Thoughts on Challenging Developmental Stages

Dr. William Sears frequently discusses “the high-needs child” in his library of books – he even has an entire book devoted to this very subject. This is a post listing suggestions and options to consider when your child, high-needs or not, is going through a more challenging phase of development. Pick and choose what resonates with you and your family.

For any particular situation or challenging time-

1. Always check what developmental phase child is in – is it a typical time of separation anxiety? Teething? Rule out anything else possible going on – beginnings of getting sick?   Throw in some teething, feeling puny, hungry, tired and there you go.  More cling than Saran-Wrap!  But at least you know where your child is developmentally, (hopefully!) you know your child’s temperament, you know what is normal for this age and can better figure out how to meet your child’s needs where he or she is……

Now, knowing the cause or that this phase may pass does NOT mean to just let the behavior go necessarily…The behavior still needs to be addressed, but you can still do it with a loving firmness, a loving kindness in your calm way. There will be more posts in the future about the subject of Authentic Leadership for your child.

2.  Next, always check where you are – what are your needs?  I think behind any feelings there is a need.  You are feeling (anxious, irritated, fill in the blank ??) because you have a need for ________ (solitude? peace? to be unhurried and unrushed?) You are feeling tired from work, from parenting?  Self -empathy can be very powerful!  I have a list of quick things that put me in a better frame of mind – self-empathy, certain music, hidden chocolate stash, just deep breathing, calling a friend..

Inner work is the hallmark of parenting. Some parents chose to work on inner development through something like meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, visualization or prayer.  I am a Christian, so I work on my personal development through my religious life.   If you don’t feel you have any time to devote to this, try just setting a timer for five minutes at the beginning and end of the day to just breathe and go from there.

3. Once you know where your child is, and where you are, you can formulate a plan.  Like so many things in life, it can be your reaction – meaning this:

Example 1 – My kids are playing well together whipping up a pretend gourmet feast.  I am cleaning, and I feel thrilled they are playing well together!  I am getting so much done!

Example 2 – My kids are playing well together whipping up a pretend gourmet feast.  We have to leave the house in 10 minutes!  I feel anxious and upset.  We are going to be late!

See what I mean?

Sooo, if you check in with your child (not by asking them directly!! – just watching them and thinking!) and if you check in with yourself and it is not meshing well, formulate a plan.  Rhythm is such a powerful help at these times (at all times, but especially in these times!). Hopefully you have established awake times, meal times, nap times and bed times, along with getting outside every day and special things you do each day of the week…Rhythms of the day, the week and the year can be a huge help in carrying your little ones over the rough spots. Other things that provide much help includes spending lots of time outside in nature and not scheduling many days out of the house. Small children thrive on being at home!

4.  One thing I found very helpful was to cultivate as much as possible, a “peaceful, matter-of-fact mother hen kind of energy”, as Donna Simmons ( describes in some of her work. I have another wise cyber-friend from Donna Simmons’ Internet Waldorf Discussion Forum who calls this being “ho-hum”………. Just because your child’s small planet is spinning out of control for the moment, you can just HOLD THE SPACE.  If you meet intensity with intensity, then we are all swimming in intensity.  Hold the space!  Being matter of fact with as few words as possible does really help – sing songs for your transitions – have songs for tooth brushing and a song for getting shoes on. Use your sense of humor and playfulness, but demonstrate what to do and use less words!

Also, it bears note that gentle parenting does not require you to play cruise director all day long. If you have a good rhythm established, your home child be a peaceful place where your child is included and loved, but you are doing much of your own work – washing, cleaning, gardening, baking, and your child can choose to participate with you or to play by you. It is not up to you to be a playmate all day long. You can always start setting something up, such as a play scene or pretend cooking while you are baking and many times your child will pick it up and go with the play you have provided.

5.  FOR THE “HIGH-NEEDS CHILD” — It bears repeating that a truly higher-needs infant, toddler or child really do want a rhythm to his or her day that she can count on and hang his or her hat on.  Getting up at the same time every day. diaper changing/bathroom for me. breakfast. outside. diaper changing/bathroom, snack. story time and fingerplays…

To me, one of the hallmarks of the high-needs child is IRREGULARITY. These are the children that find it difficult to eat at the same time and have a nap or go to sleep. I frequently joke when my oldest was little that she would be great in a career where it required one to stay up at night – all night disc jockey? ER physician?

I also think it is important for you to model for your child times of rest – not times when you are on the computer, but truly a time of rest when you close your eyes and just be. It is important for the “high-needs” child to hear and see that it is okay to relax and rest.

6. Finally, the whole balance thing: something for you alone is important,  A girl movie cued up and ready to go the moment your child is asleep.  The phone buddy support person.  Many of us are searching to create a community we can count on, one in accordance with our needs to treat our children with respect and dignity.  Support from your spouse or significant other is also important. Alone is hard, but a community is a lifesaver!

Many blessings,


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Challenging Developmental Stages

  1. Pingback: Peaceful Living with the Six-Year-Old « The Parenting Passageway

  2. Pingback: “I Don’t Like My Child Right Now” « The Parenting Passageway

  3. Pingback: Celebrating Eight Years Of The Parenting Passageway! | The Parenting Passageway

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