When you prop up a child, you take away the chance to develop balance and posture naturally.
Your Child learns by moving in her world, on her own. Don’t drag her to “teach” her to walk.
Let her stand, get her balance, and move when she’s ready. Same with sitting. She’ll do it perfectly, when she’s mastered the prerequisites. There is no benefit to “Sooner.” There can be harm in attempting something before you’re ready to.
The child needs space to move freely on his own. Watch him add capacities when he is in control. When children move freely, they get strength and balance. There is no rush. Confidence grows within as the child masters the world she’s in, which she does without your direct help.
You support her by building and maintaining that world, and then paying attention (without praise or judgement!).
Often, you can see discomfort in both the body language and faces of children who don’t have free control of their own bodies. You can see it on the street, and you can see it in unlicensed photographs from the web. The photo at left isn’t as awful as it can be, but one still has to ask, as always, “What is that like for the kid?” And the other picture, from an article actually called “teaching your baby to sit,” has the kid in a position I can’t believe she arrived at by herself.
How the baby learns to stand and walk … and what that teaches us about parents.
See (or remember) your baby’s big muscles learning to work together, starting from the inside – the core rocks with timing, coordinating that heavy head with limb kicks – eventually, they flump over onto their side. Each step has its challenges, joys and fears; each attempt is an experiment. Each step builds naturally on the skills and strengths developed during the previous steps. It’s that same amazing system that’s worked for everything in the natural world forever.
Step by step, your child will roll, half sit, sit on its butt, get up, and walk. At Loczy, Emmi Pikler worked with her associate Klara Pap in creating these wonderful drawings of the natural progression of a child learning:So, please enjoy the profound pleasure of watching this miraculous, beautiful and pretty-much inevitable voyage … as your child moves on their own, ultimately making a brief stop at walking before leaping from sofas.
Now, let’s return to parent behavior:
What happens when parents “help” their kids learn how to walk? Let’s say the squares on Pikler’s chart were numbered, 1 – 25. In effect, the parent is saying “Hey, I see you are at stage 17, starting to pull yourself up. I am going to drag you, arms over head, past the next 8 steps, to #24, and when you get there, you’ll still have your arms over your head!”
Take a moment to imagine the child’s experience. What does it feel like to learn to balance?
Eventually, the kid will get to step 18, which has to come before 19 and 20, etc, if he is to eventually walks on his own. That dragged-forward kid may not get there sooner, and is more like to bring anxiety instead of confidence, thanks to the “help” and the “teaching.”
All parents “help” and “teach” their young children – We can’t help but try to advance them, when it might be better to just pay attention.
The instinct is legit – evolution tells us to “help,” so it feels good to make your love real by actively helping. But what feels right to us is often not best for them (just as what’s good for them can be so painful for us: seeing them frustrated, seeing them learn from mistakes, accepting their need for distance and separation as they grow older, etc)
This is a case where parent need to help and accelerate can trumps the child’s need to take the time to develop the self-knowledge and confidence that come from mastery. And that’s only part of the mental part: Physically, their bodies are not getting the right skills and strengths in the right order. Ultimately, parental good intentions may end up slowing them down.
Just as all of the types of learning and development are connected for the child, I believe much on the mental side of parenting is connected – as the kid changes rapidly, we pretty much stay still – our “Parenting Mode” is pretty consistent. So, here’s another reason the early years are such a great opportunity for parents: Our kid’s learning, and our instincts and responses, are grounded in a tangible world where challenges are simple and visible, rather than, say, adolescent social life, or invisible toddler drama.