Child development is an important topic for educators, pediatricians and caregivers alongside parents. The measurements and questions relating to the process can be complicated at times as in these foundation years, children are more subjected toward growth and change.
What Is Child Development?
The sequence of several developmental stages like physical language development, emotional and thought changes, which occur in a child from birth to adulthood, are referred to as child development. The early years are supposedly the toughest years for the parents as various responsibilities and knowledge regarding raising up a child can be overbearing. These early years are also the period when substantial and significant amounts of development in regard to cognitive skills, emotional, and physical health take place in a child. According to a 2015 study 1 , “Child Development (CD) is a fundamental part of human development, emphasizing that the brain architecture is shaped in the first years, from the interaction of genetic inheritance and influences of the environment in which the child lives.” A child progresses into independence from dependency on their parents or caregivers during this transition period. Hereditary 2 factors play a key role in determining child development as the child’s learning capacity depends majorly on the genes that were passed through parents. It is also strongly influenced by prenatal life events as well as several environmental factors.
The definition of healthy development is when the social, emotional and educational needs are met of children who are fully able or with special health care requirements. A child grows up to their true potential only when they are presented with all the opportunities to have a healthy development process. Having a financially and emotionally secure and safe childhood, with utmost care and love from the parents, are the basic necessities to meet the criteria for a healthy child development process. Other important factors, such as proper sleep, exercise and nutrition make a significant impact on the development of the child. The key domains of child development are as following:
- Healthy physical development
- Thinking skills or cognitive development
- Linguistic development
- Social-emotional development
What Does Child Development Include?
Child development is about covering all the potential scope of skills that a child can master over their lifetime. The key developmental aspects include these following:
Learning and ensuring the healthy growth and transition in a child’s physique and health is utmost important. It is advised to the parents to take notes of new motor skills that the child is acquiring at each age. Physical skills 3 , such as fine motor skills related to fingers, and gross motor skills related to the entire body should be encouraged.
Exploring and understanding the emotional changes that a child experiences at each stage of growth is another very crucial aspect that parents need to keep in mind. Emotional development 4 is extremely necessary as it determines the milestones that a child might face at each age group.
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Parents are suggested to stay updated by reading up on how kids interact with others and form companionship. Social interaction can be a pivotal stage in development in children as that is the most important external factor that directly shapes how they will perceive themselves and people around them in the future. Emotional regulation 5 helps in mastering self control to exhibit a friendlier social persona.
Research 6 shows that early cognitive development can make a child insightful, active and competent from an extremely early age. Parents must pay attention to uncovering several intellectual and critical thinking skills that occur in children at every stage of growth, as cognitive development highly influences how they will interact with difficult situations and build up resilience in adulthood. Speech and language development relies on cognitive abilities and lesser attention toward the aspect may result in somewhat impairment in using language, reading and communicating while growing up. Sensory awareness 7 helps children to register sensory information which dictates their self esteem and quick reflexes in situations when the parent is not around or unavailable. “Research has shown that the levels of cognitive and noncognitive development in the early years influence schooling decisions, employment and wages, teenage pregnancy, smoking, participation in illegal activities, and incarceration, and also drive in part health inequalities in adulthood,” states a 2017 study 8 .
The following facets can be noticed in every stage of child development while addressing common behavior 9 related problems and implementing discipline in children:
- Typical age-related behaviors are the flagship that a parent or caregiver would expect from a certain age group of children.
- Common behavior related challenges that the parent is most likely to face from a certain age group of children.
- Effective strategies to redirect problematic behaviors in children in order to avoid future problems.
- Ways of communication with children on the basis of their developmental stage.
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Stages Of Child Development
However slow the process of raising a child may seem, most parents experience a rapid rate of growth that takes place in the 18 years of infancy of their children. Following are the specific stages that a child goes through during their developmental period, along with possible parenting and disciplining strategies that might help the parent to have a smoother experience at parenting:
Rapid emotional, physical and cognitive development take place in the first 1-2 years in infants as this is the period when they develop the first of their motor skills which allows them to be independent enough to discover and understand their surrounding environment. This is the stage when the child first gets to use their cognitive skills to develop language skills. However, toddlers 10 are extremely infamous for their temper tantrums as they still do not possess the language skills fully, so they cannot verbalize their emotions to cope with the distress.
Discipline and parenting strategies:
- Child-proofing the home
- Litter or Potty training
- Taking effective safety measurements
As the toddler grows up into a preschooler, major emotional and social changes take place along with physical development. The child begins to have somewhat control over their emotions at this stage. They show interest in playing with other children, pleasing the parents, and learning new activities. However, as they start going to preschool, many can experience separation anxiety as well as feel overwhelmed by being around other kids and the teacher.
Discipline and Parenting strategies:
- Consistent discipline can be the key strategy
- Make them aware of their health
- Help them learn how to take care of themselves
3. School-going children
Children show immense amounts of progress in case of learning once they enter school. Kids generally find joy in coming home to their parents after school to talk about their all-day-long expeditions. At this age, children flourish socially and develop friendships and new hobbies. However, defiance 11 is a common trait that can be seen in children of this age group as they try to test the limits of their parents by showing little to moderate resistance.
Discipline and parenting strategies:
- Praising the child for trying hard at something by rewarding them
- Offering positive reinforcement for proper behavior
- Making them learn about personal hygiene
- Teaching children new skills can have a big impact on how they perceive their independence
This is a rather confusing state for the parents as the child is neither a teenager nor an infant at this stage. Tweens are known to encompass a wide range of growth in case of physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Some girls start to enter puberty at this stage and are also known to mature faster than boys. However, at this stage the child may develop body image issues because of their changing bodies. Hormonal changes also inflict mood swings and shift in behavior. Kids of this age group can be disrespectful at times. According to a 2013 study 12 , “pubertal hormones contribute to brain-behavior interactions,” which can affect adolescents in both positive and negative ways. The parent can find that the previous child development and discipline strategies ineffective on their child.
Discipline and parenting strategy:
- Establishing clear rules about using the internet and smartphones to keep them safe from the overbearing side of technology.
- Proper nutrition is very important as their bodies start to change.
- Having open conversations with the kid is extremely necessary as they might be facing problems like bullying, homework-related issues, non-compliance, body image issues.
- Try to reinstate feelings of self-worth with positive remarks.
The early years seem to fly away faster and parents might feel overwhelmed with the thought of preparing their children for the real world within the last few years. Although physical growth seems to slow down during the later teen years, however, in the early teen stage they might rapidly outgrow their clothes. Teens show emotional maturity and control over their emotions, which make them less moody. They get introduced to many added responsibilities in these years as they might experience their first romantic relationship, the first job, or getting their driving license.
Discipline and parenting strategies:
- Effective teen discipline 13 can involve rewarding for good behavior and negative consequences for improper behavior.
- Decide whether to present them with responsibilities like getting a driver’s license, by making their privileges contingent on appropriate behavior.
- Making sure they have appropriate amounts of social and emotional skills and teaching new problem-solving skills in case of lesser cognitive and emotional maturity.
- Having patience is a key for this stage as teens in their later teen years tend to seek advice from the parents as their maturity intensifies, but mid-teen-year-olds can be very erratic and show resistance by not obeying their parents.
- Teaching them how to be safe on the road is necessary as teens might show risk-taking behaviors.
Effective Parenting Practices
Proper child development directly relies on effective parenting strategies. The parenting practices can be vast in nature and diverse amongst different cultures. Following are some of the effective parenting practices that can establish healthy child development over the years:
- Responding in a predictive way to the children
- Presenting and showing sensitivity and warmth
- Having household rules and routines
- Reading along with them and sharing books
- Having open conversations with the children to learn about their perspective at different stages of development
- Making them aware of safety and health
- Implementing proper discipline strategies without added harshness
The following parenting strategies can also be helpful in understanding and establishing the right amount of child development:
1. Nutrition and diet strategies
These can help with picky eaters. It also enables the parent to have the proper knowledge of size suggestions and right choice of food to ensure good health at every stage of growth.
2. Physical activity recommendations
It can be a great way of introducing the importance of the right amount of needed exercise. Parents can involve children in family physical activities.
3. Introducing responsibilities
Involving kids in chores around the house can help in determining the age-appropriate chores for the children and establishing children’s role within the family.
4. Regular check-ups
Doctor visits are another important part of appropriate child development as organized check-up schedules will help to locate potential health issues by age, so that necessary immunizations can be provided in case of bad health.
5. Focusing on safety
Safety guidelines are especially necessary as little kids do not understand all the potential risks and older kids tend to take up risky activities for fun. Making them aware of proper safety measures at different ages can help with avoiding potential health risks.
6. Sleep hygiene
Sleep guidelines can help to explain the importance of the right amount of sleep for the kids and also the need for setting an appropriate bedtime.
7. Monitoring technology use
Advice on technology is very important as handling screen timing and knowing the social media platforms, the internet and electronic devices can help to ensure cyber security of the children.
8. Being involved in the child’s world
This would help the most as it makes the parents have a position of providing help to the children, in case of managing school-daycare, navigating new courtships, handling stressful situations and dealing with bullies. Knowing about the elements of the child’s word helps the parents to manage potential stressors at each age.
Importance Of Child Development
Ensuring proper child development 14 is about observing and monitoring child development as a necessary tool to make sure the children will meet their developmental milestones. Developmental milestones 15 can be a very useful guide for parents to establish ideal child development. Having check reports at different developmental stages might help to ensure the proper amount of child development at certain ages against the arbitrary frame of time. This particularly allows the parents to have a ‘check in’ to understand if their child is on the track according to their age. These can help with detecting potential health risks in the developing process. These ‘check-ins’ are usually performed by Paediatricians or through child/mother services. Early intervention leads to early treatment so that developmental challenges can be minimized, to be able to promote skill development and subsequent confidence development in children.
Ensuring Better Future
Child development is a tricky process and can have several factors that can directly or indirectly affect the developmental process, such as genetics, medical factors, prenatal circumstances, and lack of exposure to necessary helpful stimuli. Child development is carried out in the best possible way by ensuring the adequate amount of discipline, nutrition, and required skills for each age. However, the most important note is to remember that every child is different and their needs can differ from each other. Although the process of child development has a predictive sequence, the developmental journey for each child can be unique in nature. Thus, parents and caregivers must pay keen attention to all the sectors of development in a child, to be able to carry out the best and curated child development strategies in action.References:
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- Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Institute of Medicine; National Research Council; Allen LR, Kelly BB, editors. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jul 23. 4, Child Development and Early Learning. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310550/
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