Mindful Parenting: Celebrating Inchstones

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

If you’ve ever found yourself comparing your child’s development to another, you understand the level of stress that can create. Since no two children develop at the exact same pace, celebrating your child’s small wins – also known as “inchstones” – can bring perspective to your parenting journey. 
We’re all aware of some of the major milestones in a child’s life. Their first birthday. Their first word. Their preschool graduation. Their first day of kindergarten. These are unforgettable moments for families, and they’re celebrated as such. A mindful parenting trend gaining traction this year is all about acknowledging those small victories, too. 
Inchstones mark points of progress that are significant toward a child’s overall development. Between the big milestones everyone knows about, children are moving “inch by inch” to lay the foundation that will one day allow them to achieve those milestones.
Pinterest predicts inchstones to be a major parenting trend in 2024, stating that “tiny triumphs will make the heart grow fonder as parents sprinkle party vibes on their kids’ not-so-grand moments.” The social media site noted marked increases in search terms like “my first tooth party” and “monthly milestone ideas.”

What are examples of inchstones?

Historically, the term “inchstones” has been significant for caregivers and parents of special needs children. Since some milestones like walking, talking and writing can take longer to achieve, parents used the term to celebrate the pure joy rooted in incremental displays of development that can serve as the bridge to bigger milestones. Picking up a piece of food – even if they don’t put it in their mouth – is progress. As is coming close to saying a certain word or fastening the Velcro on their shoes.
Celebrating smaller triumphs is starting to extend toward parents of all children. After watching our kids run into roadblocks during everyday moments, seeing them finally knock those roadblocks down can be a cause for celebration. While a specific inchstone may vary from family to family, some examples can include the first time they belly crawl, the first time they color a picture inside the lines, the first time they finish a puzzle, their first act of kindness or the first time they tie their shoes without help.

What are the benefits of celebrating inchstones?

Mindful parenting is a concept that revolves around bringing awareness and attention to the interactions parents have with their kids. Inchstones are an extension of that concept. Here are some reasons parents consider them important.
They promote positive reinforcement: Child and adolescent psychiatry research generally favors positive reinforcement over punishment when it comes to shaping a child’s behavior. Encouraging small wins falls directly along those lines and boosts a child’s self-esteem in the process.
They reduce pressure: Kids of any age can feel pressure from their parents, especially when school starts. Inchstone celebrations allow for a more individualized perspective on a child’s growth, because not every child will hit every big milestone at the same time. It promotes the idea of finding fun in the development journey. 
They help you “slow down and smell the roses:” Every parent feels like their kids grow up too fast. There’s a saying that “the day are long but the years are short.” Cherishing inchstones can help you slow things down a bit by living in the moment.

Are there downsides to celebrating inchstones?

As is often the case in parenting – and in life – finding balance is key. Celebrating more than just the traditional milestones can seem excessive in the lens of some and come off as pampering.
In the case of your child: They may not have as much motivation to achieve larger milestones if they’re being praised all the time for smaller accomplishments. 
In the case of the parent: You risk setting a precedent that every minor achievement deserves an elaborate party or reward.
These “celebrations” don’t always have to include streamers, cake and a bounce house – a great big hug and a long moment of recognition can help deliver the message to your child that they just accomplished something special. Rather than focusing on material rewards, parents can consider celebrating inchstones by focusing on the bonding element of your child’s achievement and celebrating their growth.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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