Comparing: Does my little one match up?

This week, I’m attempting to answer some questions presented by a reader.  First up … making comparisons.   

I am having a hard time looking at the educational blogs for children and thinking that my daughter should have these skills down. I see some of the things you’ve tried with your son at my daughter’s age and it just seems like she is so far from having enough attention span or ability to follow directions that I often get frustrated. (comments from reader)

I think ALL parents have these comments go through their head at some point.  I have. It is so hard not to compare, both in real life and in the virtual!  It really doesn’t do our kids justice though.  They are truly each their own.  I’ve had to learn…. and practice because it doesn’t come naturally for me…  to search the plethora of ideas solely for that purpose, for ideas and for inspiration.  If they are discouraging more than encouraging, I have to turn the computer off.  Honestly.  I will even say the same for all of my readers, turn my blog off if it isn’t encouraging for you.  That’s not the purpose at all.  I will say I have gotten better at remaining detached, learning to read the blogs as I would an activity book from the bookstore.  This helps me get the inspiration I need without getting worried because my son doesn’t necessarily match up with someone else’s child. 

The age groups on this blog are there just as a guideline, hopefully to make the searching process easier for parents. They are not absolutes by any means.  They are based on my experiences with one child.  I’m sure my next child will require me to move at a different pace.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  There are things J could do at ages when his friends weren’t quite able to accomplish them yet.  There are also things J could NOT do at ages while all his peers could.  The point is, don’t get stuck on age!  Focus on your child’s current needs.  When searching this blog, I suggest looking at activities in your little one’s age group, as well as both the previous age group and the next to come.  So if you have a 20 month old child, I would look at pretoddler, early toddler and toddler activities (check out the favorites page for some highlights, or use the age categories in the sidebar). You will likely find activities from each category that would work for your 20 month old.  But, keep in mind that there will be activities that just won’t fit your little one’s needs.  Don’t feel pressured to try them all. 

We as parents are learning too.  That’s part of the process. Let’s face it, frustration is part of parenting and it starts from day one.  Frustration doesn’t mean we give up.  It might be we need to reevaluate what we’re doing or how we’re doing it.  We find a good fix and keep consistent.  Any good teacher will tell you the same.  Give yourself the time to learn too.  Sometimes that means allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Don’t expect perfection.  Afterall we’re working with toddlers! 

Typing up a quick review to post of an activity that I did with J doesn’t tell you everything that occurred during it. 

  • I don’t mention the 2 potty trips and 1 accident that occurred during the igloo activity, leading to a very frustrated mom (I probably should’ve waited another day to let potty training sink in a bit more!). 
  • You don’t read all the details about how J (typically VERY cautious with new textures and experiences) was hesitant to dive into the snowbox at first.  Our first attempt was mildly enjoyable and I had to stay there playing with him the entire time even for that.  The 2nd and 3rd attempts were huge improvements and eventually he loved it and would ask for me to bring it out again and again.  
  • When we first started with activities like plastic eggs in egg carton or sorting beads into trays, we had our fair share of dropping them onto the floor instead.  It was apparently so much fun to watch them fall! Or how he was one day adamant that the red bead should go in the same pile as the green when sorting. An individual activity might last all of 5 minutes tops.  But 5 minutes developed into 10 and then 20 minutes.  He also learned that just like dropping food from the highchair wasn’t allowed, neither was dropping toys (crayons, paintbrushes, paint!). 
  • Did I forget to mention that J decided that one of our letters of the day made the sound “poopoo” and refused to be told otherwise?

These are just a few examples.  Every activity blog, every classroom, and every homeschool kitchen table has similar stories of the learning process in action. 

If an activity or conversation doesn’t go well, I evaluate why.  It may be because I chose the wrong time of day (close to nap or mealtime), maybe I’ve been lax in discipline lately so simple obedience was really the issue, maybe I expected too much from him and need to try something a bit more basic, maybe it was too easy and therefore boring for him, or maybe I didn’t present the activity well enough and need to find a better way to teach him. There could be many reasons something didn’t go well. 

Don’t give up.  There have been times simply placing an activity or concept on hold for another month was all that was needed.  There have also been times my husband came home from work to try an activity with J that bombed just hours earlier with me… and has great success.  My husband just found a better way to help J with it.  That’s a little frustrating!  It’s also perfectly understandable and just one more reason I’m grateful for my husband!

Letting frustrations keep up from trying again would mean we miss out on the growth that we get to see over time and we’ll miss out on all the “‘fun” along the way. 

Go have some fun!

(To see links to the other posts in this series, click here)

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5 responses to “Comparing: Does my little one match up?

  1. exactly, your kid is so advanced in my eyes. I get a kick out of it though bc my daughter is fairly delayed in some cognitive and gross motor aspects. She’s 2 1/2 and still can’t sort objects let alone recognize colors to group them! But there are so many great ideas on your blog, we have fun trying them anyway!

    • The fact that you’re working with her (and having fun along the way) is what makes ALL the difference. What a great gift she has in a mom. The rest will come.

  2. I just wanted to thank you for all of your great responses to my question. It has been a huge encouragement to me and is making me take a pause to think about my approach to parenting and life, in general. I really want to be intentional, but often find it hard to stay on task or organized through out the day (similar to what you struggle with). Having 2 little ones (not quite 14 months apart) makes life feel very…..complicated. I want so bad to find that balance between structure and fun so that my kids feel that security in both. I find it hard to know what to expect with my daughter. It all seems like unchartered territory making it difficult to know when I need to change my approach to something and be a better parent or just be patient for the current “phase” to pass. Anyway, I find your insights VERY helpful and look forward to reading each blog entry on the topic 🙂

    • The joys of parenting! 🙂

      I have only one (for another month at least) and that is complicated enough!
      I honestly tend to shy from assuming things are phases (though I certainly acknowledge ALL little ones… ALL humans actually go through phases). I’ve just noticed that I will often use the term “phase” as an excuse to not do anything. “He’s just in the terrible two phase. Nothing can be done!” But of course, I’m the mom and there’s ALWAYS something that can be done…. usually I just don’t want to do it. Not doing anything just makes the phase last longer because there’s no incentive to change or because we aren’t teaching them that they CAN change. Being proactive at least makes me feel like I’m doing my best to help him. As a teacher I saw this a lot. Teachers claiming we couldn’t expect more from the kids because they were just in that adolescent phase. I heard a lot of, just wait it out until they’re older. Yet the same child, when taught and help up to certain expectations in another classroom could behave quite amazingly. They just have to be given the opportunity to do so.

      I also shy from allowing it for myself too. It’s really easy right now to tell myself, “I have a reason for my impatience since I’m in the 3rd trimester. This is just a phase that will pass.” It’s definitely true that patience is NOT my strength right now, but I’m personally much less likely to work on it and control it if I call it a phase. It almost sounds like I’m excusing myself for the poor behavior. It might be a little more difficult to keep patient and I might have to move a little slower in this area but I don’t want to just write me off at insufferable for the next month and force others to deal with it. Hopefully that makes sense! Basically, I think there’s always something we can do to help them. It may be very small improvements over a long period of time, but I do believe we can help them shorten those “phases” by showing them a better way.

      So I’m definitely one to promote expectations over phases. I just don’t want to underestimate them!

    • Oh and I also wanted to say, I really think structure can help to increase the fun and often even allow for more fun. I don’t believe you sacrifice one for the other. We can offer flexibility within the structure…. the structure is there more to prevent chaos.

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