Ah, six. The beginning of the six/seven year transformation as described in Waldorf circles, and judged even by traditional childhood development experts as the age that is completely different than the other ages before it.
This is also the age where many parents I have spoken with feel a bit of despair, as if all of their good parenting up until this point was in vain, because now their six-year-old is “defiant”, “physically aggressive”, “mouthy and disrespectful”, “good in school but terrible at home”, “drama over everything and anything”. Tensional outlets, sexual play and the ilk that signifies significant disequilibrium is back, only it seems worse to parents at this point because after all, six is the age of schooling and being grown-up, not like when the child was two or four.
I urge you to strongly consider six the way Waldorf circles view the age of six – a transitional phase as the child moves into the grades at school and into a new seven-year-cycle. I urge you to look carefully at the traditional and anthroposophical behavioral characteristics of this age so you do not over- react to this age.
Let’s start with a quick quote from The Gesell Institute’s “Your Six-Year-Old”:
“Your typical Six-year-old is a paradoxical little person, and bipolarity is the name of his game. Whatever he does, he does the opposite just as readily. In fact, sometimes just the choice of some certain object or course of action immediately triggers an overpowering need for its opposite.
The Six-year-old is wonderfully complex and intriguing, but life can be complicated for him at times, and what he needs most in the world is parents who understand him. For Six is not just bigger and better than Five. He is almost entirely different. He is different because he is changing, and changing rapidly. Though many of the changes are for the good – he is, obviously, growing more mature, more independent, more daring, more adventurous- this is not necessarily an easy time for the child.”
Typical Developmental Characteristics of the Six-Year-Old, Traditional Perspective
Usually ambivalent, wants two opposite things and cannot make up mind
Frequent reversals of numbers and letters (The Gesell Institute says that six is NOT the age to do formal teaching of reading at home or at school. So why the United States school system is so heavily focused on this, I do not know!)
Stubborn, hard to make up his mind about things but once his mind is made up it is difficult to get child to change his mind
Adores his mother, but at the same time,when things go wrong it is usually Mother’s fault and the Six year-old will take out everything on their Mother.
The child is now the center of their own universe; the Mother is not the center of the child’s universe – the six-year-old wants to be close to Mother but at the same time wants to be independent so there is conflict, ambivalence in this relationship but also increased growth and maturity
The Six-year-old wants to win, wants to have everything
Worries about everything as he moves to be separate from his mother
Can be violent, loud, demanding, expects perfection from parents – but not to be “bad”, mainly because he is anxious to be first, to be loved the most, to be the best. (In other words, a very insecure age).
Insecure, and high emotional needs.
Cannot bear to accept criticism, or bear to lose. Very small failures, small comments or criticisms hurt them deeply.
Cries a lot about physical hurts.
Lots of enthusiasm, loves to ask questions, loves to be read to.
Can be very happy, warm, full of laughs and smiles.
TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SIX-AND-A-HALF To SEVEN-YEAR-OLD, TRADITIONAL PERSPECTIVE
Amusing, has a good sense of humor
“A certain maturity”
Loves new places, new things, new ideas
Many parents I have spoken with found early six to be fine, and some of the characteristics that the Gesell Institute describes not to come in until six-and-a-half. Like so many things in life, your child’s own individuality plays into all this.
Some Further Characteristics of the Six-Year-Old:
TEACHERS: If the child attends school, the teacher is well-liked, well-respected, what the teacher does is right, typically the child behaves well in school (but may fall apart at home).
SIBLINGS: Most six-year-olds are not at their best with younger siblings. May enjoy teaching a younger sibling things, but overall may be very competitive, combative (I personally think though that this has much to do with the age of the younger child, although Gesell does not seem to take this into account). Tends to be very jealous of any attention or objects given a brother or sister. May argue, tease, bully, frighten, torment, get angry or hit siblings, according to The Gesell Institute.
FRIENDS: Friends mean a lot to children of this age, but again, it is often hard for the six-year-old to get along with friends. “Children of this age tend to be very aggressive both verbally and physically. They are also quarrelsome, belligerent, boisterous, argumentative, excitable, emotional.” Six wants to “boss and win.” Usually very little sense of humor with their friends, finds it hard to forgive.
EATING: May stuff mouth with food, talk with mouth full, grab for food, knock over his milk, dribble, kick chair leg, teeter and totter in chair, fall off chair.
Tends to eat very slowly, but likes to eat and may eat all day long.
SLEEPING: Usually goes to bed well, naps are done, child ready for bed by seven o-clock or eight o’clock according to Gesell Institute. Most sleep through night well.
TENSIONAL OUTLETS: At a high: wriggling, kicking, and swinging arms, sharp verbal comments to outright temper tantrums. Biting and tearing of fingernails, scratching, grimacing, grinding teeth, chewing pencils, nose picking are all common tensional outlets as well. Child is generally restless,
HEALTH/PHYSICAL ABILITIES: Child suddenly very clumsy. May have many complaints about physical health, even when not sick. Allergies are high, mucous membranes are frequently sensitive and inflamed, communicable diseases are at a high, scalp very sensitive to brushing, child tires easily and fatigues easily. Baby teeth may fall out and secondary teeth may come in.
SEX PLAY: Also at a high, just like at age four.
SENSITIVITY TO CLOTHES: Usually peaking at six and seven years of age.
That’s a quick view of child development at this age from the Gesell book; there is much more in this book and I highly recommend you buy this book and have it on your bookshelf for reference. It can be found very cheaply used on Amazon and it well worth the price!
Our next posts will look at the anthroposophic view of the six-year-old and then at how to have a peaceful life with a six-year-old, and what homeschooling a six-year-old in Waldorf homeschool kindergarten may look like.
Happy reading until next time,