Ahh…summertime. It’s that time of year when we plan to accomplish so much: catch up on our pleasure reading, organize that overflowing hall closet , finally find the right exercise routine. Oftentimes the flexibility of our summer schedule allows ample opportunity to achieve, or at least begin to tackle, these goals.

However these same ambitions we apply to our adult daily lives are not as befitting for our children. All too often, parents of young children decide to use the summer as a time to tackle more ambitious goals like toilet-training, or teaching a child to read or write. And while in theory, summer vacation may seem like a good time to undertake these milestones, in reality you just might be setting yourself up for disaster.

Unlike the adult focused activities listed above, tasks that involve younger children inherently need to be all about the child. Forcing the emergence of these, oh-so-desired skills may be impractical at best and a source of full-on warfare at worst. Children’s typical development occurs in a predictable fashion, but not one that always coincides with a parent’s needs or wishes. Your job as a parent is to recognize when your child shows the signs of being ready to learn a new skill and avoid pushing your own agenda or time frame onto your child. (Check out this resource adapted from CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5 for an overview of your child’s typical developmental milestones.)

Use the precious flexibility of the summer to learn more about your child’s current skills and abilities. At the end of the day, pushing your child to develop before he or she is ready  will only result in agitation and frustration for everyone.  It’s kind of like exceeding the speed limit. You might get somewhere a few minutes faster but is it really worth the risk when you know you will ultimately arrive at your destination anyway? So slow down, give yourself a break from the rigors of your ambitious to-do list and build a pillow fort with your child.  The closets and toilet training can wait.