NWFP Values Course – Growth

“We know that growth happens in indirect ways and different directions and we honour each individual journey. We support families to find resources to develop the skills they need to grow while committing to remaining reflexive in our own work in order to expand our own skills and do our work better each day.”

Growth, simply put, means changing and improving, adding skills, features or characteristics. In the context of child development, it means getting bigger, taller, stronger, learning new skills, and reaching milestones.

Unfortunately, growth can also be a triggering word for parents and families, as there is a lot of societal pressure to conform to growth charts and learning milestones from birth. But research shows that each child develops individually and the window of milestones is so wide and varied. Some children walk at 9 months, some at 18. Some children don’t talk at all until after age 2 and others are using full sentences by then. Growth charts are not the only thing professional consider when assessing wellbeing:

“Doctors consider the growth charts along with a child’s overall well-being, environment and genetic background.”


Take into account the context, the wider family support and culture, and what individual challenges that family or parent might be facing that is impacting their growth. 

“Growth charts provide useful information

but should never be considered report cards”

Elissa Strauss, cnn.com

We also know that growth often comes in times of challenge – or facing criticism or feedback. Giving the right kind of feedback at the right time is crucial to potential growth. The right word or resource at the right moment can change everything, but an approach that is heavy-handed or rooted in your own agenda instead of the person you are working with can kill any potential growth or change.

Here is an overview of how growth can be defined differently:

Helen Pearson: Lessons from the longest study on human development

Make space for your initial feelings or reactions when someone isn’t meeting your expectations for growth, or their definition of positive growth looks different than yours.

How can you use some of the tools described above to improve your conversations around growth with others, and even your own growth?

  • Adaptability
  • As the organization grows, services change to meet current needs
  • Facing the fears and anxieties in order to grow; letting go of “but we always do things this way” and being open in the moment to new possibilities
  • Recognizing and having compassion that growth can be uncomfortable
  • Identifying that some people are in a place of growing and others are really stuck in the same pattern
  • As a team, intentionally making time for hard conversations so we can learn and grow
  • Debriefing is a cornerstone of all our programming to look at how and what we are doing and whether it’s meeting the current needs

Imagine that you see the same parent every week at drop-ins or a class. You notice that they seem to be in a different stage of growth, which isn’t working well for them or their child. They get frustrated every time their child wants to play with a messy activity and are constantly saying “no” and trying to wash their hands and limit access to the activity. The child is really wanting to play and experiment with the activity and is getting frustrated with the parent. This happens every week.

You have been working with a colleague, a board member or volunteer for several months on a project or program and you are feeling concerned about things but feel like you don’t have the language to talk about it. Or maybe you notice they are not working on the project the way you had hoped they were, either through lack of time spent or style or an unknown barrier. You come to the table frustrated with your own inability to talk about it, and the tension builds. The project or program is starting to suffer in quality and outcomes are not being met because of what’s happening internally.  

How would you demonstrate growth or encourage it in these situations? 

Growth Charts and Averages: Myths and Truths

  1. What might be getting in the way of growth? (check your own beliefs or assumptions here about how growth is “supposed” to look
  2. What could you do in your own life to be open to growth (this includes giving and receiving feedback)
  3. What can you do as a part of the New West Family Place community to encourage and support growth?