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When your toddler reaches a milestone, don’t overdo it

Boy tieing shoe - when your toddler reaches a milestone, don't overdo itParents sometimes brag about the ‘fact’ that their
young child sleeps through the night. Never mind the
bags under their eyes that stretch to their chin, a recent
survey reveals that the majority of those parents could
be exposed as frauds.

The website Netmums surveyed 11,000 British
families last August and laid bare that one-third of
parents lie about the sleeping behaviour of their child.
Moreover, it reveals another reality: only 27 percent of
three-month-old newborns sleep through the night.

When it comes to babies or toddlers, something
strange happens: parents easily distort the truth about
basic milestones like sleeping, crying, walking and
talking. Why do so many parents have a tendency to
spin the actual development of their child?

It comes down to an undeniable social pressure to
perform. Perform? But sleeping, crying, walking and
talking are simply inherent to a human being. All kids
are going to do it! And still, a baby – just out of the womb
– unwillingly ends up in a rat race. As a parent you
constantly hear: “Does yours sleep already?” and “Does
yours walk already?”

“That speaks to how little faith today’s parents have in
themselves, how little confidence they have that they can
be good parents, and how seriously they – compared to
prior generations – take the task,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, a
renowned American child psychiatrist and co-author of
The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap.

Sleeping, crying, walking and talking are nothing
special, so don’t brag about it, he says. Besides, these
accomplishments also have no predictive value. For
example, children who walk early are not automatically
a budding Usain Bolt. And a brilliant orator does
not necessarily lie in a child who spits out impeccable
sentences at a relatively young age.

Can bragging be harmful? Says Dr. Rosenfeld,
“We all take some vicarious pleasure in our children’s
‘accomplishments’. That encourages them. When we seem
to appropriate them for ourselves and make the kid into
a machine for manufacturing bragging rights for us, I think
we harm them.

“Excessive bragging can hurt the child if he or she
feels they are loved only for their accomplishments, not
for who they are as human beings.”

Are you an overly
proud parent?
Here are some tips
to get you back
to reality.

  • Be aware of the risks.
    At a party you proclaim in
    a loud voice that your little
    one is such a happy baby.
    If only you knew that your
    husband just confessed
    to someone else that your
    oh-so-cheerful toddler
    wails like a banshee, with
    constant temper tantrums
    that wake the entire
  • Share your misery for the
    peace of mind of another
    person. You’ll get gratitude
    in return. For a parent who
    has been deprived of sleep
    as a consequence of a
    screaming child, it’s a relief
    to hear that he or she is not
    the only one. As a bonus,
    you also contribute to real
    expectations of parents-to-be. 
  • Let’s get real, please!
    A few figures to raise some
    realistic expectations: Nearly
    40 percent of one-year-olds
    still do not sleep through the
    night, the study of Netmums
    demonstrates. Children are
    capable of independent
    walking – not a few wobbly
    steps – around an average
    age of 14 months with a wide
    range of 10 to 18 months. 
  • Keep in mind: raising a
    child is a matter of muddling
    along to the best of our
    knowledge and ability.
    Follow your own instinct, is
    the best advice that exists. 
  • Be the instigator of verbal
    fireworks. Fling the naked
    truth about your baby in
    your circle of friends and an
    avalanche of horror stories
    will come your way. Finally,
    no more gooey ‘baby

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

a man carrying two children

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