The Plague of Inappropriate Comparisons
I love the one about a mother watching her son go by in a marching band. Beaming with pride, she elbows the mother standing next to her and exclaims, “Would you look at that…my Bernie is the only one in step!”
Every child should have a parent like that. The fact is that rates and patterns of development are enormously variable, especially during the early years. Not all children of the same chronological age will be exhibiting the same type and level of progress. Unfortunately, we live in a highly competitive society, and parents can’t help but compare their child’s behavior and abilities to those of other children. And when their little one appears to be “behind,” a lot of anxiety typically ensues.
That is why it is critically important for mothers and fathers to understand the concept of “normal range.” This is the entire period during which a skill can emerge and the child is considered on course for healthy development. And the normal ranges for virtually all skills – physical, cognitive, and social – are quite wide, usually many months. Moreover, differences within the normal ranges are meaningless. For instance, if one baby starts crawling a couple of months before a second baby, as long as they are both within the normal range, the first isn’t “advanced” and the second isn’t “slow,” and it is just as likely that the second baby will begin walking before the first.
So as you watch your child having tons of fun at Romp n’ Roll, don’t permit the tendency to make inappropriate developmental comparisons diminish your own enjoyment. Keep in mind that she is a unique individual, and regardless of where other children may be, she is precisely where SHE should be.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.