Stages of Child Development: What Parents Need to Know

Stages of Child Development

A newborn child, held in loving arms, has only entered the first of many stages of child development. Those stages will carry him or through until adulthood, and will be followed by more stages up until death.

Life is a shared trip, one we all take together, and while each life is different, each life still passes through the same landmark stages. These stages offer us a way of understanding how our complex lives develop and blossom over time.

There are many theories on the stages of child development. Whether you are turning to the comfortable and now heirloom wisdom of Dr. Spock, or are looking to more classical child development stages proposed by such pioneering figures as Erik Erikson or Jean Piaget, the great arcs of development remain. A knowledge of the stages of child development opens up the form and structure of life like the vistas of a great city. Your various tour guides may differ on the best way to describe the sights--but the city they describe remains.

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Erikson, a psychologist, focused on the stages of emotional development. His eight stages of child development have become a classic “map” for parents trying to find their way through the changing emotional concerns of their offspring. He worked to understand what emotional challenges a child faced growing up.

Consider Erikson’s very first stage of development. He placed the development of trust and mistrust at the center of a child’s first experiences. A newborn child comes from the perfect safety and comfort of the womb into the bright, loud, world after birth. In this new world the child finds he is helpless to satisfy his own needs and desires. His first experience is of needing to trust the people who care for him…and of all the ways they can’t help but fail to meet those needs perfectly.

A parent, knowing that this will be a baby’s most vital issue for the first weeks of his or her life, can understand the frantic, angry neediness a newborn can display--and can also appreciate the glorious contentment of a child whose needs have been met. To a newborn just having food when food is needed, mother’s arms and Daddy’s lullaby proves that the world is good and people can be trusted. A loud, scary noise, a late bottle, a Mommy too tired to play, cuddle and nuzzle can seem, to a baby, like the world itself is dangerous and unhappy, not safe to trust.

No one can remove the ups and downs of a baby’s life. No one should remove them all: the child must live, and life presents the challenges of the stages of child development. Knowing the child development stages does not make a parent responsible for removing the challenge: it can’t be done.

The first stage simply indicates that, for a newborn, the experience of the world as trustworthy or untrustworthy is the most important thing a child is dealing with, emotionally. To know how important that experience is give a parent a tool to work with, and allows him or her to understand why a baby can invest such passion in joy or grief. And, having known this about the baby, a parent can see the challenges of infancy coming back over and over as a child grows: the best friend who betrays a child, the first fight with a first romance.

It is important for every parent and child caretaker to fully understand the stages of child development. In her award-winning parenting book, the author of this article, Laura Ramirez, simplifies development and explains it from birth to death, so parents can develop reasonable expectations for child behavior and also understand where they are along the path.

In her book, Ms. Ramirez also explains how to raise children to develop their natural strengths so they can grow up to lead meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives. Click on parenting book to learn more. There is also a companion workbook to make these positive parenting practices part of your life.

Copyright © 2009 by Laura Ramirez. All rights reserved. You may not copy or reprint this article without written permission from the author, however, you may link to it from your web site.

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