As soon as a child is born, we start measuring, don’t we? The number of fingers and toes. Height and weight. Number of wet diapers. Weeks and months. And my personal favorite, number of hours slept in a row.

As they get older, that kind of counting doesn’t stop, it just changes—usually into more physical and cognitive milestones.

Rolling over – check.
Sitting up – check.
Saying “No.” Knowing colors. Recognizing letters – check, check, check.

What’s harder to measure are the so-called “softer skills” that round us out as human beings. Some still see social and emotional learning as that “fluffy feeling stuff” that’s extra, if you have time, or better left to the school counselor.

I once heard a Harvard professor say, “It matters what we build.” when talking about children. This is true for parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors. If we focus just on physical and academic achievements we are raising two-dimensional kids.

It’s easy to lose sight of the social, emotional and spiritual needs of my kids, even with the best intentions, because life is just so busy.

I discovered a practical, do-able guide in the book, Are My Kids on Track?: The 12 Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach. Authors Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan are all counselors with many years of experience between them.

The Secret Sauce – What Makes This Book Good

  • The simplicity of this book’s framework makes it easy to follow and understand
  • The goal is to break down 4 emotional, 4 social and 4 spiritual milestones.
  • After defining each of these milestones with 1 keyword, the authors discuss
    • 3 stumbling blocks that get in the way
    • 3 building blocks that help them get there
  • They also take turns explaining how it looks and feels different for genders based on their experience.
  • And at the end of each milestone chapter, they list around 10 practical suggestions on things to try related to this goal.

The Main Message – A Short Summary

  • To stay on track with Emotional Milestones, children need an Emotional Vocabulary, Perspective, Empathy, and Resourcefulness.
  • For our children to reach Social Milestones, children need awareness, Reciprocity, Ownership and Boundaries.
  • To grow toward Spiritual Milestones, children need a strong Foundation, Identity, Mercy, and Meaning.


This excerpt from the book’s introduction inspired me from the beginning to keep reading and keep parenting:

“We aren’t looking for evidence of mastery or perfection, in you or your children. No human being responds with empathy in every moment of life. Kids are going to have emotional meltdowns at times. They are going to struggle with awareness and boundaries in different situations. We’re looking for evidence that they are demonstrating the skills with some consistency, and the skills are becoming more developed over time.” (pg.15)

Or in David’s words later in the book—Practice makes progress, not perfect!

In my next post, I’ll share some ideas that made sense for me to try at home with my 3 kids in very different stages.

What do you think so far? Sound like something you might like to read? Have you read anything else on this topic that you’d recommend? Comment below.