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Understanding developmental stages is essential to good parenting. Children have different timetables for their development. Although each child has his or her own individual growth timetable, all children go through stages.

Here are checklists of traits of the different stages. Looking them over will give you a sneak preview of what is to come if your child is still a baby; if your child is older, it should help give you some idea of normal development. Remember, though, that children do have many individual differences in the way they develop.

Two Year Olds
While two-year-olds are at one of the very cutest stages, they can be a real trial to live with. This is the age of transition between infancy and childhood. Twos are struggling to be independent, yet they are still very dependent. They may appear to understand things that they really don't, thus seeming defiant. There is no good or bad two-year-old. They are "good" when they happen to feel like doing what we want them to do and "bad" when they don't.

Parents must learn to maneuver skillfully around children this age. The trick is to get them to want to do what we want. When they balk at doing something, try to turn into a game.

Three Year Olds
Children are learning to do more things for themselves. This helps them feel independent. Children want to please their parents, particularly from around age three and a half through puberty. It is critical that they be able to please you. If you are too difficult to please, they give up and become rebellious or withdrawn.

General traits of three-year-olds are:

Four Year Olds
In general, four-year-olds are easier to manage than are twos and threes unless you have become locked into a power struggle. Although many fours will not use the defiant "NO" to every directive, they will often find other ways to resist parental authority. Dawdling and "deafness" are simply passive ways to assert their independence.

General traits of four-year-olds are:

Five Year Olds
General traits of five-year-olds are:

Remember: These are just guidelines. Children develop at their own pace. If you are concerned that your child is having problems, you should talk to your pediatrician or contact your local school district. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child helps special help in order to progress at his or her own best rate.

ęChild Welfare League of America. Used by permission.