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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Touchpoints: The Essential Reference for Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development


My husband has been working at a downtown theater these past few months, so when we head down to meet him for dinner I will often swing by The Strand and see what used books look interesting. I've reviewed books by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton before, and I happen to be a fan of his work from a professional standpoint as well as a personal one. I found Touchpoints: The Essential Reference for Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development and I picked it up for a dollar to use with my early childhood development classes.

I found this book to be a great reference for new parents and those who may be skittish about whether their kids are "on the right track." Funny enough, last night I had a childless friend over along with a parent friend, and CF said that just about everyone she knows with a child is worried about whether they are developing correctly except me. She said this laughingly, but it's true. A big part of that is my work; I teach human development and understand it intimately, and I also understand that resilience is the norm. I don't freak out easily, and I would like to urge others to as well.

That's where Touchpoints comes in. I found most of the information to be reassuring to the general public, and the thrust of the book is a noble one: that there are certain times where you will see your pediatrician and you will wonder if what you are doing as a parent is correct. (Short answer: most of the time it is, so chill out.) The first section of this book goes over 13 touchpoints starting in pregnancy and ending at three years. Each of these touchpoints talks about what Dr. Brazelton expects to see when you walk into his office and how most of what he sees is normal. Emotional and behavioral development are just as important as physical development, and they are also the most nerve-racking to find a balance with new parents.

The second section covers challenges to development such as allergies, divorce, illness, and school readiness. The last section discusses allies to development such as grandparents and your doctor. Overall I found this book to be a helpful one, although it did contain some inaccurate information regarding cognitive development. Some of this can be chalked up to this book being published in 1992 (26 years ago for those of you whom have trouble with math) and it's more than fair to say that understanding of cognitive development especially in children has grown and changed tremendously in that time. The rest of it can be attributed to the difference between medical doctors and psychologists. There is a difference in what people learn and why, and just like I would never purport to know about the inner workings of a baby's body, it's fair to say that sometimes pediatricians aren't up to date on the latest research outside of their field.

One thing that I like to make sure all parents know is related to chapter titled, "Lying, Stealing, and Cheating." Actually, it came up in conversation last night, too. Lying in children under four is a sign of appropriate cognitive development. This doesn't mean that you don't correct them according to your values, morals, and ethics, but it's important to remember that children are not small adults. They have a developmental trajectory and cognitive map that is different that what we have as grown ups, and that should be respected. We often assign motives to children's actions when really, they are just in a constant state of learning and absorbing. Appreciate that all of it is a part of development, and it's your job as a parent or caregiver to shape the clay but understand that clay is malleable and fragile. Children are constantly learning and growing into adults, not as adults. 

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