First off I would like to apologise for my month-long absence. We had a busy stretch at the end of April and then the end of support for Windows XP meant I was without a computer until we got a new one sorted.

But I’m back now with a short post about something that has come up in conversation with several parents lately…


One of the many important positions mastered on the way to rolling over.

One of the many important positions mastered on the way to rolling over.


It’s often said that parenting is all about intuition.  And often it is. But sometimes it’s also about counterintuition. I know that’s not actually a word (my repeated battles with spellcheck are a reminder) but it best describes this phenomenon so I’m going to use it anyways.

When is parenting about counterintuition?

  • Physical Skills – I always thought that children needed help to learn to sit, stand, walk, jump and this help comes in the form of special chairs, walkers, and jumpers as well as back-broken parents. In fact, allowing children to pick up these skills all on their own enriches the learning experience immensely.
  • Potty Training – I always thought that toddlers needed a week of sticker charts and exciting new underpants to be tempted to use the potty. But children don’t want to stay in nappies forever. What they really want is to be part of the adult world…and adults use the toilet! As long as an appropriate toilet is made available and children are not pressured into using it before they’re ready, sticker charts and Superman underpants aren’t actually needed. (Although, you can never go wrong with Superman underpants.)
  • Manners – I always thought that children needed to be taught early to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry‘ or they’d never pick up the habit. However, if a child is taught these words as a toddler that’s all they’ll be to him – a habit. Children are not developmentally ready to apply these concepts meaningfully until 4 or 5 years of age. But make no mistake, if adults consistently model these words children will incorporate them into their social interactions once they’re ready.

There is one skill that is essential for successful counterintuition: being able to let go of your own timeline and trust your child’s. While I don’t believe any serious damage will come to a child who is put in a walker or potty trained with stickers or taught to say ‘thank you’ at the age of two, there is so much benefit from allowing children to take their time: The infinite number of physical positions a baby can master on her way to sitting up. The gradual increase in assurance that causes a toddler to confidently declare that he is now ready to take responsibility for his toileting. The observation of hundreds of altercations before realising that if you hurt someone, you must do something to put it right, even if it was an accident.

I am so thankful for all the friends and blogs and books that have helped me hone my parenting counterintuition. If you’d like to read a little more on the above topics I’d suggest you start here:

They’ll Grow Into It – Janet Lansbury