Like adults, children have different emotional and behavioural tendencies. Some parents are more extroverted and demonstrative, whereas others can be shy and reserved. These tendencies play a role in parenting. The style of parenting can make it either easier or harder for your children to master their emotional milestones. How you alter the family patterns or respond to your children during each of the six developmental levels, can influence and have an impact on your children’s cognitive, social, emotional, language, and motor skills developments, as well as their sense of self-worth. The following are some basic emotional development milestones and suggestions on ways to provide appropriate emotional experiences.


Milestone 1: Self-regulation and developing interest in the world

Suggestion: Playing in ways that are understimulating or overstimulating can make participation difficult for children. Focus on children’s unique individual differences and their response to sensations. Try a variety of approaches to engage your child in a relationship that can give them most pleasure. Try to engage in games, toys, sounds or touch that appeal to your children. You may consult an occupational therapist to understand more about your child’s sensory profile.


Milestone 2: Intimacy (Develop and enjoy an intimate relationship with parents or primary caregivers)

Suggestion: Reflect on how you’ve responded to your children’s expressions of interest in you, especially when they are upset. Your worry or tension may upset them further. Be responsive and comfort them with relaxed, gentle and firm holds, as well as joyful facial expressions and soothing sounds.


Milestone 3: Two-way communication (e.g. wave to mummy and she will wave back)

Suggestion: Let your children take the lead when you play, give them freedom. Wait for your children to initiate and follow along. When your children do something new or difficult, encourage their efforts even if they may fail. At the same time, respond well to your children’s initiation and join in their play to foster more initiative.


Milestone 4: Complex communication (e.g. take mummy’s hand, lead her to the kitchen, and point to the cabinet with the snack that they want)

Suggestion: Every parent responds to their children differently. With their busy schedule and stress throughout the day, some parents tend to want to just get things done quickly. Try to slow down and encourage a dialogue when your children express what they want. Ask ‘why’ so that they can respond with even more complex gestures or a longer dialogue.


Milestone 5: Emotional ideas (e.g. “Daddy, I want a snack” when feeling hungry.)

Suggestion: Pay attention to your own behaviours and practise expressing your own feelings. Try not to become angry or punitive when your children express their anger. Children should be encouraged to express their feelings and the same applies to you. With their parent’s help, children can explore the world of feelings and ideas, and learn to handle their own feelings. Being able to verbalise feelings will help children move away from acting out and use gestures and language instead.


Milestone 6: Emotional thinking (e.g. If mummy is not in the room at night I will be scared.)

Suggestion: Ask your children for their opinion about the toys, food, colours or anything that they like. Try to enjoy their different logic and encourage them to express their feelings and ideas. If things turn into a little ‘argument’, let your children ‘debate’ and show them that you are interested in exploring their ideas and feelings. Pay attention to their feelings and remain calm when they get angry. This will show and help your children understand their own feelings and how they should react with self-control.



The Child with Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional GrowthBy Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. (1997), Perseus Books

Building Healthy Minds: The Six Experiences that Create Intelligence and Emotional Growth in Babies and Young Children. By Stanley Greenspan, M.D. with Nancy Breslau Lewis. 1999. Perseus Books. 

The Secure Child: Helping Our Children Feel Safe and Confident in a Changing World. 2002. Perseus Books.