“You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to constantly teach them things. In fact, active & direct instruction from an adult is the rarest form of teaching in human history.”
If there’s anything parents are known for, it’s worrying. Worrying if the kids are safe, if they’re healthy, if they’re happy—and if their development is staying on track for them to keep up with their peers. But in a viral Twitter thread, a child development expert is urging parents to take a deep breath—and sharing the four things everyone should chill out about when it comes to their kids’ developmental milestones.
Dorsa Amir has been studying children’s growth across cultures for more than a decade. The basic gist of her thread? You can stop worrying so much about teaching your kids because if there’s anything kids do naturally on their own, it’s learn.
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I'm a developmental scientist who studies how children grow & learn across cultures. I'm also an American mom who feels the extreme pressure put on parents in the West. I'm here to offer you some parenting ANTI-advice — here are a few things you can worry less about: 1/🧵— Dorsa Amir (@DorsaAmir) January 16, 2023
“Not everything has to be “educational,” Amir wrote. “It’s truly completely okay (& indeed, good) for kids to play for the sake of play. They don’t have to be learning the alphabet or animal noises. They can just do whatever silly thing they want to do. They are ALWAYS learning!”
On that note, Amir’s second piece of advice is that parents don’t need to teach their kids all the time.
“You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to constantly teach them things. In fact, active & direct instruction from an adult is the rarest form of teaching in human history. Kids know how to learn in other ways — like observation — & they’re extremely good at it,” she wrote. “For instance, I went to a little indoor gym class with my toddler & the teacher held up a ball & moved it around so the kids could “learn how to track objects with their eyes”. I cannot stress enough how completely & utterly unnecessary that is. You do not need to teach that!”
The third lesson Amir offered for parents? Don’t worry about entertaining your kids all the time.
“Kids should be allowed to experience boredom. It’s part of the human experience & it’s okay if they’re bored. You do not have to feel obligated to constantly entertain them or provide new activities for them. They should be allowed to generate their own activities & ideas,” she wrote. “You do not have to be your child’s zany, cartoonish friend. You can just be their boring parent, if you wish. This thing we do in the West, where we pretend to be kids to play with our kids? That’s super unusual, to be honest & you do not have to feel obligated to do it.”
Your life & schedule do not need to revolve 100% around your child’s preferences. Every family member is entitled to their own preferences & all should be considered. Your kids will almost certainly be content tagging along an adult-centered activity, like grocery shopping. 9/
— Dorsa Amir (@DorsaAmir) January 16, 2023
And, side note, that also applies to buying your kids tons of toys. You’re welcome, parents.
You don’t have to buy your children 600 toys. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you do, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t. Kids can play with literally whatever. They have a particular fondness for adult-utilized objects, actually, those function as play objects just fine. 10/
— Dorsa Amir (@DorsaAmir) January 16, 2023
Amir’s last piece of advice? Just like you shouldn’t protect your kids from boredom, you shouldn’t protect them from (developmentally appropriate) conflict, either.
“Kids should be allowed to experience social conflict. They can disagree or argue with their playmates; that’s completely fine & actually very good for them to practice. Let them resolve things if they can, you don’t have to get involved or prevent it from happening,” she wrote. “More generally, negative emotions are not bad & it’s good for kids to experience what they feel like & learn how to process them. A childhood that’s entirely carefree & completely devoid of emotional challenges is NOT the goal. It’s good to experience all of life’s nuances.”
In other words, parents, you’re doing just fine. Let this message from Amir be the one you take with you: “One thing that makes humans extra special is high levels of what we call “plasticity” or, the ability to calibrate to a million different ecological, cultural, & social environments. What this means is that there are a million different ways to be human & they’re all valid.”