Disclaimer: this is not meant as a criticism of anyone else’s parenting, past or present, including and especially the folks who raised us. My background in both education and social work have informed my opinions on certain aspects of child-rearing, but it’s just what I believe in and what works for our family. This is meant to explain my choices, no more, no less.
Jack is almost fifteen months and still has yet to take his first unassisted steps. He can pull up and walk while holding onto the furniture, but when he really wants to get somewhere he drops to his hands and knees and crawls.
He’s been slow to hit all of his milestones-rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. He did all of them in his own time and I refused to rush him. When he was ten months and still not crawling well meaning folks insisted that I try to teach him how to get around. I didn’t know how to explain my opposition eloquently so I joked about not wanting him to be mobile because it would be more work for me. But it was more than just laziness-it was a parenting decision that I wasn’t able to articulate clearly in the middle of a party or the grocery store checkout or whatever. And now that the months are passing by and everyone wants to know whether he’s walking the topic has been reawakened.
image from here
I believe it’s important for Jack to be allowed to figure things out on his own. It’s a chance to let him learn to take on challenges and self-direct his own learning. These are part of a broader group of skills called executive functioning, something researchers now know is critical to success from elementary school well into adulthood. I won’t be spending a lot of time teaching him shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, either. That’s what kindergarten is for. The preschool years are for learning to focus, use your imagination, think critically, engage in learning, and develop empathy and self-control. None of these skills are anywhere near fully developed by school age, but executive functioning skills at school entry are more predictive of academic (and life!) success than any other measure-including IQ (see links below for more info on this).
image from here
I’m under no illusions that this one decision to let my kid learn to walk on his own will make or break his ability to self-regulate come kindergarten, but it’s part of a broader approach to parenting that I feel strongly about. Honestly, I’m ready for him to walk. I can’t imagine it’ll be much harder to keep up with him than it already is and it’s getting awfully tiring having to carry him around everywhere. But it’s not about me. Learning to walk may very well be the most monumental accomplishment of these early years and I want him to do it on his own. We’ve got three months left before his crawling is cause for concern and I feel confident that he’ll take his first steps before then. And if he doesn’t we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Again, please don’t take offense if you’ve chosen differently with your own kids. This is not at all intended to tell other people what they should or should not do. I do a much better job of expressing myself through writing than when speaking and this is the best way I know how to explain to the world at large that I’m not dooming my son to crawl forever because I’m lazy. Thank you for reading and for always being so supportive and wonderful in general. I love y’all!
Here are some excellent articles about executive functioning if you’re interested in learning more:
Executive Function Skills Predict Children’s Success in Life and in School
Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?
Relations between Preschool Attention Span-Persistence and Age 25 Educational Outcomes
From External Regulation to Self-Regulation: Early Parenting Precursors of Young Children’s Executive Functioning
Executive Functioning as a Predictor of Children’s Mathematics Ability: Inhibition, Switching, and Working Memory
From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development