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Your 3-year-old won’t sit peacefully at the dinner table. Your 5-year-old won’t join in at parties. Your 9-year-old is still asking to sleep with the light on.
People tell you, “It’s just a phase.” But is it?
Yes. Most likely, it is. Whether we’re talking about sleep, eating, toilet training, homework meltdowns, or anything else, here are five reasons not to freak out about this particular phase in your child’s life.
1. Your Child’s Brain and Body Are Changing Rapidly
So rapidly, in fact, that your little one will be practically a new kid in six months or so. You’ll be amazed at how many of the things she can’t or won’t do now, but she’ll be able to do then. You’ll also wonder why you worried so much.
2. Life Keeps Changing
Just when you think you have something figured out and you’re on top of your game, something changes. A tooth comes in. A cold comes on. You move. A sibling is born. Transitions and surprises keep us from ever really being in control. Even human development isn’t predictable and linear; it’s more of a “two steps up, one step back” kind of thing. That means that even if you were able to figure out the “correct answer” for responding to this particular phase, things would turn upside down as soon as you solved the riddle, anyway.
Don't let fear rule you and lead you to expect things from your child that he’s not developmentally ready for yet. Just because he’s not falling asleep by himself at 4, that doesn’t mean he never will. You will have lots of opportunities to help him develop this skill as he gets older. It's rarely too late to teach lessons or introduce skills, so do it at a time when it works best for you and your child.
4. Right Now Is All You Have to Worry About
You don’t have to be concerned about what your child will be like at 15, or 20. You really don’t. So don’t give in to the temptation to worry that this phase will last forever. Your daughter won’t be biting her friends when she leaves for college. She won’t have a hard time sitting at a dinner table. Think in smaller chunks of time. Think about semesters or seasons. Give your child a few months to work through this phase, and know that as long as you’re there loving her, guiding her and providing a consistent presence in her life, she’ll get through it and learn the skills she needs.
5. The Struggles Are Part of the Process
Believe it or not, you’ll probably miss this phase at some point down the road. Think about how other phases that seemed unbearable passed rather quickly in retrospect. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton reminds us that as kids grow up, periods of disorganization often precede organization. That means that kids often go through difficult phases right before they accomplish something new. So think of the struggles as little bumps in the road on the path to amazing growth and development.