Ages and Stages: A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development

Ages and Stages: A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development

by Charles E. Schaefer, Kate Reading, Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
The only comprehensive guide to a child's psychological development from birth to age 10

Ages and Stages is the first and only book to cover the five major areas of a child's psychological development--emotional, cognitive, friendship/relationships, personal growth, and morality (other books on the market only cover one or two areas). Written in an engaging and


The only comprehensive guide to a child's psychological development from birth to age 10

Ages and Stages is the first and only book to cover the five major areas of a child's psychological development--emotional, cognitive, friendship/relationships, personal growth, and morality (other books on the market only cover one or two areas). Written in an engaging and down-to-earth style, Ages and Stages offers parents the most current information on childhood development. Parents are told what range of behaviors and development to expect as their child grows and are given tips and techniques that will help guide their child to the next stage of development. Filled with easy-to-follow "Parent Do's and Don'ts," this guide provides parents with a supportive, non-alarmist view of childhood development that helps nurture the parent-child bond and sets this book apart from most other parenting books. The special format is divided into four age categories of development--birth to 18 months, 18 months to 36 months, 3 to age 6, and 6 to age 10. This valuable guide promotes parental involvement and activity with their child and helps parents assess if and when a child may need professional intervention.

Charles E. Schaefer, PhD (Crestwood, NY), is a consultant and regular contributor to Disney's website and author of several successful parenting books. Schaefer and coauthor Theresa Foy DiGeronimo (Hawthorne, NJ) have published several top-selling parenting guides, including Toilet Training without Tears, which has sold in excess of 100,000 copies.

Editorial Reviews

Parents can learn even more about child development with this guide to social and cognitive skills in children from birth through age ten. This developmental information is critical to understanding youngsters at different ages, especially during the early years. 2000, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., $14.95. Ages Adult. Reviewer: S. Palmer SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Children's Literature
Even the most adept parents need some advice from time to time. Developmental, societal and professional pressures each make their own demands. Ages and Stages offers time-tested research and an accessible format so that parents may make more confident child-rearing choices. This easy reference is divided into the stages of growing up—birth to 18 months, 18 to 36 months, 3 months to age 6, and ages 6 to 9. Within each stage, issues are organized according to emotional health, cognitive development, family and peer relationships, personal growth, and character formation. In Stage I, for example, Schaefer and DiGeronimo show us that children learn to love by being loved. Consistency, immediacy and stability are stressed. They let us see into the anger of total dependency and show us how to manage and mold emotions. Sensory exploration is the foundation for more complex learning later. As in all things, our actions are a model for our children's behavior—both good and bad. At each stage, parents are provided with answers to common dilemmas, given a list of practical problem-solving strategies, and made aware of tempting but misguided reactions to which parents sometimes succumb. Bulleted guidelines for success make the text available to busy household heads. "Science to Take Home" blocks document the theory behind the step-by-step guidelines provided. Bold subtitles make it easy to pinpoint topics while considering parenting style. 2000, John Wiley & Sons Inc., $14.95. Ages Adult. Reviewer: Leslie Julian
From the Publisher
"...succeeds in its aim of providing accessible information and practical advice..." (Jnl of Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol 7(4))

Product Details

Penton Overseas, Inc.
Publication date:
Wiley Audio Series
Edition description:
Abridged, 3 CDs
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 5.82(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Ages and Stages

A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development
By Charles E. Schaefer Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-37087-8

Chapter One

Birth to 18 Months

Dear Diary,

I can't believe that Christopher is already 18 months old. Will all his days and months and years with me zip by so quickly? It seems like such a short time ago that we brought him home as a newborn and stared for hours at his little face and wondered what the months ahead would bring.

It took a while for us to get to know each other. At first I jumped every time he let out the slightest whimper; I wanted him to know that he could count on me to keep him comfortable and safe. It wasn't long before all my efforts were rewarded with his wonderful smiles, and then came those delicious, wet kisses, and now his famous bear hugs. When he was only about 6 months old, I remember the way his whole face would light up and his big nearly toothless smile would greet me when I picked him up out of his crib every morning. What a wonderful way to start each day. I don't mean to sound like we haven't had our tough times, too. There've been lots of days when Christopher has let us all know that he's not completely happy with the way we're taking care of him. Right from when he was an infant, he'd hold his breath and then scream when he felt frustrated-not too much has changed in that department.

I think I'm still his favorite person (if I do say so myself). At around 7 months old, Christopher decided he didn't want anyone but me to hold him when he was tired, and he definitely didn't want to stay with a babysitter (even his dad couldn't calm him down sometimes when I went out). He's getting better now about staying with other people, but he still likes it best when I'm around (especially if there's a loud noise or a big dog around; they seem to frighten him).

Would I be bragging too much if I said that I think Christopher is a very smart little boy? He has always been the kind of person who focuses intently on things and tries to figure everything out. I remember even when he was just 4 months old or so how he'd hold things, look at them so closely (and of course put everything in his mouth to explore the feel and texture). Around 8 months, he spent so much time with his crib activity board, pushing the buttons, spinning the wheels, and figuring out how everything worked over and over again. He has always loved to go places-he seems eager to see everything and learn about every twig, leaf, and ladybug he passes. It's just amazing to watch his thinking skills in action. Lately I've noticed that he seems to enjoy pretending-he sits in a box and pretends it's a car. He picks up a stick and pretends it's an airplane. He's so much fun-and now that he can talk a bit, I have a better idea of what he's thinking. It's incredible that a child can move from babbling sounds like bababa at 6 months old to saying, "I want juice" just one year later. Right now, his favorite word is no!

It's been fascinating to watch Christopher become a part of our family. At first he was just this totally dependent little human being who didn't know us at all and only cared that he was fed and dry. Then he began to recognize us and reach out to be held and played with. Pretty soon he was "talking" up a storm, using his own little language to tell me all about his day and his dreams and plans. Now he seems so grown up as he plays with his little friends (or plays next to them, I should say, because they don't seem to get the idea of socializing yet). He no longer is the totally dependent infant who needed me to do everything for him-he's growing up to be a confident and sometimes-independent little person.

I want Christopher to learn how to share, and how to be kind, and how to understand the needs of others, but he just isn't ready yet-my wonderful, beautiful son is very self-centered right now. Because he's sure the world revolves around him, he just doesn't seem to care about the feelings of others. He doesn't share at all. He sometimes hits his friends. And it's like talking to the wall when I try to explain why he has to clean up his own toys. I think all I can do right now is to show him through my own example and with facial expressions and my tone of voice what is right and wrong, good and bad. Hopefully, in the next few months he'll get the idea.

Emotional Health

Although many forces shape a child's level of emotional competence (such as genetics and environmental factors), it is now well known that the parent-child relationship during infancy and toddlerhood has an exceptionally strong and lifelong influence on children's emotional development. In fact, there is growing biological evidence that infants need responsive care from their parents and caretakers in order for the parts of their brains that control emotions to develop properly. This development is nurtured as infants learn about love and affection, joy and anger, and fear.

Love and Affection

Eight-month-old Rachel sat contentedly in her infant seat watching her grandmother prepare her lunch. Then, suddenly, Rachel came alive as if someone had thrown a switch in her nervous system. Her face lit up with a full-face smile, her arms flailed up and down, and her little legs kicked wildly as she let out a loud squeal. The love of her life had just entered the room-Mom was home.

Making children feel loved is the single most important task of parenting. This feeling enables children to value and love themselves. It teaches them how to love and relate to other people. And it allows them to become emotionally stable persons. Our children learn to love by being loved. It's as simple as that.

Love and affection are first nurtured in infants through the development of trust. From the moment of birth, children begin the task of assessing if they can trust the world they live in to meet their needs. Are cries for food promptly answered or are they ignored for long periods? Is the need for comfort lovingly met or is it answered with harsh words and rough handling? Do they have influence over the adults who care for them or are they powerless in an indifferent world? The answers to these questions determine how emotionally secure children grow and how they later form attachments of love and affection.

Babies who learn that the adults in their lives are trustworthy and can be counted on to respond to cries of frustration or distress form a positive image of themselves and others. Parents who can respond with a soft voice to a baby's hunger at 3 A.M. or respond to a baby's persistent cries with gentle handling (even when they themselves are fatigued and impatient) teach children that they are important and loved. This lesson allows children to later build loving relationships. But if babies learn that their cries for help are not answered or result in anger or harsh treatment, they become wary and distrustful of others. As these children grow they generally lack confidence and feel unworthy of warm, responsive attention.

To an infant, love means development of affectional attachment with a caretaker. This relationship (called attachment or bonding) becomes firmly established by the time the infant is 8 or 9 months of age and is characterized by strong interdependence, intense mutual feelings, and vital emotional ties. Early attachment helps a child develop trust and confidence in the caregiver and is vital to the quality of relationships the person will later develop with peers, relatives, other adults, and a spouse.

Bonding does not happen immediately, or quickly, or in only a given window of time. It is a process that happens over many months and even years. Like any other love relationship, it develops in gradual stages and improves and deepens with time and attention.

If you want your baby to "love" you, try these three simple suggestions:

Consistently and immediately respond to your baby's cries of distress.

Give much physical contact. Babies feel safer, sleep better, gain more weight, and are more interested in being with people when they are often cuddled, held, and stroked. The importance of loving touch cannot be overemphasized.

Play with your baby. Even in the first few months of life, infants enjoy games like peek-a-boo and songs. This creates a pleasure bond that encourages affectional attachment.

Some signs that an infant is making this affectional attachment to you are the following:

The baby will smile when he or she sees you.

The baby will seek close physical contact with you when he or she is distressed.

The baby will be upset when separated from you.

The baby will show pleasure when reunited with you.

Parenting to Nurture Love and Affection

Teach your child to trust you by responding consistently with love and sensitivity to your baby's cries of hunger, pain, or discomfort.

If you need childcare, find a program that allows one caregiver to take care of your child over a long period of time.

Create an affectional attachment with your baby by (1) consistently and immediately responding to your baby's cries of distress, (2) giving much physical contact, and (3) playing with your baby.

Make your baby feel safe and comfortable.


Getting angry when your child begins to cling to you and avoid strangers at around 8 months of age. It is a normal sign of attachment and affection.

Letting your own fatigue or anger push you to respond negatively to your baby's cries.

Assuming your infant doesn't need quality time with you because he or she seems content to be alone.

Expecting bonding to happen immediately, or quickly, or in only a given window of time. It is a process that happens over many months and even years.

Joy and Anger

Although the emotions of joy and anger are very much a part of babyhood, most child experts believe that these feelings require mental processes that are not present at birth. Parents may swear that their newborns light up with joy one minute and have a quick temper the next, but the smiles and cries are actually prompted by other, internal stimuli.


The smile of a newborn is probably based on brain stem activity. It occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and during those waking states in which rapid eye movements can also be discerned. Then, between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 months, smiles begin to appear when the baby sees something pleasing. Social smiling begins around 2 1/2 to 3 months; at this time, familiar faces are more likely to elicit smiles than nonfamiliar ones, indicating that early smiling already has a cognitive component involving memory. Between 3 and 5 months, babies will smile when they notice they can control their environment; they will smile, for example, when they learn they can make a mobile move by vigorously kicking their legs. (This is called mastery motivation; the pleasure of success encourages them to try harder and stick to a task longer.)

Smiling may turn to outright laughter by 4 months, indicating great pleasure and a feeling of delight. At first, this laughter occurs mainly as a result of physical stimulation such as tickling, but by the second half of the first year the baby will laugh in response to interesting or incongruous events. (See the "Play and Imagination" section under "Cognitive Development" later in Stage 1.)

by the end of the first year and during the second, sustained joy or elation can be seen in toddlers. They show particular pleasure when anticipating events that will occur and in planning such events. They'll giggle themselves silly, for example, when they know in advance that you're going to jump out from your hiding place and say, "Boo!"

Whatever prompts a baby's smile, it is surely nature's way of gaining the child positive attention. Who can resist responding to a baby's smile with a smile in return? A child's laughter is rewarded with reciprocal laughing, talking, and other kinds of positive attention from adults. This teaches socialization skills by encouraging the child to smile and laugh some more.


Feelings of anger develop in much the same way as feelings of joy. In the beginning, infant crying is a call for relief from distress; it is not a display of anger. But by 6 months, anger is evident in response to frustration. When you restrict your child's body movements while dressing, bathing, or buckling up the car seat, for example, you'll see frustration turn into angry flailing of arms and legs.

Babies also feel frustrated because they are totally dependent on someone else to give them everything they desire-a helpless situation that prompts anger. Nine-month-old Jacob pushed forcefully away from his mother as he reached out toward something he wanted across the room. Jacob squirmed, twisted, and cried, but he couldn't make his mother understand what he wanted. "I've noticed," says his mom, "that Jacob gets very frustrated when he can't do things for himself. He just can't wait to grow up."

Anger is also an enabling emotion. It energizes and motivates babies to keep trying to master a frustrating event. Babies soon learn that anger can prompt action; it gains attention; it wields some power. For example, 16-month-old Clara jangled her mother's keys with glee, but then began to scream when her mom took them away. The anger grew not only from frustration, but also because past experiences had taught Clara that her anger would keep her mother's attention and would probably bring back the keys.

Now is a good time to begin teaching your child about anger by letting her experience it and by resisting the temptation to always jump to remove the frustration. If your child's temper flares because he can't make the jack-in-the-box pop up, let him struggle with it for just a bit. Babies need to learn about anger in a safe, protected environment. Through experience they learn that it's okay to be angry, that it's a natural response, and they learn how to let it go when it doesn't get them what they want. Experience with anger teaches children emotional control. Situations such as waiting for food or sitting in a car seat provide important opportunities for acquiring regulation skills such as turning away from the frustrating object, distracting oneself with something more comforting (like a favorite toy), and engaging in self-soothing activities (such as holding a favorite blanket or sucking fingers). Research indicates that infants who have not learned how to regulate their angry feelings are more likely to be noncompliant with parental directions when they get older and are thus likely to experience behavioral problems. But children who do learn how to deal with anger early on are better prepared when they reach school age and their parents aren't there to save the day when they encounter situations that make them angry.


Excerpted from Ages and Stages by Charles E. Schaefer Theresa Foy DiGeronimo Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CHARLES E. SCHAEFER, PhD, is the founder of the Play Therapy Association and a leading expert on children's health and emotional well-being. A consultant to, Disney's Web site, Dr. Schaefer is also the author of several successful parenting books.

THERESA FOY DIGERONIMO has published several top-selling parenting guides, including Toilet Training without Tears, coauthored with Dr. Schaefer.

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