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Parenting Tips No. 3: Understanding children's developmental stages

Feb. 13, 2018 -- The next in a continuing series of tip sheets for parents, provided by Grades 4-6 math teacher Judith Walsh at Driver Middle School:

Did you know it’s normal for your teenager to push you away one minute and want you nearby the next? You are not going crazy and you are not alone!

Children travel through different stages of development as they grow. Here are the stages children go through and some behaviors that go along with them:

Toddlers/Preschoolers (2 – 5 years)

  • stock photo of a toddler girl
    Time for active exploration of their environment.
  • Language development takes a major leap, and the ability to say “NO!” is strengthened.
  • A major challenge is developing what psychologists call emotional regulation. “Meltdowns” are common during this period.
  • While they instinctively seem to be able to say “NO,” toddlers also need help in learning how to accept “No” from others.
  • A child’s parent is in the position to be a coach providing just the right combination of encouragement, support and guidance.
  • Parents also need to serve as primary teacher for the mastery of basic learning skills and encourage active discussions and experimentation of new concepts and skills.

School Age Children (6 – 12 years)

  • stock image of middle school boy studying
    Raising school age children can be awesome. Watching them try new activities, cheering them on at athletic events and applauding their accomplishments at recitals are usually some of the high points for most parents.
  • Achieving success often begins with frustration and sometimes learning to accept one’s weaknesses as well as celebrating and building on strengths.
  • School age children become gradually ready for more independence.
  • Learning to make good choices and exercise self-discipline does not come easily for many.
  • Parents need to impart a moral code that the child gradually begins to accept.
  • As children struggle with these important tasks, parents must be able to provide praise and encouragement for achievement.
  • Parents must also be able to allow them to sometimes experience the natural consequences for their behavior or provide logical consequences to help them learn from mistakes.

Adolescents/Teenagers (13 – 18 years)

  • stock image of teenagers socializing
    There is no doubt that for most families, the teen years present a challenge for both parents and children.
  • It often occurs with scary body changes, bullying by peers and a new surge for independence. This leads to passive-aggressive behavior (“I’ll do it in a minute”), self-consciousness (“What are you staring at?”) and self-doubt (“I’m not good at anything”) and/or over-confidence (“Well, I thought I could do that”) and of course moodiness (“Leave me alone”).
  • High School is usually better for most. It is a time to really begin defining oneself and thinking about the future.
  • Skill development is accelerated to prepare for college or job training programs.
  • Talents are perfected.
  • Social skills are sharpened and relationships take on more of a serious nature.
  • Peer pressure is at its max,and in today’s teen society, there are more tempting sidetracks than ever.
  • Kids need their parents more than ever.  
Research shows that a positive family environment including fun family activities, open parent-child communication and the encouragement to participate in positive extracurricular and community activities, teens are able to navigate these years with relative ease.

Adapted from “The Ages and Stages of Development (2015). Child Development Institute. Retrieved from:

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