Children reach their developmental milestones at different rates, for different reasons:  medical aberrations, social disparities, and, according to Christine Gross-Loh, cultural differences:

It’s natural to compare our children and fret over their development. We are encouraged in the United States to look at a child’s expected milestones and make sure they are meeting them on time. It wasn’t until I started researching global parenting that I discovered how many of a baby’s and child’s stages and milestones actually aren’t universal. What we expect of a child at any given age is influenced and shaped by culture. Viewed through the prism of culture, some notions of “normal” look totally different[…]


Gross-Loh thinks that American parents, while focusing on cognitive — especially verbal — milestones, are missing other values that influence child development.  And she sees this as a problem:

It’s not surprising that well-intentioned parents cultivate cognitive intelligence and individual achievements as assiduously as we do. These are, after all, such important markers of success in modern-day America. But our focus on outcomes is leading us to look at milestones all wrong — as a series of boxes and achievements to check off a list on our way to a goal. We focus on our kids’ ability to read when they are at an age when we should be focusing on their kindness and character. We worry about overburdening them with chores because they have to do their homework, when we should be cultivating self-help skills that will make them self-reliant, and sending them a clear, unambiguous message: yes, academic achievement is important, but becoming kind and responsible is, too. These are all milestones we don’t want to miss.


I don’t see why American parents can’t do both:  stimulate cognitive development while cultivating valuable, self-help skills as well as social sensitivities (such as tolerance for others’ differences).  In fact, I think that many American parents do just that.

The larger point to make about all this is that children all develop — physically, cognitively, emotionally — at different rates.  While most children achieve (or even “leap-frog) their developmental milestones at the appropriate times, many struggle to reach them.  It’s important that we understand and accept these differences as we also try to teach children this important lesson:  No one is perfect.

(*Back pat: Brook McHugh, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Chartiers/McMurray Division*).


(Image: Stuart Miles/