When I was a young girl, I used to ask my mother "Why does my sister Judy learn things faster than I do?" I always had to study at the dining room table every night. Math was especially hard for me. Judy seemed to "get it" right away. Mom answered "Each of you is different. You're better in some things than she is, too." Through the years, I learned that mom was right.

When parents make the mistake of comparing one child to another, they do a great deal of harm to both children. No two children (even twins) should be compared and contrasted in any way. Each is a unique individual. If my Mom had said to me "Why can't you learn math as fast as your sister can?" I would have been crushed. She never did that. Nor did she ever say "Why aren't you more careful with your piano fingering just like your sister Judy is?" or "You are grouchy. Why can't you be more cheerful and sunny like your sister Natalie?"

I was lucky to have two parents who somehow understood how to raise three daughters who were very individualistic. They appreciated each of us and our differences. We always felt loved and accepted. If we did our best in anything we tried, that was all that mattered.

But, most parents are not like mine were. Just watch the face of a young mother when she hears that her neighbor's child has started to walk BEFORE her child does. Her fear that her child isn't measuring up will show in her expression. Her immediate reaction is usually to become defensive or worried. This young mother needs a lesson in reality. KIDS ARE DIFFERENT! Now, if the child turns two and still isn't walking, then there's a major problem that should be checked.

How are parents to know when to get worried about a child's inability to meet a major milestone? I asked my doctor and she recommended that I read the Denver Developmental Series and the Ross Growth and Development Series, which are SUGGESTED activities that are calculated to assist parents in understanding child growth and development.

These little booklets are published by Ross Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio, 43216. They are usually free of charge in your doctor's office, or you can write and request a set of them and be charged postage only. I found them to be interesting and valuable, especially for new parents.

Let me give you an example of some statements from the brochures:

1. From three to six months, you should try to get your baby to raise his or her head and push up on the arms to see what is happening in the world around him.

2. From six to nine months, help your baby sit alone.

3. From nine to twelve months, help your baby learn to hold a cup and drink from it.

4. From twelve to fifteen months, encourage your child to walk without help.

5. From eighteen to twenty-four months, encourage your child to run, walk on tiptoes, play in water, kick, throw, and catch a large ball, and walk (holding on) up and down stairs.

These brochures are written for children of every age and have many suggestions and ideas for parents.

Rational thinking adults certainly know that every human being is unique and individual. Parents need to understand that their child can meet certain milestones and not meet others and still be a normal, happy, well-adjusted kid.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TODISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY ISSUE WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.