His sister was talking by this age!
As adults we tend to compare our performance with others. At times we have an unfortunate tendency to see the best things in others, while focusing on our weaknesses.
In talking with parents socially and clinically, I often see people comparing their child’s behaviour, school results and social skills with siblings and other children. If nothing else, worrying about how your child ‘rates’ compared to other children is largely unproductive and is very much a stress-inducing activity. ‘Comparing and contrasting’ is very easy to do however, parents naturally want the best for their children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their child has to be the best (or first) at everything.
Having said all of this, I feel that as developmental specialists, we do actually rely on parents to notice when they feel a child is not reaching appropriate developmental timeframes. For some children, parents will see a ‘steady as she goes’ rate of progress and some may just take a little more time. However, there are some children who have difficulties that will not simply resolve with time – and in this instance, parents tend to first become concerned because they see other children of the same age doing things their own child struggles to do. This is different from wishing your second child got an A+ on their spelling test, just like their older sibling did when they were that age. This is being aware that your child may need a ‘leg up’ so to speak, in order to achieve a developmental skill or set of skills.
As a speech pathologist, we can use norm referenced data to assist us in determining whether a child is significantly delayed in speech, language or social communication. This data enables us to compare a child’s scores to the performances of others of the same age in a data sample. From this data, we are able to determine an average age range of skill acquisition and therefore identify when a child may not be reaching his or her developmental timeframes. The severity of a delay is, of course, varied and there is recognition that each child is different. There are late talkers, early talkers, and steady-as-she-goes talkers in every family. It also identifies when a child has a significant disorder or delay that requires targeted early intervention.
So how do parents avoid comparing and contrasting their children while maintaining an awareness of when a child may need extra support?
Educate yourself about the approximate developmental time frames (e.g. gross and fine motor, speech and social language, eating etc)
Be aware of developmental ‘red flags’ (Red flags in the first 5 years).
It’s important for parents, if they are looking to compare something, to perhaps compare their child’s performance today compared to what it was yesterday. You’ll likely find that whatever skill you’re encouraging, it will be a little better than yesterday.
- Recognise, particularly as your child grows, that he or she will have different strengths, weaknesses and interests. Not every child, not matter how many tennis lessons they have, will be the next Roger Federer (Are they even interested in Tennis? Have you asked them what they would like to do?).
- Enjoy your child’s successes, big and small. There will likely be more small victories then big ones. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we missed all the beautiful small moments, because we were constantly looking for a big shiny trophy?
- Be aware of feedback ratios. In the world of adults, isn’t it dreadful when a boss, manager or peer only mentions the catastrophes, conundrums and errors and never acknowledges the 95% of work that is excellent? Sure, constructive feedback is necessary for positive change, but if we load on the negative criticisms and tack on the occasional utterance of praise as an afterthought, we lose the opportunities to build a child’s confidence in what they can do.
These principles we apply as therapists, but are equally, if not more valid for the parent-child relationship. If you are concerned about your child’s development, the research suggests that early intervention is important so getting your child assessed may be advisable. Just remember that small steps, just like big steps are all heading in the right direction – up.
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about children speech activities or need speech therapy, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. Contact us today!