When you hold your new born baby you imagine all the amazing milestones in their life in the blink of an eye. As parents you can already picture your child’s first words, first steps, kindergarten, high school graduation, college, marriage and even kids of their own. You can see all the beautiful things, big and small, that will be imprinted in your mind forever. These are the ways we define a child growing up and knowing that they are ready for what is to come next. But what about all the ways you, as a parent, know you are growing? It seems a strange question, yet countless parents ask themselves countless times “am I a good parent?”
Many parents only measure on the obvious, yet important, scale of how polite, respectful, courteous and honest the child is. These are, of course, great ways of knowing how the parent and child are progressing. But there are a so much more!
Here are a few parental milestones to look out for and why.
- Your child found the solution all on his/her own!
It can be hard, but it is vital to let you child solve their own problems. This can start as early as infancy. Seeing your baby frustrated with this or that is an immediate cry for help. Yet, as long as there is no danger, try to let baby figure out their new toy or favorite sock on their own. Starting early helps develop the strong sense of independence and self-reliance that will allow the child to grow into a fully independent adult.
- Chores, chores, chores
This one can be a sticking point. Many parents believe the child will be better off at piano or karate than doing the dishes or vacuuming. However this is denying the child an important sense of responsibility and work ethic. Everyone knows there are things in life that we don’t like to do but we have to do. Sometimes it can be hard to explain this in ways of math or piano lessons, but if the dishes are not done, well there’s nothing to eat off of. Immediate cause and effect will help solidify the importance of house responsibilities which easily translates to life responsibilities. Also, adults who had done house chores as children are better adjusted in the work force and can achieve more as well as better social relationships.
- He or she not only gets their own snack but he/she brings one for you
This one goes beyond self-reliance. It says that your child is thinking of someone other than his or herself. Once he or he start taking snacks for themselves, in a polite way i.e. not grabbing from a sibling or taking a snack when Mom and Dad said no more, your child shows that he or she is ready to do things independently. When your child offers a snack without asking it tells you that he or she is learning to consider other people’s wants and he or she has a desire to fill those wants.
- He or she doesn’t lose you on a family outing or trip to the store
Yes, this one is a bit scary but just as important as the rest. When your child can find you after being separated in public it shows his or her ability to calmly assess an uncomfortable situation and to find a solution. Again, this fosters independence and problem solving. Of course you as the parent must be ever vigilant if ever separated from your child, but once this milestone is crossed, however difficult for you or your child, it will allow more freedom and confidence in your child. A word of caution, you should not plan to “lose” your child in the parking lot to see how he or she will react or if you are “found”. Instead teach your child how to navigate a situation if he or she is ever separated from you by going to the nearest authority figure or an agreed upon meeting point.
- Home Alone (not the movie)
This is a little further down the line for new parents but it will come eventually. A child staying home without a parent or babysitter is an enormous responsibility. Allowing the child to do this lets him or her know how must trust and faith you have in his or her ability and decision making skills. Your child is now capable of taking care of his or herself without you. It is possibly a bitter-sweet milestone but a milestone nonetheless. When you return, make sure to tell your child how proud you are and how well he or she took care of the house.
When you see any of these behaviors, especially independent of your help or suggestions, positive encouragement is key. Let your child know that what he or she is doing is amazing and you know that you’ve been doing your best to raise a bright, engaging, independent and wonderful child.