Month 59

Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s life and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities – Gary Smalley

In a review of more than 20 years of research, Jennifer Henderlong & Mark Lepper (2002) concluded that when praise is in response to a child’s effort and accomplishments it helps to build confidence. Stanford professor and author William Damon agrees that praise, to be worthwhile, needs to support the child’s innate excitement about their own developing accomplishments.

Even Dr. Harvey Karp, a proponent of positive reinforcement advises parents to think about what they are saying and why, and to save the big accolades for accomplishments that are truly special to the child. Positive reinforcement is a way of identifying to children which behaviors are most appropriate. It is based on the theory that behaviors that make us feel good will be repeated, while those that are unrewarding will not (Sigler & Aamidor, 2005).

What about letting children know when we’re NOT happy with their behavior? Is there a way to set boundaries that doesn’t make our love seem to depend on their most recent behavior? Toddlers are simply not equipped to figure out on their own the best way to interact, to take care of themselves, and to get their needs met. What they are equipped to do is let their caregivers know what those needs are. While it is up to a parent to let their child know what kind of behavior is OK and what is not OK, this happens best in the context of understanding the child’s needs, and supporting them in developing the skills to cope with disappointment, to build relationships with others, and to keep trying when a new skill or ability doesn’t come easily right away.

Specifically, “Time-out”, is cited in the Kohn article as a punishing withdrawal of affection, and the use of this technique is discouraged. However, other practitioners disagree. For example, Dr. William Sears, known for advocating a style of parenting that places a premium on the parent-child bond, includes time-out as a potentially beneficial tool for teaching young children to manage strong emotions and understand limits. He emphasizes that time-out is only effective when it is in contrast to a lot of “time-in” – positive, mutually rewarding interaction between parent and child.

Although the meaning and value of praise may be disputed, the suggestion that children need to know they are loved, even when they fail or disobey, is one that few in the field of Child Development would argue with. In that context, most experts in the field of child development seem to agree that both praise and strategies such as time-out can be used thoughtfully to support healthy development.

How I think @ 59 months

Your child is entering a period of self-discovery as he begins to play with more children. His peer group will become important as he spends more time with them and less time with the family.

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills
• I can sit still for brief periods
• I enjoy jumping, running and skipping
• I have adult-like posture in throwing and catching
• I like dancing, am rhythmic and graceful
• I sometimes roughhouse and fight
• I am well coordinated

Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills
• I enjoy activities requiring hand skills
• I draw a recognizable person
• I am skilled and accurate with simple tools, like safety scissors

Language and Thinking Development
• I am curious about everything
• I am ready for short trips into the community
• I know my family name and address
• I talk clearly about my ideas
• I am self-centered about my ideas
• I like to be busy making something

Social and Emotional Development
• I am becoming poised and self-confident
• I copy adult behavior and act grown-up
• I am aware of rules and explain them to others
• I play in groups of two to five children
• I may get wild, silly and giggly


Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.