Our children are little explorers, beacons of curiosity. They wiggle, they roll, they find their feet and their hands and put everything they can into their mouths. They try new things and they fail, and they try something else and they fail again. But when the time is right, they try yet another way, and they succeed. This is the process they must go through to learn. And all of the little refinements in their movements between success and failure turn into millions of new pathways in their brains. You can think of it like this...all of the little bits of learning they achieve when they explore are like tools in a toolbox that are ready and there for them when they need to build to the next milestone.
As parents, we all want our children to succeed. So, it is really no wonder that we concentrate so much energy on childhood milestones. It is the first way to make sure that our children are making the grade. Milestones are important. There is no doubt about that. But it is vital that we hold them loosely and give each of our children the time they need to get from one milestone to the next.
Consider how much learning babies have to do between the time they roll and the time they sit independently. For sitting, babies have to learn to use their spines in a completely different way. There is going to be a lot of trial and error here...and there are going to be a lot of mistakes! But because these mistakes are where the learning happens, it is paramount that we not interfere. Let them figure it out because propping them in sitting when they aren’t ready to sit is not going to help them in the long run. They will not learn a skill by having someone else do it for them.
It sounds pretty simple in theory, but that means avoiding all of the contraptions out there that do just that. The Bumbo, the Exersaucer, the Johnny Jump Up, and on and on. They all put a child in a position before the child can do it independently. In this case, we can help our children the most by not helping them at all, by allowing them the time and space to struggle and achieve all by themselves! Let them figure out how to sit. Let them be the ones to pull to a stand. These are such amazing rewards when they are the ones striving for them!
Children don’t usually need any help achieving their milestones--except when they do. So, it is important that we don’t hold the milestones so loosely that we pay no attention to them at all. If a child is not progressing towards one particular milestone, it may be time to ask some questions. Sometimes a child does get stuck, and they are missing a few of the tools that they need to make the next leap. But it is important that when a child does need help, the help comes in little pieces, not big chunks. Teaching a child to roll over is completely different than giving a child all of the pieces that can be put together to make up rolling over. It is not the milestone itself that needs to be addressed but the missing skills that are preventing the child from getting there.
The Feldenkrais Method is very efficient at addressing these missing pieces. This Method uses very small movements to forge new connections in the brain, refine movement patterns, and fill in developmental gaps. Children are never put into situations that they are not ready for because again, that is not where the learning is. Instead, the process starts right where the child is and emphasizes all of the skills that the child DOES have rather than emphasizing any deficiencies. And the wonderful thing about it is that you don’t have to wait week after week, wondering if you are going to get the results you are looking for. The changes begin as early as the first lesson and because of the playful nature of children, they begin to use their new skills right away. Children really are amazing!
It does hold true, however, that if you catch something early on, it will take much less time and effort to make changes. When pieces go missing for long periods of time, children find ways to compensate, which turn into habits. And we all know how much harder it is to change a habit once it has become ingrained! So, hold those milestones loosely, but if you do see a red flag, don’t hesitate to ask a few questions.
Lynn M. Kenny
Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner