Most parents want to understand their children. Having or not having this desire to understand will determine in part whether or not they will be good parents. Parents may make mistakes in bringing up their boys and girls, but it is possible to do a generally good job, in spite of the mistakes, if they make use o£ what they are learning about the physical, mental, and emotional growth o£ children and the conditions that affect that growth. Sometimes it is not easy to understand why Bill and Sue and Jerry behave as they do. Many mothers and fathers either become bewildered or lose patience with their children and act on impulse rather than understanding. Since most parents have never had any real opportunity to learn the stages through which children normally develop, they often judge them by adult standards o£ achievement, and in their anxiety to have fine children they try to punish or scold them into behavior for which they are not yet ready. They are unhappy or concerned because their two-year-old is not generous or their ten-year-old is not neat.
Many of the problems that develop between parents and their children come from the fact that too much is expected too soon. There are two important things for parents to know if they are really to understand their growing boys and girls: the way in which all children grow; the child’s own pattern of growing.
The way in which all children grow
What can be expected of children at each age? It is realized that a child may not be expected to learn to read until he has a mental age of six; yet a four-year-old is often expected to dress himself completely, a seven-year-old to be quiet and sit still, a pre-adolescent to comb his hair willingly, or an adolescent always to be responsible. If parents stop to think of the ways in which children grow emotionally and physically, then many of the problems that seem serious at the moment will be seen in their proper relation to the growing, developing child. All children go through the same general stages of growing up. A baby sits up before he crawls, crawls before he stands, stands before he walks. He coos and babbles before he uses words, and he uses single words before he is able to put them into sentences. The exact age at which he will do each of these things may vary considerably among any group of normal babies, yet each baby will pass through these stages. In the same way, children are selfish before they are generous, they tell untruths before they learn to be truthful, they are often untidy before they become neat, irresponsible before they become responsible. If mothers and fathers understand these facts, it helps them to have greater patience and makes them more willing to take time to guide, rather than to drive, their children toward desirable behavior. (Continue below to page 2)