Ask yourself: Are you creating the stress in your child's life that is bringing about behavior problems in school or at home?
Child development expert Cheryl Wolfe, a lecturer for the Gesell Institute of Human Development, recently posed the question as part of a "school readiness" workshop for preschool parents and teachers in Davidson.
"Children cannot be pushed, hurried, practiced or tutored along developmental stages," Wolfe says. "Normal growth just needs time. Outside pressures cause a child to spin out of control."
The institute, which is marking its 60th anniversary this month, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents and educators understand the ages and stages of childhood development.
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"Behavior is not linear; it is cyclical," she said. "One stage does not replace another."
And each child goes through each developmental stage in his own way.
"Don't take it personally," Wolfe suggests, when your child goes through a stage then later regresses.
There are several stages within each year, and setbacks are normal - such as in the ability to separate calmly from mommy.
Other tips from Wolfe include:
You are your child's best advocate. "Excellent parenting involves availing yourself of information and advice that others have, then using what you know about your child."
Ask of any school program: "What will work best for me and my family?" Are the expectations realistic for your child's developmental stage? Look at your child's behaviors, temperament and intelligence.
From the start, help your child's teachers know who your child is. The best predictor of success later in school is success in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, Wolfe says. To achieve that success, it's imperative to communicate with your child's teachers.
Children learn through play in environments that naturally appeal to them. For example, in a room with housekeeping centers, more elaborate language goes on amongst children playing "kitchen" than in one-on-one instruction, research shows.
The 4-year-old brain chants "gross motor, gross motor" - run, jump and climb - while parents and teachers push the opposite: "Sit down and write your name."
Follow your child's lead here: Think big, then little. Climbing on a jungle gym must come before tiny pencil grips.