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As They Grow

MILESTONES OF DEVELOPMENT

These milestones and stages of development are presented according to the ages at which children generally reach them. They are included to help you anticipate and understand your child's behavior at various stages of growth. Remember, each child is unique. Since each child develops on his individual timetable, your child may be ahead of, at, or behind the statistical average. Consult your child’s healthcare professional if he is consistently delayed in reaching milestones or if you’re concerned about other aspects of his development. 

Remember: Generally speaking, girls often reach these milestones before boys do. Many behaviors that seem unique to a particular age may repeat at a later age. For you, this means your efforts to teach a behavior to your 3-year-old may have to be repeated when she reaches age 6. But take heart. Because you began teaching her patience when she was 3, it will be easier to manage her impatience when it reemerges at 6, for example.

Below you will find developmental milestones compiled from information provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information go to Learn the Signs. Act Early.

  • What amazing new miracles happen in this early childhood period, as they do in that first year!  Your child’s moving around her world—scooting, crawling, walking and then running, running, running as fast as she can—is the way she explores and gains increasing independence. And imitation is the way your child expresses sounds and physical gestures.

    Finally, your child can “use her words” and ability to express herself to tell you what’s on her mind! This is good news…and can be tough to handle, when she pushes back, tests limits and wants her own way—all normal behaviors! We give you a playbook—on how to be what we call a “Family Manager” in this developmental stage on each page of Behavior Checker.

    Because children in this age group grow and progress rapidly, you may anticipate and analyze how your child is reaching developmental milestones such as walking, running, expressing her emotions, talking, and socializing—and pushing limits, of course. Behavior Checker helps you learn how to respond to these normal, but frustrating, behaviors that your child uses in the first four years of life to discover the rules, limits, and boundaries she needs and wants. But if you have concerns about how your child is developing, talk with your healthcare professional.

    • Explores his environment; gets into things
    • Takes one long nap a day
    • Plays alone for short periods of time
    • Explores his body
    • Often seems to be out of step with the world
    • Can be oppositional—for example, when asked to come, will move away
    • Seldom obeys a verbal command; favorite word is "No"
    • Not easily motivated by words
    • Impatient in the extreme; can’t wait and only understands "Now”
    • Has problems giving to others and may treat people, except parents, as objects, pillows, chairs, etc.
    • Although his language is limited, he understands more words than he can say
    • Can walk, run, and sometimes climb, but his balance is very unsteady
    • Has a quick temper and is emotionally very immature
    • More mature and calm, and is willing to do more of the things she can do
    • Runs, climbs, pushes, pulls and is very active. More sure of her motor skills
    • Can communicate more effectively and make her wants known
    • Can feed herself with fingers, spoon, and cup
    • Life is easier emotionally; demands are not as strong and can wait a moment if necessary
    • Is more interested in people and occasionally likes to please
    • Can remove some of her clothing
    • Explores her genitalia
    • Sleeps less and wakes easily
    • Thrives on routines, and is rigid in her thinking—my way is on the only way
    • Is balky and indecisive; changes her mind
    • Imitates adults
    • Cannot share with other children
    • Plays beside, but not with, children her own age
    • Is often loving, affectionate, and warmly responsive to others, but changes moods easily
    • Likes water play
    • Prolongs the good-night ritual
    • Sometimes demanding of others
    • Runs, jumps, and climbs
    • Feeds himself; drinks neatly from a cup
    • Carries things without spilling
    • Can help dress and undress himself
    • May not sleep at naptime but plays quietly
    • Is responsive to adults; wants approval
    • Is sensitive to expressions of disapproval
    • Cooperates; likes to run simple errands
    • Is at a “Me, too!” stage; wants to be included
    • Is curious about things and people
    • Is imaginative; may fear the dark or animals
    • May have an imaginary companion
    • Is talkative; uses short sentences
    • Can’t wait his turn; has little patience
    • Can take some responsibility, such as putting toys away
    • Plays well alone, but group play can be stormy
    • Is attached to the parent of the opposite sex
    • Is jealous, especially of a new baby
    • Demonstrates guilt feelings
    • Releases emotional insecurity by whining, crying, or requesting reassurances of love
    • Releases tension by thumb sucking and nail biting
    • Continues to gain coordination
    • Has good eating, sleeping, and potty habits
    • Is very active
    • Starts things but doesn’t necessarily finish them
    • Is bossy or boastful
    • Plays with others but is self-assertive
    • Has short-lived quarrels
    • Speaks clearly; is a great talker
    • Tells stories and exaggerates
    • Uses toilet words in a silly way
    • Makes up meaningless words with loss of syllables
    • Laughs and giggles
    • Dawdles
    • Washes when told
    • Is at the “How?” and “Why?” stage
    • Demonstrates dependence on peers
  • You may not be thinking about the first four years of your child’s life as leading to “middle” childhood, but it is fun to think that she has reached this awesome milestone by the time she is only 4 years on the planet! She puts into practice all that you have taught her in the first four years, as shared in Behavior Checker—self-discipline, problem-solving, empathy, ability to tolerate frustration—and builds on them to strengthen her ability to get along with you and prepare for the teen years ahead.

    We call these the “Travel Agent” years for you, as you increasingly take your child to places where she explores her world outside of your home, neighborhood and her early childhood education, preschool or daycare. Your efforts in being a consistent caring, supportive and protective teaching parent for the past 4 years make a difference in your child’s developing these skills—communication skills, sensitivity to others, how to form positive peer relationships, and how to balance personal responsibility with independence—and practicing them more in these years. These attributes will help her cope with the stresses and potential risks of adolescence.

    Try to appreciate the individual maturity level of your child. Then celebrate your child’s evolving independence by granting new privileges, as we have talked about in each of the situations in Behavior Checker. When you match each new entitlement with a new responsibility, you show your respect for your child’s growing capability to contribute to your family and the community. Middle childhood is also a period when children become increasingly exposed to the world outside of your family through school and extended social interactions. It may be hard for you to give your child more and more independence, but doing so as she demonstrates her ability to handle more freedom is the name of the game. Behavior Checker reinforces these teachable moments—and is here to help you do so, too!

    • Can follow directions at this age, which is a time of extreme and delightful stability
    • Is generally reliable and well-adjusted
    • Feels secure within herself; is calm, friendly, and generally not demanding of others
    • Generally, does not want to go into the unknown
    • Is usually successful in what she tries to do but only tries what she can accomplish
    • Seeks to be a “good” child, which is something that she usually can accomplish
    • The child is extremely difficult to deal with
    • Much like a 2½-year-old, he is very emotional—loving one minute and hating the next
    • As when he was 2½, he is very demanding of others and very rigid in his demands
    • Extremely negative in his response to others and refuses to do what he is asked simply because he was asked
    • Has great energy
    • Has problems deciding between two options because he wants both
    • Cannot accept criticism, blame, and punishment; he has to always be right, win, and be praised
    • Is rigid and unadaptable in relationships with others, just as he was at 2½; this leads to tears and accusations that others are cheating if he doesn’t win
    • As long as all goes well, he can be warm, enthusiastic, eager, and ready for anything new
    • Withdraws from the world and likes to be alone with her own things
    • Is much calmer than her 6-year-old self and is easier to live with
    • Is more likely to complain than to rejoice
    • Tends to mope and may be described as morose and moody
    • Likes to watch, listen, and stay on the edge of any activity
    • Wants to touch and feel everything she comes in contact with
    • Plays with her intellect more
    • Often demands too much of herself
    • Has good days and bad days, days she learns well, and days she forgets everything
    • Often feels people are against her, don’t like her, and are picking on her
    • Uses facial expressions and frequent pouting to express dissatisfaction with life
    • Good days will steadily increase until she is ready for most anything by 8 years of age
    • Often described as expansive and speedy; goes out to meet the world
    • Believes nothing is too difficult for him
    • Tends to meet new and difficult challenges with great excitement
    • Enjoys new experiences, trying out new things, and making new friends
    • Often overestimates his own ability follow through, sometimes leading to failure and becoming discouraged; needs help to better plan for tasks
    • Frequent failures are met with tears and self-disparagement: "I always do it wrong" and "I never get anything right"
    • Failures today will not stop him from starting something new tomorrow
    • Interested in two-way relationships with people and is concerned and wants to know what they think
    • Has more to say to other people and expects more of them as well
    • Brash and brave, but much more sensitive than expected
    • Gives a hint of the person he will become
    • Growing independence from the family and interest in friends
    • Peer pressure can become strong during this time
    • Children who feel good about themselves are better able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices for themselves
    • Important time for children to gain a sense of responsibility along with their growing independence
    • Physical changes of puberty might be showing by now, especially for girls
    • Start to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships; it becomes more emotionally important to have friends, especially of the same sex
    • Become more aware of his or her body as puberty approaches; body image and eating problems become more prevalent around this age
    • Face more academic challenges at school
    • Begin to see the point of view of others more clearly
    • Have an increased attention span
  • Ah…the teenage years—what we have called “Volcano Dwelling” years for parents. Adolescence is an ever-changing experience, as is most of childhood development. Teenagers differ widely in their physical, social, and emotional maturity because they enter puberty at different ages, progress at different paces, and experience different challenges. 

    Viewing adolescence in stages—early adolescence (11–14 years of age), middle adolescence (15–17 years of age), and late adolescence (18–21 years of age)—yields a better understanding of physical and psychological development and potential problems. Depending on your personal cultural expectations for independence and self-sufficiency, you may view the nature, length, and course of typical adolescent development differently from your teenager. Talk with your teen’s healthcare professional about how you view this stage of life and potential conflicts between your family’s values and culture and those of your adolescent.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.