Developmental milestones are routinely used by medical experts, but is our obsession with them having unintended harmful effects? If you peruse the social media feeds of parents, you’ll quickly come across so-called milestone cards: pastel-colored cards with the baby’s age and the date they attempted to sit up, crawl, or walk.

A recent survey indicated that almost six in ten US parents are concerned about their children reaching developmental milestones. However, few people were aware of the timing of events. According to Chris Sheldrick, a research associate professor at Boston University who specializes in pediatric screening procedures, a milestone is a description of behavior that parents either believe their child can accomplish or cannot do. He makes reference to the word’s literal meaning. A “milestone” or marker may be present at the 5K mark of a 10K race. By definition, no one has passed at the start of the race. By the end of the race, everyone has.

Parents must comprehend that reaching developmental milestones is not a race. They serve as a reference for medical experts to track a child’s development and make sure it is proceeding at a normal rate. Parents should not compare their children to others and should have faith in their children’s ability to develop at their own rate.