Group of children sitting in a classroom.

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Children change quickly. Suddenly your sleeping infant is an independent 3-year-old. Before you know it, your kid is off to high school.

Each phase of a child's life comes with different joys and challenges. Learning about your child's developmental stage is one way to become an even better parent. By having the right information at the right time, you can help your child grow and learn. Here are some tips for better understanding and supporting your child’s growth, no matter what their age or stage.

Milestones

Many parents look forward to the first time their child will smile at them, take a step or say "mama" or "dada." These moments are more than memories. Some early skills such as rolling over, waving, saying a few words and walking, are developmental milestones. Such touch points help gauge how your child is advancing physically, mentally and emotionally.

Milestones provide important clues for parents. Remember every child is different, and there is a wide range of expected dates for any particular skill. There are guidelines, for example, that most babies learn to walk between 9 and 15 months. Note that accomplishing a developmental task early does not necessarily predict that the child will be superior in a particular domain.

Keeping track of your child's major milestones, especially early ones, helps you be more attuned to know what to expect. It can also signal you when your child may need additional help. Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s developmental milestones resources to determine if your child is on track. Trust your instincts and talk with your medical provider if you have concerns. Help is available, and early intervention is of the essence.

Discipline

It’s important to understand the types of discipline that best match your child’s age and stage of development. Discipline of infants is never appropriate. However, helpful strategies with toddlers include distracting your child, allowing natural consequences to play out, ignoring tantrums and using time-outs in certain cases.

Typically, parents find positive consequences are easier and more effective in shaping a child’s behavior and can have more favorable and lasting effects to curb negative behaviors.

See the parenting tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including insightful tips on using discipline and consequences. Get even more ideas from the article Tips for Disciplining Your Child.

Safety

Informed, attentive and involved parents are key to keeping children and youth safe at every age and stage. That means more than putting covers on electrical outlets. Safety involves everything from car seats to climbing hazards. As children grow, safety needs change. Read Keeping Your Children Safe for tips on ensuring safety for your kids.

Military OneSource stands ready to help you enhance your family, whether it's by offering a better understanding of your child's development stages, connecting you to the New Parent Support Program and Military and Family Life Counselors, or tapping into the many other parenting and children resources offered. Call 800-342-9647 to learn, engage or discover ways to take your parenting to the next level.