Childhood is all about growing. We all know that, don’t we? That newborn cherub, lying placidly in the cradle, evolves into a crawling little fellow. The waddling toddler becomes a curious pre-schooler. The sweet-voiced adolescent boy matures into a deep-sounding masculine teenager. As mothers, we eagerly await and celebrate these growth flagstones. We are cognizant of these physical transitions, and adjust our expectations accordingly.
However, did you know that childhood is about emotional and intellectual growth, too? Although more subtle and slower thank physical development, emotional maturation is a process in its own right – with its own stepping-stones and milestones.
Emotional growth is a process where we stagger responsibilities for different ages based on expected emotional development. (I recently saw a cute quote as follows: “Keep in mind that while your goal is to teach your child to take responsibility instead of blaming others, his goal is probably to get out of being punished”. Empowering Parents – http://www.empoweringparents.com/kids-making-excuses.php# )
As parents, we want to be at least as aware of our children’s emotional growth as their physical development. We want to know what our children can or cannot do, so we can encourage them to reach their full potential and applaud their achievements.
We want to know where our children are holding, because we don’t want to push them to too much. If demands are above a child’s ability, the child may not be able to succeed, resulting in dejection. Of course, we always need to model and teach proper behavior. We can go about teaching when we know, “it’s ok for two-year old’s to tantrum; this is the time to learn about accepting authority,” versus teaching when we feel, “why in the world is this two-year old behaving in this utterly unacceptable, inexcusable manner?!!!” So yes, pre-schoolers may be in the process of learning the difference between wishful thinking and honesty. Young children may be mastering patience. And teenagers may be struggling with independence. But that’s okay. They’re just people-in-progress, acting their age!
At the same time, we want to make sure that they reach their full emotional potential. As our children become more insightful and aware, we must accelerate our pace of parenting. We want to make sure that their appreciation of our value system becomes more 3-dimensional.
No, this does not mean starting to lecture your adolescents about lofty goals and aspiration. But it does translate in consciously integration “important topics” into ordinary activities. A conversational thought question at the dinner table and an interesting observation while waiting at the red light can be slipped through the back door. Give them more food for thought to chew over. Inspire them with more ideas, more ideals. Dare them to think… and then to be.
Of course, as we guide our children through their growth process, we must make sure that we, too, are growing. Our children must have role models of growing parents, so that they can recognize growth as a goal in itself.
Finally, we yearn to celebrate those emotional achievements. We want to point them out to our children, (I see you have recently started to say please… I have noticed how you empathized…) so that they, too, will realize that they can grow emotionally. Ultimately, they can stretch just a little more and reach a little higher… until they reach emotional maturity as they enter adulthood.