Competitive Milestone Checking

There are many apps available to check your infant or child’s developmental milestones. While these can be useful tools, it’s important not to become obsessed about the timing of your child’s milestones.

Many of these purchasable apps provide an indicator of ‘red flags’ for when your child is not meeting a milestone at the expected level. Parents need to be very careful about not letting these apps contribute to unnecessary anxiety and stress.

All too often, mothers’ groups can easily break off into cliques of women who insist on engaging in this type of competitive checking. There’s also the well-intended, but often unhelpful commentary about whose baby is so ‘smart’ or ‘advanced’ for doing something relatively routine.

For women whose perfectly healthy babies have not yet broken the Guinness world record for raspberry blowing, this can make them feel anxious and judged, rather than supported. This competitiveness is also one of the primary reasons that women drop out of mothers’ groups.

It’s important not to become too concerned about the connections between your infant’s milestone checks and their intellect. When psychologists assess babies’ development, we are looking for behavioural indicators that fall within a range, not an IQ score.

Despite how many hours of Baby Einstein you sit your child in front of, your infant does not have actually have an assessable IQ.

A child’s milestones should certainly be acknowledged and celebrated, but it pays to be mindful about the language that you’re using. By praising children early and often for their effort (‘good work!’) and for how their behaviour makes you feel (‘I’m so excited for you!’), you are fostering good messages about self-worth and self-esteem.

In contrast, children who are generally only praised for their intellect, ability or appearance run the risk of believing that their self-worth is dependent on how ‘smart’, ‘talented’ or ‘pretty’ they are.

Children will develop skills and mature at different ages. Apps that help parents determine if their child is ‘on track’ can create unnecessary worry. Use the time that you would spend hunting for clues about whether or not your baby is on track to hug, sing or read to them instead. Try not to get swept up in the competition about whose baby is more advanced.

It can be difficult to deal with someone in your social group who engages in constant ‘one upmanship’ regarding their children. If this seems familiar, then keep in mind that it says far more about how this person measures their self-worth and how they see themselves, than about your children and their development.

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