word ‘no’.”

Why might this be a good thing?

“There are a ton of cognitive abilities being displayed in the word “no”. When your kid says no, it means that they have heard and understood your request. They have the cognitive capability to weigh your request against their own desires and are able to communicate their intent.”

Balancing gratitude with exasperation is no small feat, but you can do it.



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