Growth pertains to physical aspects like height, weight etc. which can be quantified and objectively measured. Development refers to the mental progress of the child like his intelligence etc. and therefore is qualitative. All parents are concerned and rightly so, about the growth and development of their child. ,
Unlike other species, the human development is the slowest with the child being dependent on parental care for a number of years. Therefore, the relationship between parents and the baby constitutes the most important requirement for the healthy development of a child. Fortunately, both parents and the baby are programmed by nature to form strong attachments towards each other. Even a few days old baby responds preferentially to the image of a human face and particularly to the mother’s voice. Because of the love, affection and care of the parents, the young child experiences an early sense of security, warmth and positive self-worth. This early and secure bonding between the baby and the parents is essential for the healthy development of a child.
Parents feel joy and pride seeing their child growing. The day the baby smiles back in response to their social interaction is heart warming for the parents. Similarly as the child progresses and achieves other milestones like sitting, standing, saying “mama”, “papa” etc., the parents feel proud and happy.
But, parents being parents (and it happens with all parents) subconsciously or consciously, monitor their child’s progress. They are quick to worry if they feel that the progress of the child is not in keeping up with what they think should be. Or they may compare their child with other children and feel that he is not as quick as the other child was in achieving certain milestones, for example standing. This may make them not only anxious but also guilty as they may wonder whether there has been some fault in their upbringing. This is a natural feeling of the parents and this is the way that all good parents are made of.
Three important things regarding parenthood are:
1. The way the parents care for their child and their love and affection for their baby is something that comes instinctively and naturally to all the parents without their having to attend any special classes for it. And what is natural cannot be wrong. So the development of the child cannot be slow or fast due to less or more love and affection of the parents, simply because all conscentitious parents love their children with all their hearts. So parents should not relate the growth and development of their child with the quality of their care because all good parents provide “quality care” to their child.
Some rare exceptions where the child’s development may suffer is when there is a broken home, strained marriage, divorce, mental stress between the spouses, the husband is a drunkard or drug addict, the mother or father suffers from mental illness etc. But if the relation between the spouses is harmonious and the family environment is blissful, then the child will develop to its full potential. The parents should not therefore hold themselves responsible and feel guilty for the “perceived” slow development of their child.
2. Every individual is different and unique. Your child also is. Because of this, they have different patterns of growth and development. Therefore it is superfluous to compare your child with others. There is no fixed time for reaching a certain milestone, which can be considered the gold standard against which comparisons can be made. For example, parents often “know” that the child should start walking by the age of 1 year. What they don’t know is that this “knowing” is not entirely correct.
For example, their child may not be walking by 15 months of age (though able to stand with support), while the relative’s child was able to stand with support at the age of 10 months, and at 15 months, was walking freely around. The parents will immediately think that their child is a “slow” developer and blame themselves for it. What the parents should really know is that a child who walks at the age of 10 months and a child who walks at the age of 18 months, are both normal. A child who achieved walking earlier is certainly not going to be a super human or a prodigy just because he walked earlier; neither is a child who walked later be a mentally slow child and lag behind other children.
Milestones like sitting, standing, walking etc are evident and thus form an obvious way of comparison for the parents. On top of this is the “half knowledge” learned by the parents’ e.g. the child should walk by 1 year of age. In reality, the most easily scored items like walking are the least reliable indicators of the overall developmental potential of a child. Some of the most important aspects of assessment like alertness, responsiveness, concentration, perseverance are abstractand defy an objective measurement or scoring.
3. The third and the most important point that I want to make is to enjoy and love your child for what it is (and not worry for what it is not). Appreciate them for what they can do, and forget about the qualities that they don’t have (after all no human being is perfect and should not also be). The children who are reared positively praised and liked by their parents for what they are, will grow up happy and with confidence in themselves. Even if by misfortune, they are clumsy or slow congenitally (by birth), they will have a spirit that will bring out the best in them and make the maximal use of all the capacities that they possess.
But a child, who otherwise was normal at birth, may grow up lacking confidence, if the parents are worried that their child is not one of the brightest children around. Such parents do not accept the child for what he is but want him to go on striving for perfection. Any shortcoming in him and the parents will quickly notice and point it out. Plus they will pressurise him to “iron” out the flaw. Such a child will not be able to make full use of his potential and skills firstly because he is under a constant pressure of parental expectations and secondly because his shortcomings are highlighted, leading to a feeling of inferiority in him.