Why are we rushing our children through their childhoods?
I have seen a few questions in our Facebook mums groups lately that have caused me some concern. They include:
“I'm trying to move my 18 month old over to a big boy bed but he keeps getting up and coming into our bed. How do I get him to stay in his own bed?”
“My 20 month old is still in nappies and resists all my urges to go to the toilet. All his friends are toilet trained though. What should I do?”.
“My 6 week old baby will only nap on me and keeps waking up during the night. Help!”
Worried mums are constantly reaching out asking for advice on how they can get their child to achieve certain milestones. To be sleeping through the night by 4 months, weaned from night feeds by 12 months and toilet trained by 2. The list goes on.
But I have to ask this question -- what is the hurry?
Why are we tearing our hair out, comparing our children to others, and trying to force things by a certain age because we think it is what they should be doing? The reality is, most of the things we want to happen, our children just aren’t ready for. We may be ready. But they are not.
Why is it so important that your brand new baby, who has known nothing but the comfort of you, learns to fall asleep on their own straight away? Why not just rock them to sleep for a while longer?
Why do we need our children to give up their comfort items, like nappies, bottles or dummies just because we worry they are overly attached to them?
Maybe the volume of information we receive from parenting experts, medical professionals and other parents, has stopped us from following the natural rhythm of our children? Maybe if we spent more time listening to our kids, and our own mummy instincts instead, we might feel less pressured to help them catch up to other kids.
I say this as someone who slowed down my parenting and achieved positive results. When my oldest son was about 2.5 years old, I started to feel concerned that he wasn’t yet toilet trained. Most of my friend’s kids who were the same age were toilet training and daycare was starting to ask me about it. But I just had this feeling that both he and I weren't quite ready.
So I waited. We started when he was just a few weeks way from turning 3 and instead of toilet training being a massive battle of wills that led to many accidents, tears and a lot of frustration, it was actually not that bad. Almost easy.
He was a bit older, so we were able to communicate better, and he had reached the point where he was ready and excited to use the toilet. It was a natural transition from wearing nappies to using a toilet.
So the next time you feel the pressure for your children to reach a certain milestone, just ask yourself, what is the rush? For many parents they just don't want their child to fall behind in any way, for fear it might create a dreaded developmental delay, no matter how often we are told that all children develop at their own pace.
A kindergarten teacher I spoke to about this very topic made me feel a lot better. "I've never had a child start school still needing their dummy or refusing to use the toilet, and I've been teaching for 20 years," she said.
Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of racing to the finish line, let's all slow down.