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Understanding Your Child

As your children grow, your role as a parent changes. Below are some general guidelines for various ages. These guidelines were written by Parents Anonymous® Parents and Staff to help your children learn and grow. All children are different so your child may not fit exactly into these categories. It is important to know your child. Does your school-age child have a learning disability? Does your toddler share time between two or more families?  Does your baby have colic? These and other situations may change appropriate expectations for your child. Be sure to bring questions up in the Parents Anonymous® Group to seek guidance and support.
Newborn - Twelve months

Babies are unable to understand rules and should never be punished. Once babies start to crawl, you can gently say “no” and take them away from a trouble spot. The most important thing to remember at this stage is your baby’s need to feel safe, and to learn that they can trust you to be gentle and caring. Yelling at babies scares them. It is never okay to shake a baby; even spanking can be dangerous. The most essential ingredient in infant care is a warm, responsive and depend-able adult caregiver. Try to spend lots of time talking, holding, cuddling, singing and playing with your infant.

Twelve – Eighteen months

One-year-olds are delightful. Babies this age are developing a real personality. First steps and first words are exciting events. Growth during this time is still rapid, but not as dramatic. As growth decreases, appetite decreases, so children may eat less. Around 18 months of age, a child may get anxious about being separated from parents and other familiar caregivers. This behavior is normal. If possible, minimize separations during this time and stick to consistent routines.

Eighteen months – Three years

At this age, children often say “Me do it!” They want to do everything for themselves. The key is to let them do what they can. They cannot cook, but they can feed themselves. They cannot tie their shoes, but they can bring them to you. Toddlers get into trouble just trying to do things on their own. Whenever possible, give them choices. “Would you like to wear the red socks or the blue socks?” Distraction may also work. “Look at what I have over here!” When toddlers make mistakes, it is okay to tell them no and gently remove them from the situation. Tell them what they CAN do, not what they CAN’T do. “You can color on the paper but not the walls.”

Three years – Five years

This is the stage of “Why?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do birds fly?” Because these children are so curious, they can get into trouble. Stay calm. Explain why what they did was a mistake. “If we put too much water in the sink, it will spill on the floor and ruin it.” They need limits to keep them safe and to teach them what is important to your family, but they also need to explore. Their curiosity may be a bit trying sometimes, but curiosity reflects an eagerness to learn.

Six years – Eight years

This is the time to build on the important developments of the first six years. Life becomes less about pretending, and more about real life tasks and activities. This age group wants to use real cameras and telephones rather than play ones. They want to make useful items. Their longer attention span allows them to complete projects. Friends become more important, as do rules. Recognizing the power of rules can lead to developing complex rules about daily activities that are age appropriate. Begin giving children more opportunity to help determine their rules.

Nine years – Eleven Years

This is the age when children decide what they can learn and do. School children need to learn to think for themselves.  All children make mistakes and misbehave as they try to find out how this world works. They can help you set limits and figure out what is a fair consequence for a broken rule. If they have a say in their own discipline, they are more likely to obey the rules, use self-control, and accept what happens. Children of this age may believe they are “grown up” and no longer need adult supervision. At the same time, if left alone they may be frightened and sad. This mixture of independence and dependence can be confusing to parents and children, so work on being patient and understanding.

Twelve years – Fifteen years

Numerous changes are taking place with youth at this age–physically, mentally and socially. This is a time when there may be conflict about the level of independence allowed. Peer relationships become more significant. It is important for parents to display understanding and caring and to avoid criticism or comparisons with others. This may be a time of “testing the rules.” Be aware of their online activities and share with them potential dangers of adults seeking to prey on children of all ages even to pretend to give emotional support.

Sixteen years – Eighteen years

At this age, youth are bursting with feelings of independence.

They are sure they can master the world. It makes sense to give them more independence, but they are not adults; they still need and want limits and help. Setting very strict rules often backfires. Instead, Work with your teen to set fair rules. Listen to each other. Explain your rules. “I will not let you go to the party unless the parents are home.” Teens still need their parents’ support and love.