Growth Stages‎ > ‎

Following: Ages 1-8

Overview
Attachment: Ages 0-3
Following: Ages 1-8
Accountability: Ages 7-12
Self-Discipline: Ages 11-18
Independence: Ages 16-20+
Leading: Ages 20+

Select Pyramid Side:
   Maturity Goals (Yellow)
   Values (Blue)
   Lead (Red)
   Work, Play (Green)
Maturity Goals: (Yellow Side of Pyramid)
During the Following Stage, our main parenting goal is to be an inspiring leader because our child’s natural drive is to observe and mirror everything her newly developed senses take in.

Brain Notes: The brain’s emotional circuits dominate during these years, causing the child to seek emotional refuge by avoiding punishment and seeking natural pleasure. In response to stress, coping patterns are established (based on genetic temperament tendencies and learning from experience). Mirror neurons are highly activated allowing for tremendous learning from the environment, often subconsciously. Memory also begins to add increased learning capabilities. Logic and imagination start to blossom around age 4, making life very magical for children.

With a secure attachment in place, our children are drawn to us and during the youngest years of this stage, they spend about 95% of their awake time right at our side…often attempting to do whatever we are doing…like holding a spatula, wiping a chair, or “folding” laundry. (This is often exhausting, but I try to remind myself that these precious minutes will increase long-term maturity…when I feel overwhelmed, I must rejuvenate—not escape and indulge, but rejuvenate with the intention of regaining energy enough to give again.)

As the years pass, their time away from us gradually and naturally increases and we focus on supporting them in their personal creative endeavors. We don’t push them away or encourage premature independence (even though lack of independence can feel irritating at times). As they mature, they gradually choose independence all on their own. We must be wise in guiding them along the way.

Also contrary to many parenting styles, we do not expect our children to take full accountability for their misdeeds during these years. The brain’s ability to truly be accountable, rather than merely avoiding punishment or seeking reward, is set to develop in later years. We’ve found that placing the full burden for misdeeds on our children’s shoulders before the brain has time to mature enough to handle it correctly, only activates their defense systems and increases coping patterns that actually decrease their ability to progress in the long run. So, instead of making them fully accountable now, we “lend” them our maturity (assuming we have it ourselves) and lead in sharing accountability with them for their immature behavior.

 We know we are accomplishing our goal when our children look to us and follow our example (most of the time) and then begin to recognize other worthy leaders to follow as well (grandparents, teachers, role models, etc.). After many years of observing and mirroring a leader’s actions (instead of being held solely accountable for personal immaturity) the next level of maturity, or taking accountability for choices, is very enticing and our children choose to accept that responsibility in due time without force.

On the contrary, if sole accountability is pushed on children during the Following Stage, they must cope with a weight that their brains are not yet programmed to carry. Many children carry this excessive weight by innocently putting up protective walls (Natural Defense Immaturity), which often cause greater heartache in the long run and are more difficult to break down in older children/adults.

Live My Values: (Blue Side of Pyramid)
Practice living my values at a time when my child mimics my every move.

Lead: (Red Side of Pyramid)
Discipline by taking accountability upon ourselves. Be present and model good behavior WITH our child.

During the Following Stage, we begin explaining eternal principles like agency, self-reliance, health, respect, repentance, and forgiveness. We set aside family time to teach these principles and to discuss specific family expectations with our children.

We begin to explain how special our bodies are and how they work (including Neuroscience 101 *wink, wink*), but we do not make our children solely responsible for how their immature bodies act. We share that responsibility with them until they feel inspired to choose accountability on their own. We politely manage our child’s healthy choices, relationship issues, and a small $$ allowance. We play a lot, use “time-ins”, and avoid inventing consequences that isolate our child from us or shift accountability away from us (Defensive or Offensive Parenting Styles). We rely on natural consequences that directly relate to the eternal principles we have already taught.

We encourage following, but do not force it (unless we’re in a bad mood…doh!). If a child doesn’t naturally follow, we spend some personal meditation time putting our mind inside our child’s mind…to understand her current brain. We play Backwards Follow the Leader (where we focus on matching the child’s mental level and mimicking her general actions) for at least 30 minutes every day to make a stronger connection with her. This alone builds such a strong bond that leading the child in improving basic immature actions comes quite easy and natural afterwards. If not, we seek further personal inspiration about how to lead and inspire that child in a mature direction. Answers always come. It’s awesome.

Ultimately, we want our child to mimic our example and follow our lead when learning to cope with stress/conflict and life in general. This happens when we let them spend tons of time with us and mirror our responses to stress.

Extra notes on “bad behaviors” here.

Work, Play, Choose: (Green Side of Pyramid)
Play and pretend, choose what to wear, attend classes, do chores and activities WITH mom and Dad, learn healthy habits.

Posts related to Leading during the Following Stage:

The Bumbo Battle: How a Tantrum Enhanced my Day of Peace and Rest
Tantrums (Following Stage 1-8)

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