Hi! I’m Amber. I run a parenting blog called The Observant Mom. I have been doing research on the cognitive leaps children go through. I am making this video to give a comprehensive overview of the research that I’ve been doing; to describe what cognitive leaps are, how I researched them, the type of detail I can provide, and how I think it can have an enormous impact on parenting. Today is [date]. Please pull up a chair as we talk about cognitive leaps! [end]
A cognitive leap is a time when a child’s brain is growing. When they first onset, it is scary for the child and they tend to be fussy, irritable, or even misbehave. But after this period comes a new burst in ability. They become calm again and are not just a joy to be around, but totally fascinating. This is when parents take more pictures of them and share them on social media. Leaps are age related and predictable. They are also frequent; there are hundreds of them over a person’s life time. I like to use a metaphor that it’s as if children like caterpillars who go into hiding for a bit while everything gets rearranged and they come out on the other side as a butterfly, but they do it over and over and over again.
I learned about leaps from the book The Wonder Weeks. There is other research about leaps, such as in Touchpoints and other sources, but Wonder Weeks has such amazing detail about them in the first 18 months of life that I consider them to be the leading voice on leaps. The best way I can explain their research and also better explain cognitive leaps themselves is to show you their app. In their app, you enter your child’s due date, then this calendar shows up. The calendar starts at the due date and progresses forward. The blue areas are what they call fussy periods and the white periods are what they call sunny periods. This app can show you for instance that if your child was born on October 1st of 2017, they will have a fussy period on November, such and such. During the fussy periods, they also have a cloud over a certain date when they say the leap gets to be its stormiest. In their research, the authors of The Wonder Weeks found TEN age related leaps that a child goes through from birth to 18 months. At each leap, they give information about what type of fussy behaviors you’ll see during the fussy period, what new abilities they have, and what kind of activities you can do with your child. They make it a point to never compare your child to others as they still develop differently, however, they give suggestions of what kinds of abilities your child might start to show, at the earliest age possible, so you can watch out for them and help develop them as they arise.
The research put forth in Wonder Weeks was immensely helpful to me. For instance, at 8 months, there is a leap where the child starts to understand concepts. I would have never thought a child so young could do this. A child at this age certainly wants to grab things and explore objects, but knowing they are exploring concepts, I was able to present objects to my children in a more intelligent way. I would give my child, for instance, a variety of spoons, so they could explore what a “spoon” was. Wonder Weeks also helped with discipline. For instance, at 15 months, the child starts testing. When this happened, it helped calm a lot of fears for me. They even describe things like when your child will start to have tears and when they will start to have spit bubbles.
I cannot over appreciate this book. I regard the scientists behind this work as geniuses. I recommend it to all new mothers. I have had several tell me they were very thankful that I had recommended it to them. Get the book and get the app!
So. The problem. The problem is that their research ends! Their research ends at 18 months. The authors say that the leaps continue, and they say there are hundreds of them throughout a person’s entire lifetime, but they simply stopped their research at 18 months. This book was such a powerful guide that I felt lost without it. Not only does it end, but a toddler is so much more complicated than an infant. Toddlers can walk. They are starting to talk. And now you have the problem of worrying that a past mistake is affecting your child now. Discipline becomes so much more complicated as well. It’s not hard to accept to respond to an infant with mostly love. With a toddler however, thought varies widely on how to respond. But the worst thing for me were the authoritarians who would say things like, “If you don’t get ahold of your child when they are young and make them behave, you are going to have a brat!” I didn’t have too many terrible problems with my first child, but I always had that fear that I wasn’t doing enough. I desperately wanted to know what was normal and what was not.
So, I have taken it upon myself to document the leaps after the book The Wonder Weeks ends. I did not originally set out to do this. I was hungry for this knowledge, but I did not know if I would be capable of this work. I found with my first child, however, that I was able to notice when he was more fussy than normal. I am a homeschool stay at home mom so I am around my children … all the time. I have three children. I am also part of a forum that discusses the leaps after the book ends. I went through my own notes and the forum to form a rough skeleton of when the leaps might be. I have been verifying the leaps primarily with my second child, my daughter. I have also been able to confirm some of the leaps with other mothers, including the very precise times that they start, and many of the exact fussy behaviors and skills seen at each leap. In general, I usually have rough notes about the leaps for whatever age my first born is–and I absolutely know that those notes are prone to error. I have more confirmed information for the leaps for however old my second child is, but I also have some confirmed leaps at the older ages based on the input from other mothers.
This method that I just described to identify the leaps is actually the same as how it was done in The Wonder Weeks. The researchers asked moms to fill out questionnaires about what behaviors they saw in their children. Us moms I believe have a powerful role in this. We can tell you exactly when our children are starting to act up. We get excited when our children do new things. And we can tell you exactly how old they are at any given time. We are perfect for identifying these leaps.
Overview of Research
Now, to show off a sample of my research, I would like to switch over to a table of the leaps that I have found so far. [end]
Note: These charts are still under construction!!
I have the leaps numbered on the left hand column. The age of the leap is when the fussy period is at its stormiest. I round them off to the nearest month. And I have been naming the leaps based on the dominant new skill found in each. I want to emphasize just how relentless these leaps are. There is one at 18, 20, 21, 23 months, and they keep going like that. Each leap brings with it fussy and irritating behavior!
It is already commonly known that children can be irritating, and even at specific ages, such as how they are described as “The Terrible Twos.” I know it seems like childhood can be one long frustrating ride, but there is actually order in that chaos. And there is a reason for the irritating behavior. For instance, in the late twos, I found there was just an onslaught of leaps, one after the other, and they lasted a long time. But, when the child turns 3, they are capable of beginning abstract reasoning. That’s huge. I have to think the prefrontal cortex, the gray matter, the stuff responsible for thinking, is being built in this time. Building the human mind is a monumental feat. The process to get there is scary for the child. [end]
These charts alone tend to resonate with people. I’d like to give some of the comments I have received on them.
“Very helpful. My son just went through the 32 month one and this is exactly what we experienced.“
“Yes!! We are in the 23mo category, there is a language and comprehensive explosion I think,but agressivesness, crankiness, limit pushing, less apetite are all definetly accurate!.“
“Yes your description of the 23/24 mo leap and the 26mo leap is consistent with what we experienced.“
“My oldest is just 3.5 and this certainly resonates”
“This is right on for what we are dealing with now at 2.5. Ufda“
“Super helpful confirming my suspicion of a leap now at 18 months.“
“Fantastic! Thanks for sharing. We can def relate to Leap 19 “
“Ahhhhhhh you have soothed my worries lol.“
“Leap 11 omg yes, I came on here to ensure I wasn’t going mad as everything is pointing to a leap!“
“but my daughter turned 5 a week ago and I’d agree with the recent leaps. 4 yrs 10 months was quite rough. Lots of crying at bedtime. not wanting to be left alone for a second. wanting me to stay with her while she went to sleep having always self settled very well. blaming others for things then owning up saying OK it was me.
the 5 year leap bang on too. showing concern for major events she’d heard on the radio or from school, interested in finding out how to deal with scary things, worry about my mortality. asking if I am going to die and getting upset at the thought it. “
“Oh I had to have a giggle at 5 years because my 5 year old daughter constantly negotiates and argues!“
I plan on documenting my research in my Observant Mom book series, organizing the books by age group: one for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and so on. The first set of leaps that I will release in book format will be in The Observant Mom: Toddlers. I have an ongoing summary of the leaps in a post at my blog, www.theobservantmom.com. I also post updates about the leaps and share insight about them on my facebook page at The Observant Mom. I have tentative plans for a video series for some of the leaps.
In my expanded documentation, I give information on when the fussy periods are, what new skills you can expect, insight into what kind of discipline might be effective, and some ideas on what activities you can do during the leap.
I’d like to give a few examples of what I can provide. And before I go on, I want to note that, I believe I have nailed down the fussy period timelines. I believe I have provided pretty good insight into the skills that are developing. I understand however, that more data points might reveal a more contextual conclusion than what I have. And that is because that’s the way science works. You get more data points, you get better knowledge. So, it’s not that I think anything I provide is “wrong,” but that it is simply revision 1. I work with other mothers as best I can to refine this information. I want to emphasize also that although I am very inspired by the authors of the Wonder Weeks, I am not affiliated with them.
Fussy Period Information
So the first thing I can provide in each video is information about the fussy period. I can tell you when it first starts, which tends to start out with very subtle fussy behaviors that you might not even notice. I can tell you when the fussy period gets to be at its stormiest, which you will certainly notice. On a broad scale, the fussy behaviors change as a child gets older. Wonder Weeks describes that infants are cranky, clingy, and cry. I found toddlers have meltdowns, sleep disruptions, can’t make up their mind, and want irrational things. Sound familiar? Preschoolers I found can be aggressive and they like to test social and moral norms. I do not have research yet for the grade school years, but The Center for Parenting Education has a summary of cycles of disequilibrium and equilibrium–which are leaps–and they describe for instance seven years old as being “moody, melancholy, fearful, and critical.” An article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “What Teenagers Need from Their Parents,” describes what children are like during the tween and teenager years. Some of the ages are tumultuous and others are calm, and they seem to alternate by year: stormy, calm, stormy, calm. As one example, they describe 11 year olds in this way:
Spatial learning and certain kinds of reasoning may decline at this stage, studies show. Parts of the brain responsible for prospective memory, or remembering what you are supposed to do in the future, are still maturing. This may be why a teen may seem clueless if asked to give the teacher a note before school.
That’s a leap. And they continue like this all throughout childhood, and Wonder Weeks says into adulthood too. It really is leap after leap after leap. And the leaps lend themselves so easily to knowing how to respond as parents. I debate if I should espouse further on how to deal with children as a parent, but the answer is so obvious if it is rooted in child development. If our children have something huge going on in their minds, preventing them from being able to bring a note to their teacher, we can’t punish them for it. We can’t even let natural consequences ride out. We have to be there for them.
Fussy periods happen because something big is going on in a child’s mind. Wonder Weeks asks us to imagine going to sleep and waking up the next day and everything is different. I am actually very excited to present the research about fussy periods at older ages, because, as an adult, I think you might be able to remember going through them when you were younger. For instance, at the leap at which starts at 5 years old on the dot, the child becomes aware that they might die. And I was able to confirm with other mothers that their child did this at this exact age. I remember this as a child. I remember thinking, “A fire could destroy our house. I could die. That COULD happen.” My son at 5 became afraid of tornadoes and other mothers report their children ask questions about mortality at this exact age. Imagine how scary that is. Or maybe you can remember the first time you realized that how you interacted socially with other children matters–because they might not like you. Now think of how you might have behaved when you first realized you liked boys or girls. How did you act? How did it feel? It feels scary! These are all related to the leaps a child goes through in the preschool years, which deal heavily with social or moral norms. All sorts of big emotions go on inside a child, and they might not understand them, they might even be dishonest how they feel (“I hate girls!”).
Each of these fussy periods tend to come in addition with behaviors that tend to irritate adults, such as aggression, possessiveness, sleep disruptions, and irritability–at least the leaps in the younger years are like this. I found in every single case, the irritating behaviors were bids for connection. The child wants more time with an adult or with their sibling or with their friend or they want to preserve their work area–and they aren’t terribly polite in how they go about getting these things. They hit, they push, they act out. I am going to advocate very strongly that we treat these sensitive periods with a lot of care.
I can give very specific behaviors found during the fussy periods. As one example, during the fussy period of the leap at 32 months, which is the Leap I called “The Leap of Creative Problem Solving,” both of my older children would want something and not take any steps to get it. So, a toy might be 2 feet away from them and they are screaming for it, but they won’t get it. It’s as if they became paralyzed. Certainly this can annoy parents. But, and I hope this is one of the main benefits of this research, by understanding it, you can deal with it better.
For me, I can say I was almost always in denial that a new leap was happening. As an example, there is a leap that starts at 18 months. The fussy period lasts until 19 months. The next leap starts at 19 months, 3 weeks. You get 3 weeks break. I was in denial at first. But when I finally accepted it, I dealt with it better. At that particular leap, the toddler wants to be held, then put down again, then held, then put down again. This can be very annoying when you are trying to do … anything. When I figured out it was a leap, I decided to cancel all plans that week to deal with it. And then it became a very lovely week. Really all my toddler wanted to was be near mommy. I’m not saying this exact solution will be what your family does, but I offer it as one example of how understanding the leaps helped us. [end]
Or, another time, my daughter kept hiding things from me. I was at first annoyed. But when I figured out it was a leap, I was able to see it differently. Instead of yelling, “I don’t have time for games!” I saw it literally as “Oh she’s playing a game. It’s cute.” So understanding the behavior can help us reframe how we see it.
I’m certainly not saying that the leaps are easy but understanding them and reframing the behavior will help. I hope by providing information on these leaps that parents and educators can find more solace. Just knowing that these leaps occur can calm a parent’s fear down, I think, but knowing exactly what behaviors you can expect is sure to be immensely powerful. In the book The Whole Brain Child, Dr. Siegal describes a technique called “Name it to Tame it.” If you name big and scary emotions, you can tame them. I hope by naming these cognitive leaps, it can serve as one large name it to tame it. And, in calming down our anxiety and stress levels, help us have the ability to respond to our children with wisdom. [end]
The second thing I can provide in the videos is insight into discipline. By discipline, I mean things like getting children to put their clothes on, getting them out the door, getting them to take a bath. Things that society inhumanely expects us to do with children. I have read almost 4 dozen books on parenting now. Several of the books describe what they call positive discipline tools. These tools help in these situations.
I was very confused at first as to what tool to apply to what situation with children. One of things I can offer in my Observant Mom book series is context on when these tools apply. Well one of the contexts that I am extremely excited to provide is the context of age. I find how you handle discipline like this changes over time. On a broad scale, with a teenager, you can use full blown negotiation and brainstorming with them. With a toddler, you can’t. And vice versa, what you would use with a toddler is not what you would use with a teenager.
I remember how lost I felt when I would ask advice for instance for my 18 month old. It is hard for older parents to remember exactly what an 18 month old was like, when an 18 month old is different than even a 21 month old. I found that discipline changed rapidly and frequently at young ages, and it was highly related to these leaps.
So I want to give an example of how discipline changes using the example of getting a child to put a shirt on. Advice you might get as a parent is to offer the child who is say 18 months, a choice. This sounds completely lovely and I don’t doubt has application in some context. However, when you put up a green shirt and a black shirt for an 18 months old child, their response is, “Chase me.” Or watch me dawdle or do whatever it is other than put on that annoying shirt. I found that distraction worked beautifully at this age, in fact starting at around 15 months. At these ages, they are like Dory from Finding Nemo; they forget things quickly. So you might sing a favorite song to them or tell a favorite story–you know your child the best. This worked beautifully up until 25 months, which is the leap I called the Leap of Persistence and Insistence. At that leap, they remember more and they dig in and distraction was no longer as effective. It occasionally was effective, but at that age some new tools were needed, which I discuss further in my documentation.
I have several ideas on discipline in this context. I want to stress that if you have a method that works for you, by all means, continue! If a tool isn’t working for you, please try something else. I hope to give but a few ideas and most of all what I hope you find is that you are effective as a parent. I hope that you can get your needs met as a parent while respecting your child to the greatest extent possible.
New Skills and Activity Ideas
The third thing I can provide for each leap are the new abilities that the child begins to develop in the second part of the leap, the sunny period. And this is the super exciting part, which is almost entirely untapped!
I think that culturally, many people are already aware of leaps. But they tend to call them stages. My British friends tell me they are called “phases.” So when a child is acting up, a mom might tell another mom, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a stage. He’ll outgrow it soon.” I think for the other side of the leap, the sunny side, many people also already know that children tend to grow in bursts. Children have a sudden leap forward in ability. Montessori describes exactly this in her writing. I am proposing, based on my reading and research, that these two things, what are called stages and the bursts in ability, are united. And so, I want to propose the idea that these stages are more than a stage: they are a leap. On the other side of the fussy behavior is going to be a burst of new ability. And so, instead of ignoring the fussy behavior (or worse), we actually lean in to the behavior; that we see it as a code that our children need us in that time. They need our connection, our guidance, and new activities to practice their new skills. And this is something that is already known as a healthy parenting practice: that when children act out, we lean in. I actually think all healthy parenting practices already assume leaps. And understanding the leaps specifically can give so much more insight into our children. Having knowledge of these leaps can take these periods–which can be so frustrating and which can bring a family down–and turn them into a springboard where after we go down, and lean in , we catapult back up.[end]
I actually found that the specific fussy behavior and the specific sunny behavior were often linked. There is a dual nature to them. An example of this is a leap I was able to confirm, at 4 years, 10 months. In this leap, during the fussy period, the child starts to blame other people for things they obviously did. With my son, it was over who farted. He would do what he did and say, “I didn’t do it, you did!” He would also ask me to tell him stories related to this topic of blame. And a few weeks after this, he started to take on jaw dropping responsibility. He wanted to carry his own baseball equipment and buckle his own car seat. He would get hurt and say, resolutely, “I got hurt, but it was my fault.” And he finally accepted responsibility over who farted, which I gave him lavish praise over.
I found this is how leaps often go: Children misbehave before they behave. They become paralyzed before they are confident; they pass around blame before they take responsibility; they say they hate girls before admitting that they really like them. In this way, we can again reframe so-called bad behavior: It is actually a code for us to understand them better. I found the very thing they were seemingly bad at was the very thing they were trying to get good at–and we can see that if we can just hold on for a bit during the rough ride. I am for growth mindset; the parenting practice where if your child is struggling with something, you give them some support so the can grow in that skill. Well, I found that this kind of growth is built in to human development. They are actually terrible at something by design and at certain ages and it’s as if it’s designed to be a signal to us to help them grow. This gives further argument that these leaps should be seen as something we lean into, not ignore. Personally, I think that this one thought alone, about misbehavior before behavior, if true and widely accepted, could revolutionize parenting. [end]
I did my best to document the new skills I saw at each leap. When something seemed strikingly new in my children’s advancement, I wrote it down in as much detail as possible. I also am very aggressive about finding activities for my children. I presented the activities and noted the earliest age at which my children were interested in the activities, again revealing a new skill they were working on. Upon reviewing the skills during a particular leap, the start of which is when the fussy phase first started, there were usually a few new skills. I used these to come up with a pattern and then a name for each leap. I found I noticed some skills at a certain age for my first child, and then being on the lookout for them with my second child, I actually found they often emerged at earlier ages. So, I don’t doubt some of the skills I list may actually show up in yet earlier leaps.
So, with each leap I’ll describe their new skills and I have some activity ideas for the leaps. I like to offer simple ideas for activities. I’m not afraid of complex activities, but the simple ones are more readily adopted by any given family–and I want to show how a little bit of education, administered at the right time, goes a long way.
For example, at 2 years, 7 months, there is a leap where the child starts to understand the idea of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A simple activity you can do this age is to hang up a calendar for them and cross out the day as it is done every night.
Another example of a skill tied to the leap is the leap again at 21 months. This is a major leap in my opinion. In this one, the child can do concrete to abstract activities. This simply means taking a physical object and matching it to its drawn representation. This is foundational for reading, as the child learns that the words and symbols on pages mean something. I exploited this to teach letters and colors at this tender age, which is just before 2 years old. My daughter, my second, was a beginning reader before she was 3 years old. I have many other reading activity ideas, which I tie to the leaps, which I will elaborate further on in expanded documentation.
Some other academic skills are for instance, at 3 years, 10 months, a child may become very interested in doing experiments. We started in on many, many science experiments from that time on.
Some time during the 4 year old leaps, they become interested in big picture history. They love space and dinosaurs. Novel, right? Well, there is so much learning material available now. I loved to find documentaries on YouTube about the Big Bang up until the end of dinosaurs and my son was fascinated with them. You’re welcome, mom, go enjoy some “me” time while your kid learns about history! We also put those events on a timeline,
Morality and Social Skills
It is not just academic skills that we can teach our children during these sensitive times. One thing I am very excited for are the leaps where children seem interested in social and moral issues. I mentioned earlier the leap at 4 years, 10 months, which is the Leap of Personal Responsibility, where they deal with blame at first but then take responsibility. If you know this happens like this, you’re probably less likely to punish or scold them during the fussy period and more likely to be prepared to talk to them about the issue and provide activities to practice this new skill. I approach most leaps with ideas on what to teach my child, such as through lessons, plays, books, and heart to heart discussion.
I want to prepare your heart a little bit. These leaps can be rough, especially as children try to figure how to behave socially. It is likely that your child will embarrass you in public one or two or twenty times. This type of thing tends to mortify parents and, in my experience, many are quick to punish or scold their child on the spot. I want to guide your attention however to how sensitive the child is at these times. They are looking around for guidance and approval of how they are, and to be painfully scolded, in public, when they were already feeling fearful and unsure of themselves, can leave lasting damage. I want you to think back to when you were little and how your parents might have reacted when you were socially awkward. I believe these reactions leave lasting impressions on children and may be at the root of phobias and emotional problems. So, please, I encourage you to see awkwardness and misbehavior as a normal part of childhood and to think of how you might handle these public situations in your own responsible way.
I fully expect that how each family deals with these leaps will vary widely. On a smaller scale, I offer the example of a child climbing a tree. One adult is worried about the child ruining the tree; another adult is cheering on the child’s athletic talent. On a broader scale, the morals and values stressed in one culture vary widely from another. I wonder if this is why children misbehave so much: because they are groping for understanding. And I want to point out that what is considered misbehavior in one culture is often totally acceptable in another. Humans are very adaptable and these leaps are when they are most sensitive to learning these cultural norms. Handle them with care! And I think this is the most exciting part: You get to impart your values in your own unique way. I do not expect any two families to be the same in handling them. I hope by knowing when children are sensitive to such lessons will help you both guide them and connect with them.
Immense Benefit to Education
Understanding these leaps can be a huge benefit to education. The ages that I present are much younger than the ages that children typically learn these academic skills, such as learning letters before 2 years old. I am not advocating we do this to be competitive or even to have children who have certain skill sets at young ages, even if that’s the happy outcome. I am advocating it, because this is the time sensitive window when children most want to learn this new skill. I think people are already aware that there are sensitive periods for learning. For instance, if a child is not around adults in their youth, they likely will not learn how to speak well as an adult. I agree that earlier is not better when teaching our children, but later is not always better either. There are windows of opportunity to teach children certain things, and thankfully they are pretty wide windows, but they do shut down eventually. And I am not sure that most people know just how many leaps and thus sensitive periods there are. There are 20 by the time a child is 3; at least 30 by the time a child is 5. If we can hit just the right note, we can get a lot better at making teaching be so much more of a joy, more effective, and, indeed, have children with better skill sets.
There are many benefits to working with our children. One is increased communication. Once, my daughter was trying to tell me something and I thought she was saying “Paint.” She started to say “White Paint,” and I figured out she was saying, “White Plate.” If we give children activities that they are hungry to learn, we help calm them down. At older ages, children start to show empathy, emotional restraint, and conflict resolution skills. If you work with your child at those ages, you might have more calm in your house and the older children can set a better example for younger children.
I imagine the development of children as like a river which flows along a certain path, and which has many waterfalls, which are the leaps. If we understand the development, we can point our boat in the right direction. I think a lot of education and parenting as well tries to fight the river by going up waterfalls or against the current or doesn’t even try to navigate it at all. I strongly believe that parenting and teaching shouldn’t be a fight. If I am ever in a battle with my children, I take it as a sign that I need to do some reflection on what I might be doing wrong. If we flow with the river so to speak, there are a lot less fights. It’s still quite turbulent, but it is much more navigable.
I am definitely aware that not all children may take an interest in these academic skills that I just described. My first son, for instance, right before 3 years old was not reading words like my second child was, but he was reading maps. So, how each child practices their new skill might take on a different form. However, I didn’t understand the leaps as well with him, my first, as I did with my daughter, my second. This is an area that is very interesting to me. I propose this question: If a parent were to understand the leaps, and offer the suggested activities at these sensitive periods, is there a guarantee or at least a higher chance of success that a child starts reading at these early ages? I don’t know the answer to that. My suspicion is that they become capable but not necessarily interested. And so, after they become capable, you can occasionally offer the activity to see if they are now interested.
I try to identify what skills emerge at the earliest possible, so you can be on watch for them when they develop. However, if an activity isn’t working with your child, I encourage you to put it away for another time. Please do not feel pressured that your child should be doing these activities on a certain timeline! I hope you come away from this research feeling supported not judged or pressured. [end]
I want to go back to my original fear which launched me into studying these leaps, and that is that I would raise a brat unless I grabbed ahold of them early and molded him. I am going to propose that if you are working with your child in the sunny part of these leaps on exactly the thing the child wants to work on, you will likely, although there is no guarantee, but perhaps likely raise a child that is pretty well equipped to handle themselves as an independent adult. I would like to name some of the leaps I found: The Leap of Decision Making, the Leap of Creative Problem Solving, The Leap of Empathy, The Leap of Personal Responsibility, The Leap of Negotiation. These are just a few. I would be so bold as to say that if you understood each leap and helped a child with each one, you will have a more balanced and more complete child than what you might have taught otherwise. We don’t need to build the child; the child is building himself. We can but be a guide, but being this guide is tremendously powerful. Our efforts can get away from correcting misbehavior, which I argue will inevitably happen as part of natural human development, and more towards promoting the positive skills that children are working on. Dr. Tsabary writes that the problem between parents and children is that parents are future oriented whereas children are so wonderfully present oriented. Given my knowledge of leaps and healthy parenting practices, I would be so bold as to say–and this is probably the most bold thing I could ever say–that you have permission to simply deal in the present with your child. With each leap, which will almost certainly consume you anyway, if you lean in to them, you can be all but assured that you are giving your child what they need from you.
So, I want to end with some thoughts on how I think knowledge of these leaps can change parenting. I think this knowledge is revolutionary. I am advancing the notion that it is biologically inevitable that our children will annoy us. There is something in a child’s DNA, at the moment of conception, that says, at 4 1/2 years old, I am going to annoy my mom! Of course, this is somewhat of a joke; indeed I am trying to advance the idea that if we understand them, we will be less annoyed. But it really is as if evolution produced human beings who by nature are designed to annoy their parents at certain times. And if we understand that, it becomes virtually impossible to punish them for it. Misbehavior is part of human maturation. If we punish them for it, we are literally punishing them for their humanity. The more we understand our children, by nature, the less we’ll punish, insult, or worry about our children, and the more we’ll connect, love, train, and equip them.
I often wonder why nature would be so cruel as to produce human children who are designed to irritate when the response needs to be love. I offer one theory as to why, which I developed after I noticed my 5 year old interact with my infant. When my infant cries or is fussy, it is like a Bat Signal for my 5 year old. One night, we had put my 5 year old to bed and my infant was crying and crying. My 5 year old kept coming in to console him, and, at first, we kept trying to get him to go back to bed. But then I thought, “Why am I fighting this?” I should let my older son deal with my younger son, and I should go have a late night cup of coffee! Ok, that never happened. Here is a picture of my older son helping my infant. He seems to intuitively know when his younger brother needs help, and he is right there providing help to develop his younger brother’s new skills.
I find however that adults tend to get in the way of this connection as shown by my two sons. For instance, they might yell at my son to not touch his brother because my infant might fall down. Adults get in the way big time. I have countless examples of this, which I will write about in The Observant Mom: Toddlers.
I truly hope that by identifying the leaps, identifying the fussy behaviors, and giving ideas of how to deal with it using the positive discipline tools, that all of that stress that can come with it is reduced to very manageable levels. And what is left is your child. After all of this melts away, you can focus more on who they are; all of their positive traits, interests, and uniqueness.
Thanks for watching. Come follow me at facebook at The Observant Mom and check out my Observant Mom book series. Bye for now!