We all love a little pat on the back. So, when your child passes a developmental milestone with confidence and courage, acknowledge it. After all, losing that first baby tooth or starting a new school is a big deal!
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children reminds parents that, in addition to tracking child development progress, celebrating milestones should be a priority. It may seem overzealous at first, but turning these accomplishments into feel-good moments introduces your children to the concept of honoring the good things they (and others) do and what it feels like to complete a daunting task.
The key is focusing on the positive part of your child’s experience so the ouchy, yucky, scary part doesn’t seem so bad anymore. When she falls and skins her knee, don’t focus on the blood or torn pants. Instead, remind her how she sat still when you cleaned the wound and how great it is that she got back up and went back to playing rather than being sad. Reinforce the good parts of the situation as much as possible!
Celebrating Milestones, All Things Big and Small
Next time your little one tries a new vegetable or rides the school bus alone for the first time, be ready with a few words of praise and one of these small gestures.
1. Offer physical gratitude. As you explain why you’re happy your little one made it through his first full day of school, seal the moment with a loving hug, gentle kiss on the forehead, relaxing shoulder rub, or enthusiastic high-five. Be sure to make eye contact, and give your child all of your focus and attention during the celebratory moment.
2. Take a photo. Kids love smiling for the camera, and they know it comes out when something is important or exciting. Plus, what parents don’t love a candid snapshot of their child holding up their first lost tooth or bandage wrapped finger next to a smiling face? Compliment your child on her bravery during a painful time, and say you want a picture to remember how well she did. Then, snap!
3. Explain your feelings. Tell your child how happy you are and that he made your day when he learned how to make his own bed or brush his teeth. When your child sees your pleasure, he will want to do that task again and again to keep you happy!
4. Get a little silly. Making a big deal about a developmental milestone doesn’t have to be so serious. The day the training wheels come off the bike or your child spells her full name for the first time, do a little dance together. Sing a funny song. Draw hearts and flowers on the paper. Acknowledge the achievements with extra goofy attention.
5. Enjoy a reward. If you and your child finally reached a long-awaited milestone, like using the potty for the first time or finally dropping the thumb-sucking habit, mark the day with something special. Go to the movies, get ice cream sundaes, or pick out a new teddy bear. As you enjoy the reward, remind him of how excited you are with his progress!
Did you celebrate a milestone with your child this week? Tag us in a snapshot on Twitter using the hashtag #GoodMatters. We can’t wait to see your child development win and smiling faces!
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Why It’s Good
Keeping a positive mindset and celebrating your child's developmental milestones teaches your little one to be proud of the small things, for both herself and those around her. This approach shifts focus away from fears and puts emphasis on achievements. That's a win-win!