Over the years, I’ve worked with any number of families who are worried about their children’s development. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing for families to feel from time to time: children do worrisome things from time to time. I have a principle that helps me keep things in perspective, and while it’s not especially useful to bring up right when a family is worried, I thought it’d be good to put it out there in the world.
The Jarrod Green Maxim of Child Development is: Most children, in most circumstances, will be mostly fine.
Okay, perhaps it’s not a revelation, but let me talk a little more.
“Most children.” There are some kids who have serious stuff going on—mental or emotional or developmental disabilities—that are going to make life hard. And there are some kids who, by a quirk of temperament, are going to be especially sensitive to something in their environment that wouldn’t affect another child. But the vast majority of kids are going to turn out okay. A lot of children with disabilities or sensitivities are going to be okay too.
“In most circumstances.” There are some life events that are going to really negatively affect almost any child—mostly ones that qualify as short- or long-term trauma. But short of those, children are by nature resilient, and by and large come out okay even when bad stuff happens. And children who experience trauma are resilient too, and a lot of them are going to be okay too.
“Mostly fine.” Everyone’s got issues. But most people still have jobs, and friends, and relationships, and are reasonably well-adjusted members of society, who can communicate okay with other people and get their own needs met most of the time without hurting anyone else very much. That’s just how people tend to work. Most people you know are mostly fine, and chances are any children you know are going to grow up to be mostly fine too.
I’m not just talking about kids with challenges, either. Some kids have absolutely nothing “wrong” with them, and grow up ideal circumstances. And you know what? They’re not going to have perfect lives. But most of them will be mostly fine.
Most children, in most circumstances, will be mostly fine.
That doesn’t mean that we should stop being concerned for children. We should watch out for children who have innate challenges, and give them extra support. We should watch out for children going through difficult circumstances, and give them extra support. We should observe and assess and support every child, and work hard for the best possible outcome for each one. Always.
At the same time, it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective. He’s having a hard time reading and writing? Okay, good to know; there are some strategies for that, and it’ll get probably get better, and if it doesn’t get better we have other steps we can take, but if it still doesn’t get better? He’s still going to be okay. She’s having trouble regulating her emotions? Yes, that’s important, and we’ll work on it, and she’ll make progress there, but even if it remains a challenge for her whole life? She’s still going to be okay.
Parents and families and teachers and doctors and specialists and social workers and everyone are all going to do everything they can for every child. But while all that’s going on, remember: most children, in most circumstances, are going to be mostly fine.