Group of children sitting in a classroom.

Understanding Your Child's Developmental Stage

Children change quickly. It can feel like you blinked and your sleeping infant turned into an independent 3-year-old. Turn around and suddenly that 3-year-old 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. From keeping up with milestones, to ensuring that your discipline strategy is age-appropriate, to making sure your child is safe at home, understanding child development is a big part of helping your child grow and learn.

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 often more than memories in the making. Some early skills such as rolling over, walking, waving and saying a few words are developmental milestones, touch points that you can use to ensure your child is advancing physically, mentally and emotionally.

It's important to remember that every child is different, and there is rarely a set date for any particular skill. For example, most babies learn to walk between 9 and 15 months, a six-month window. And that's just "most" babies, some walk even earlier or later.

However, keeping track of your child's major milestones, especially early developmental skills, can ensure that if your child does require additional help, they can get the early intervention support they need. Understanding your child's different development stages makes you a more tuned-in and effective parent.

 

Discipline

Occasionally, your child is going to do something that you do not like and do not want them to repeat. Knowing what your child understands can make it much easier to manage and correct unwanted behavior. A long lecture on behavior will not make much of an impact on your 2-year-old's biting habit, just as a 6-month old baby will simply not understand a "time-out" for pulling the dog's tail.

The good news is that there are lots of development stage appropriate actions — from distracting your child to allowing natural consequences to play out — that you can take to help your toddler or child learn good behavior.

Remember, one of the easiest tactics to adopt for children of any age is "positive consequences," or praising your child when they do the right thing.

Safety

Your first job as a parent is to keep your child safe. That means more than putting covers on electrical outlets. From car seats to safe sleeping arrangements to climbing hazards, there's a lot to think about. And as children grow, what they need to be safe changes drastically.

When deciding how much supervision your growing child needs, remember that many states — and even some installations — have laws, policies or guidelines that can help you understand at what ages and for how long children can be left alone. If you have questions about the rules in your area, or about other factors that determine whether or not your child is ready to be left unsupervised, reach out to Military OneSource.

Military OneSource stands ready to help you build family readiness and resilience, whether it's better understanding your child's development stages, accessing the New Parenting Support Program and Military & 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.