It’s amazing how good people are at raising kids who are at a certain stage, but struggle once a new developmental transition is reached.
One parent who is great with infant routines and toddler’s “No’s!” are totally lost at sea once door slamming 15-year-old comes around. The parent who doesn’t know how to deal with a kid who tantrums is right at home during the endless nitpicking negotiation of adolescence. If only parenting was a relay race and you got to tag in and out during the stages that you were best at.
How do we get better at weathering the shifts in our kids?
Know the Developmental Transition Basics
There are way more books on parenting out there than you will ever have time to read.
Bonus: several of them give conflicting advice. Add to that the parenting blogs, advice from relatives and friends, coaches, therapists, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, etc.—you can spend your kid’s entire childhood just researching how to take care of them. There’s even an email course about becoming a dad!
And you still have questions.
So, what’s left?
Well, there are some basic developmental transitions you should be familiar with. During different stages of your child’s life it will help you immensely to know what’s coming. It may even take some pressure off of you. There are physical, mental, and emotional shifts that are somewhat predictable given an age range (Important phrase there: ‘age range’—don’t get all worried if at turning 14-years-old Junior isn’t suddenly becoming as hygiene conscious as you were told he would.)
Being ready and knowing that your teenager is going to rebel in order to find their own individual self can lessen the sting. If you’re prepped for that then you won’t be as upset when they say they don’t want to go on that special camping adventure the two of you have done for the past ten years. The large emotional dramas with regard to small things and the inability to see consequences (!), once they are to be expected, are not as frustrating.
Yes, it’ll all still sting and still be frustrating, but it helps to see it as part of a developmental pattern.
Because then you can take it a little less personally.
Because that’s the killer. Taking it personally.
So, find a voice you trust. Read up. Remember that whoever is writing does not know your particular child so there’s no bible out there.
Just be prepped for the norms.
Parenting through developmental transitions isn’t easy. Don’t be afraid to learn what we in the biz call “developmental milestones” and do talk to someone if you’re concerned that your child is not meeting these. If you have a co-parent, support each other and lean on each other for support. Listen to what makes sense and move forward. Make sure that you’re not getting in your own parenting way—know yourself and recognize when you’re falling into a pattern that might not be the right fit for your son or daughter. If you’re looking for some individual help with this please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can figure out if meeting further would be of help.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be. He works with all men but has a particular focus on providing counseling for fathers (and guys hoping to become dads!)