Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Developmental Ages

I have learned a lot in the last few years about the difference between a child's chronological age and their developmental age. It has everything to do with how they should be treated.

Case A: Pedro will be 20 in December, but his emotional maturity is more like that of a 14-15 year old. He has matured a lot since he joined our family. Back then (when he was 17) I remember telling Kyle that he's more on the level of a 12-13 year old. Now, I'm not talking about his intelligence. He was public schooled, so he's definitely lacking in common sense, but I'll avoid that soapbox for now. Maturity, not smarts, is what I'm talking about. The reason for the gap is his upbringing. He wasn't raised in a normal family. He had none of the benefits we take for granted. He has only had a father for the past 2 years. If you understand the importance of a father in a child's life - that says a lot. There was no one to show him how to be a man, how to have a work ethic, why you should be honest, how to manage money, what is and is not ok to say aloud, I could go on.
We have several people in our life who don't get it when we jokingly say that Pedro wants to live with us until he's 35. We are bragging when we say that. To us, it means he loves us. He isn't a leech or a mooch; he's a boy who needs a family.
Case B: Daniel is 3 1/2 years old. Developmentally, he's about 2 1/2 - the same age as Lydia. Although his speech is more articulate than hers, his thoughts are very similar to hers. Physically, he is age-appropriate and in some ways advanced. He can do a lot of things other 3 year olds cannot. On the other hand, he isn't remotely ready to potty train and I'm ok with that. Emotionally, he needs more mothering and more attention than other 3 year olds. Can you guess why?
Case C: Maya is 9 years old (she could actually be 10, but we're sticking with 9 because honestly, it means we have more time with her). Developmentally, she's on par with Elena who's 16 months her junior. Most of Maya's delays simply have to do with lack of opportunity. She is just learning to read and do addition. She has learned fairly quickly, but will not be caught up for quite awhile. A surprising blessing is Maya's innocence. Considering that she was raised in the middle of the horrific Liberian civil war, she is very pure of heart. Example: In the movie, Love Comes Softly, the girl asks her pregnant mother how the baby got in her tummy. Maya yelled to the screen, while rolling her eyes: "God put the baby in the mommy!"

It is very hard for me to treat my kids according to their development, instead of their age. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the discrepancy. Pedro looks like an adult. I want to treat him like an adult. I've found more success in talking to him like I would a boy in jr. high. That's how he thinks. He only bought a car when he was 18 because we kept telling him that he should want one. He didn't.

I'm learning.

6 comments:

gel(Raising Kids) said...

and i am learning too... your page is great! i love it! i love your page really!

parenting has become shallow these days. parents don't live up parenting in its quiddity anymore. and so more and more kids or rather children are growing up selfish, self-gratifying and morally in-adequate. I am so glad there are still parents who truly are "PARENTS"-like you!

can we exchange page links? i would love to get connected with you! thanks so much!

Nealy said...

RECOGNIZING the difference between chronological age and developmental age is more than half the battle. You're doing a brilliant job of discovering the uniqueness of each of your children. I commend you for your continual research. God's love is shining through you and your children.

Dad/HB said...

What a great mom & wife I have! My kids are so very blessed to have someone who is continually trying to be a better parent. You're awesome

Melodie said...

Very well put. And adorable picture of Daniel. I think that's the biggest smile I've ever seen on him.

I have a question-is Pedro legally adopted, or just unofficially? (Which I know can be just as significant in some cases.) Just curious...

Ginger said...

Melodie,

Pedro is spiritually adopted, not legally. Good question. He's in the process of changing his name to Clark, but he is eligible for SO MUCH financial aid if he isn't legally ours, that it doesn't make sense to us to make it legal right now.
From the pics of Daniel we rec'd while he was in the orphanage, I don't think he ever smiled like that before!

Amber said...

I have found this to be true in our Hannah. We got her at age 2.5 and have had her for 2+ years now. In the beginning, I noticed that in MANY ways, she was developmentally about even with her cousins who live with us. I could see her having the verbal skills of JJ (14 months younger) and the impulse control of Isaac (28 months younger). She has been potty trained for about 4 months now, after several attempts. It finally stuck in July and she's been doing great ever since. On other developmental planes, verbal and gross motor skills, I believe she makes huge leaps weekly. She is smart and that helps, but she still cannot eat without me sitting right beside her. If I am up just to pour coffee, she finds something to get into. So she has to sit in a chair in the middle of the room where she can't touch anything until I can sit right by her.