Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child. It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults. I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning. I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.
In Part Two, we focused on birth through age 4. In Part Three we looked at ages five and six. The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.
Birth through age four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world. The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality. Ages five and six also sees the same importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue. However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation). Play is the main theme for these years, and also a look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control. If you would like to see more about the five and six year old, please see Part Three of this series: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/08/01/gentle-discipline-by-agepart-three/
Today we enter the realm of the seven and eight year old; two ages of contrast for most children. Descriptions of these two ages include the following from the “Your Seven Year Old” by Ames and Haber: “Seven-year-olds normally do cry at any, every, or even no provocation. Seven tends to be a quiet, withdrawn, pensive, and in some even a rather gloomy age – certainly when compared to vigorous, aggressive, demanding Six or expansive, outgoing, ready-for-anything Eight.” From “Your Eight Year Old”, also by Ames and Haber: “Eight’s performance is often only mediocre, and his notion of other people’s standards is extremely high. This discrepancy lead to tears and temporary unhappiness, at times; or Eight may boast and alibi to make up for what he can do and what he would like to do…..While Eight is hard on himself, he is also hard on others. He can be quarrelsome and aggressive toward people, particularly Mother.”
Although there are many differences between these two ages, I think there are common tools to use in the gentle guiding of the seven and eight year old:
Know that the mother-child relationship at these ages can be really mixed up, embroiled, and many times everything is taken out on you as a mother. A seven year old may be all complaints and gloom and misery, many times. An eight-year-old is often highly possessive of his or her mother and often requires a mother’s full attention and demands a lot of her, but yet is often very resistant to Mother. The level of communication often required by children of both of these ages is often intense. Be calm and try not get too entangled in it all.
Speech can be a volatile issue at this age for parents. At age seven, violent speech and thought are fairly typical. At age eight, lying and belligerence is also fairly typical. Again, don’t get too caught up. Be calm, and do let natural consequences take its course. Reduce your orders, commands, and verbal questioning to a bare minimum. If you ask something to be done, you probably will have to be right there to see that it is done.
Protection is still very important. Abstract thinking has not yet really unfolded. Seven and eight year olds are still little. Do you remember back to first and second grade? Stop overtalking things to death and offering too many choices and activities. An eight-year-old especially will be accident prone, get stomachaches if something is upsetting and will get headaches if overexcited. More is less for these ages.
Play is still so important. Seven-year-olds often are very inventive and creative in their play, and are forging into board games, collecting, magic tricks, jumping rope, roller skating, and games involving a ball. Eight year old girls may still love to play with dolls; cooking, models, trains, paper dolls, collecting, and all manner of gross motor activities are still highlights of play.
Be on your child’s side by setting boundaries and following through. The foundation you lay at these ages is important for the nine-year change.