My Advice For The Nine Year Change

I think nine years of age, in many ways, is a rather fragile time.  This sense of “I” ness and separation is coming out and beginning, but it is still rudimentary.  Criticism still cannot be separated from the overall sense of self.  It is an age to be handled with care.

I say this from experience.  Nine (Third Grade in Waldorf land) has been a rather odd year here for us.  It was a year where the academics seemed to jump up a notch, and also a year where the outside activities my daughter was involved in also seemed to jump up a bit.  (Some of it just coincidentally happened this year, but still it all seemed to converge this year for whatever reason).  I have also heard this from mothers whose children are nine and attending private and public schools as well, so I don’t think it is a complete anomaly to our family. 

My advice to mothers planning for fall for  their nine year old’s year is to keep it very simple.  Realize that some nine year olds really regress in writing skills, so perhaps plan not to require so much in Main Lesson books and such, but rather look to practical work and projects.  Many nine year olds needs a lot of movement, so build in extra breaks throughout the day to jump rope, jump on a trampoline and play games.

Keep the extra activities to one extra thing, maybe two, but please make sure those things are not jumping into competition (ie, therefore requiring much more tiring practice than previously) or into other lands of testing and winning and losing.

Nine needs lots of space to just be and dream.  Simple answers are fine, but complete wordiness and heady explanations are not.  It truly, in my opinion, is not the time for world politics and world events, beyond very simple explanations for things that come up. 

As mentioned, activities are fine, but within a balance and weighted more towards open and free time.  For this reason, I would advise letting a sport you think will turn competitive to wait until fourth or fifth grade if you can.  I recognize there are some children who are just wired to do whatever it is that they do, but I think that is further and farther in between than society thinks. 

Let Nine just be.  It can be a year that hits hard or a year that is okay, but I think much of it depends on how much “extra” is going on.  Coming out of the other side of the nine-year-change provides a much more stable base for the child to use as a foundation to expand academic, social and practical skills.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Nine-Year Old Girl

I have had the great privilege and honor of being able to observe a group of nine-year old girls this year.  It has been very interesting to watch their transformation and challenges.  Here are some of the things I have observed regarding the nine=year-old girl and what is going on developmentally:

  • This whole notion that they are separate from their families, mothers.  Not completely separate, but the inkling is there.  You hear phrases from them about “perhaps” they were really left in a basket on a doorstep, or a basket floating in a river, or “wouldn’t it be neat” if really they were a princess and one day they were taken back to their real family’s castle.  My daughter wondered perhaps  if I was an alien in disguise one day! 
  • Peer relationships become more important than before.  There are sleep-overs going on in my neighborhood amongst the nine-year-olds.   Some mothers have told me there is even the emergence of “cliques” at their place of worship or in other activities.   I have observed there can be  a little bit of cattiness sometimes when a “new girl” enters an activity, something the adults have been really careful to step in and guide appropriately with simple rules and being present.
  • Nine –year-olds have a strong sense of fairness, and of what is “good” and what is “bad”.  They want to do the right thing.
  • Some nine and  a half year old girls really seem to be going through bodily changes that take some adjusting to on both a physical and emotional level.  They may be gaining weight, or getting taller, or, if they became heavier at age eight, may actually be slimming down.
  • Nine-year-olds have questions about God, death,  birth, life and everything in between!
  • Nine-year-olds many times do want some separation from younger siblings.  Not all the time, but at least to have a few times here and there with just children of their own age.  I have seen this in families whether the children are homeschooled or go to public or private school.
  • Some nine-year-olds like something competitive, but nine-year-olds are also pretty hard on themselves when they cannot do something well.  They are beginning to notice what friends is good at what.
  • There is some borderline (or more) talking back to parents that does seem to occur around this age.  They know what the rules of the house are, but they don’t mind letting you know they don’t like that rule. 
  • Nine-year-olds may be interested in small businesses, making money.

Here are some suggestions for the age 9 for girls:

  • Spend time with your girl where you can focus on her and listen to her.  It may be hard for her to open up to you with smaller siblings running around and listening, and she may need time with you just the way a smaller child does.
  • Build up a supportive community for your nine-year-old that includes other adult women who are good role models for your daughter.
  • Keep reinforcing the positive things about what your daughter can do with her mind and her body.
  • Nine-year-olds really benefit from having involvement in a religious or spiritual community.  Investigate your own beliefs and work to make this happen for them.  Festivals and holidays can be carried to new heights when a nine-year old has responsibilities different than the smaller children.  They are ready!
  • Talk to your nine-year-old about money and earning money and saving money.  One resource our family has used and likes is this one from Doorposts:  http://www.doorposts.com/details.aspx?id=26
  • Talk to her about popularity and exclusion and what your values are as a family in how you treat others, how to stand your group in a group that is doing something different – and be around to supervise!
  • Daughters need their fathers.  Fathers can also talk about these issues and sometimes it carries much more weight than coming from mothers.
  • Recognize your daughter’s need for some separation as normal.  Family time is so very important, but having a time to play with children their own age here and there is also valuable.
  • Keep limiting the media.  Nine-year-olds still take things pretty concretely, the messages they see regarding body image still really affect them, and no nine-year-old needs to be propelled into teenager land.  Choose media wisely if you do it at all. 
  • Get a foundation of physical activity going.  This is important to deal with bodily changes, as well as laying a good foundation for movement prior to the heaviness and density that the age of 12 brings.

What have you noticed about your nine-year-old recently?

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Foundation Years of Ages 9-12: Decreasing High-Risk Behavior in Teens

Many of you have been following along chapter by chapter the wonderful book,  “Discipline Without Distress:  135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children WITHOUT time-out, spanking, punishment, or bribery” by Judy Arnall.

The last chapter we reviewed was the chapter regarding the teenaged years.  There were some very sobering facts in there, such as suicide is one of the top three causes of death in teens, that the average marijuana use in the US is age 14, that many children have tried alcohol by age 12.  This really has hit home  for me personally as I know three mothers  who have really struggled with their teens in the areas of addiction issues and sexual promiscuity.  One of the teens recently overdosed, was the victim of a crime,  and lost his life.  This is a heart-breaking tragedy and I have felt so sad about this.  As parents we always wonder what we could have done differently in a situation like this, and my heart hurts for this family.

Judy Arnall, in this chapter about teens, goes through some of the things parents of teenagers need (for our teenagers to respect themselves and others, to have their teenagers feel successful in their relationships, school, work and community).  She lists some of the reasons that teenagers try high-risk behaviors such as curiosity, unhealthy self-esteem and want to feel good about themselves, lack of coping skills to deal with their problems and needing to escape, not understanding that they can say “no” to a sense of obligation or pressure from peers or  partners, needing to feel grown-up, needing to rebel, needing to fit in and win approval of peers, needing to escape uncomfortable feelings, feeling invincible and not understanding the risks/benefits/ consequences, not being able to communicate their needs to their family.

I would add a few things to this list:  besides curiosity,I think  boredom coupled with  a lack of guidance by caring adults to channel this boredom or curiosity into healthy things, and also I think there is a   lack of something bigger than themselves to worry about.  I think this is extremely important.

I was talking to a dear friend about this chapter and she was saying one thing that really helped her in her teenaged years was that she was very into horses and horseback riding and that she had a horse who depended upon her every day to take of it.   That is something bigger than yourself.

I talked  about this book regarding  rites of passage  ( http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/), and part of the book asks essentially “what does your child do around the house that you could not be without if they were not there?”  There it is again:  what is your child involved in that is bigger than himself or herself?  How is your child tied to you, your family, your community?

If the average age of marijuana use is 14, and the average child has tried drinking before age 12, I believe the foundation for decreasing high-risk teenage behaviors HAS to start around that nine-year change (and before, of course.  Attachment and security and so many things are laid during that first seven year cycle)  But in many ways, I think because that nine-year change is a watershed where your child starts to feel separate from others, separate from you and the family, different, is noticing things about how different families and people do different things,  now is the time to start.

I have an almost nine-year old, and I am trying to formulate some thoughts in my head as to how to create responsibility for my child that is bigger than her, how to keep time together,how to keep  communication open, and how to best answer her questions about life.    I am thinking hard.  I have four years until the teenaged years, and this time is precious to me.  Is it to you?

It is NOT enough to just talk about drugs and alcohol and sex.  Yes, those conversations have to be there and they have to keep going throughout these years.  But, there has to be ACTION.   How will you help your child/teen structure their time, their environment, so these behaviors are less likely to occur?  What are the top three things in your house that your child KNOWS is not negotiable?  What freedoms can you give, but also what RESPONSBILITIES go with these freedoms?  WHAT does your child have to look up to , to participate in, to take care of, that is bigger than himself or herself? 

What community OUTSIDE the family is your child involved in and accepted in – is it one that you have helped create or one that just happened along the way?  I am sure both can be okay, but it is important to know what is going on in that community.  For example, how well do you know your child’s friends?  Judy Arnall brings up the point of creating a “secondary community” away from the school environment if your child is in school – through church or other religious outlets, through Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, through volunteering .   There HAS to be something bigger than themselves for these children.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Discipline, Support and Guidance of the Nine-Year-Old

We have peeked at both the traditional and anthroposophic views of the nine-year-old in two previous posts.    Nine is definitely a time of change, a time of feeling separate from parents and family, a time when peers become extremely important, a time of developmental “rebellion” in some ways (I don’t really like that term, but there it is).  A time to question what is real, what is not real, do adults know what they are doing, why are rules the way they are, and are things fair?

I think nine doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult if you have a generally happy and calm household and if you yourself feel balanced and calm.  I think this is why in general parenting and in Waldorf, we look to the family life and ourselves  first and  if a child seems consistently way out of sorts.  Even traditional parenting resources suggest this.  “Your Nine-Year-Old” by the Gesell Institute quoted pediatrician Sanford Matthews as saying, “ [he suggests] when mothers come to [him] distraught because their disciplining of their children is going badly, that these mothers concentrate on making their own lives more rewarding, rather than emphasizing merely their relationship with their child or children.”

Having realistic expectations for each age is highly important.  I talk about that time and time again on this blog.  Nine-year-olds in general may withdraw from the family and from you.  They may complain a lot, and gradually all this anxiety and complaining diminishes as ten approaches.

Nine- year -olds need detailed instructions and need reminders.  If you ask them to do something, they may want to do it later and then they forget.  If your child is sulky or cross when you ask them politely do to something, chances are if you ignore that and don’t make a big deal about their attitude, they will do what you are asking (although it may not be with a smile!).  Most nine-year-olds think in terms of right and wrong, and do want to do what is “right”.  Fairness is a big deal, and so is what peers think.  Most nine-year-olds are very honest, and will tell you things that they did and not really hide things they did that they thought were “wrong”.

Facing the natural or logical consequences of behavior is by far the best means of guidance.  Now is also the time you can really start to put family values into words, if that hasn’t come up in some many words before.  And although your child is past the age of imitation, what you model is more important than your words.  Being positive and loving your child is really the most important thing.

You have to maintain your cool and calm self to really be that wall they can bounce off of, that boundary they can push against and realize that the boundary doesn’t crumple.  Solutions and solving problems and fixing mistakes is much more important than blaming and dwelling on what happened over and over.

The other thing to consider is now that your child is feeling a bit more separate from you and  is concerned about peers  and what peers think, now is a great time to practice either “no comment” or being able to just say supportive things.  If a child says, “My friends don’t like me” it is not an opening to ask what they did to cause that, to go into the fact you didn’t like those friends anyway,  that they need to be at home more anyway, that they will make better friends in the future, etc.  First of all, emotions still can turn on a dime.  I think we all remember from our childhood days being really angry with a friend and then an hour later we are best friends again. Secondly, you do not need to own your child’s stuff.  This is their stuff, not yours.  It is theirs to start to work through, and you are the gentle guidance and support, but not The Great and Ultimate Fixer.

Some parents begin to worry – they see their child doing something they themselves did at that age, or think their child’s personality is similar to theirs and feel badly about this.  “I don’t want my child to do what I did!”  “I don’t want my child to be like me!”  I suggest to you to keep an attitude that this is a phase, your child is headed toward ten, be positive, model what you do want to see and choose your battles and your words carefully!

The other key piece of being nine, I think, is that the child needs another adult besides you to look up to and to trust.  Steiner talks about the importance of a trusted community and role models during this time.  If you have a limited circle outside of your family, perhaps consider expanding that a bit with some trusted friends to help you.

Just a few thoughts on the nine-year-old tonight!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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The Nine-Year-Old: An Anthroposophic Perspective

“The change in the children’s self-awareness grows stronger at the age of nine, and you find that they understand much better what you say about the difference between the human being and the world.  Before they reach the age of nine, children merge far more thoroughly with the environment than is the case later, when they begin to distinguish themselves from their surroundings.  Then you will find that you can begin to talk a little about matters of the soul and that they will not listen with such a lack of understanding as they would have listened earlier.  In short, the children’s self-awareness grows deeper and stronger when they reach this age.”

-Steiner, Lecture 7 of “Practical Advice to Teachers

The nine-year-change is a momentous occasion in the life of a child according to an anthroposophic perspective.  Roberto Trostli writes in “Rhythms of Learning:  Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner”:  “Like Adam and Eve in Paradise, young children live in peace and harmony with their environment, intimately connected to their surroundings, full of trust and confidence in the world.  When children turn nine, this trusting, secure, relationship to the world begins to change.”

Children at this age often have a quiet, not verbalized, “inner crisis” where they begin to have questions about themselves and their purpose in the world, about whether or not rules are really justified, whether or not adults really do know everything, and whether or not adults believe in something higher than themselves and how is this expressed.  Steiner believed that it was of utmost importance that an adult guide the child toward a renewed sense of  confidence in the world and in their place in it.  In the Waldorf school curriculum, this is done in several areas during the ninth and tenth year: through the Old Testament stories of Third Grade, through zoology in Fourth Grade (Man and Animal blocks) and botany and through the study of geography (Trostli discusses the zoology, botany and geography at length in his book and you can read Steiner himself regarding the nine-year change and the teaching of natural history and such in Lecture 7 of “Practical Advice to Teachers”.)

Regarding the Old Testament Stories, I like what Donna Simmons says here in her book, “The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers”  (because this is where so much of our own baggage can come up!).  She writes, “”Stories from the Old Testament speak to the child’s growing independence and the first stirrings of true logical thought.  The ability to understand right and wrong is reflected in Moses giving his people the Law-and, as this is no straightforward process, the nine-year-old can inwardly relate to the way the Israelites accepted that Law!  The struggle to overcome jealousy and revenge, questions of what is right and wrong, and when to have faith in authority are all right three in the Old Testament as they are in most nine-year-olds.  By absorbing these stories the child will also gain an inner understanding of both Judaism and Christianity, something really important to an appreciation of our Western culture, even if you and your family are neither Jewish nor Christian.”  To look further at this book, please see this link: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/essential-christopherus-publications/waldorf-overview-for-homeschoolers.html   and here is a blog post regarding the greater anthroposophic detail of these Old Testament stories: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2007/11/old-testament-s.html     )  Melisa Nielsen also has a blog post here addressing the Old Testament stories, fears of families and how this all fits with the nine-year-old change:  http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2009/01/the-stories-of-grade-three-and-beyond.html   

For a further discussion of the depth of the Old Testament stories and their worth and fit to the nine-year-old, I direct you to Lois Cusick’s excellent book, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook.”  In it she writes of the nine-year-old:  “A more intense sense of self shakes the child’s unquestioned feeling of belonging, of unity with all around him.  Suddenly the others look farther away, alien.  The thought comes, “Perhaps I do not belong.”  The increasingly aware child looks more keenly at the real world of adults around him.  Now it is up to the teachers and parents to show the child that they see and understand what is happening to him, that he does belong, and in a new, more socially conscious way.”  House-building, agriculture, gardening – all fit in well with a child during this nine-year-old change who is starting to realize the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans. 

Other posts in the past I have written regarding the nine-year-old change may also be of assistance:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/11/a-few-resources-for-the-nine-year-change/  and there are a few more if you search in the search engine. 

Our next post will look at the best ways to support a nine-year-old and how to deal with issues of discipline in the nine-year-old.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Nine-Year-Old: A Traditional View

These are some things characteristically associated with nine-year-olds from a traditional standpoint.  For further information, please do see “Your Nine-Year-Old” from The Gesell Institute.  I am a fan of these older books, because I think developmentally they hit the nail on the head many times.  Also, I find that many of their observations dovetail with what Steiner said about different ages.  So, these writings resonate with me as both an attached parent and also as a Waldorf parent, even without an anthroposophic perspective.  I think you will find these things are true about your nine-year-old as well! 

Take a look:

“Perhaps the outstanding characteristic of the Nine-year-old is the fact that the child is emerging from his long, strong preoccupation with his mother (or other caretaking parent).”   (page 1).   Essentially the nine-year-old frequently resents his mother, her demands etc and is looking for increased responsibility and independence.  Nine is a pulling in and a pulling away from mother and other figures of authority.

More anxious, more withdrawn  than an eight-year-old but still has varied interests, driven by time and wanting to do everything but unable to give anything up.  Wants to do things just right.  Takes himself and his interests a bit seriously perhaps.  They have a strong NEED to finish things. 

So, completing tasks are very important.  Competition comes out, but they are also a bit more careful and cautious.  Will estimate something before they dive into it, although still not above complaining about how hard something is.

Lots of social criticism and self-criticism. 

Lots of mood swings, tends to worry and complain. (but not as complaining, moody and morose as age 7).  

“They no longer blame others, at least not as much as they used to.  They want things to be run fairly, and they themselves try to be fair.  The beginning of conscience is in the making.”  (page 6). 

May be impatient and quick to anger, but the anger flare-up typically doesn’t last that long.

Individual characteristics come to the forefront.  “There appear to be tremendous individual differences, seemingly more noticeable here than at many other ages.”  (page 9)

Mother-Child Relations:  Not especially interested in Mother, less disappointed if Mother doesn’t live up to their expectations

Father-Child Relations:  Less involved, less demanding of attention, growing respect for Father and his work

The infallibility of the parent is questioned, questioning whether the rules are right or not, slight withdrawal from the family circle, the child is more interested in their own separateness and independence

The nine-year-old objects to any references to what they liked when they were a little baby, they do not react well to anything they consider patronizing or condescending, they may want distance from their parents in public places.

Increased reliability and maturity are noted.

Typically does well with younger siblings but may fight with siblings close in age.

Friends are very, very important.  The nine-year-old s strongly oriented to a group and identify themselves with their friends.  Forming a “club” is a very nine-year-old kind of thing.

The nine-year-old is very proud of and loves his or her grandparents.

The nine-year-old needs someone to kind of bounce off of and work against at the stages of growing independence and separation.

EATING:  better appetite control than at eight, table manners are improving,

SLEEPING:  Will balk about going to bed if the child feels the bedtime is too early.  “Nine o’clock is a customary bedtime for boys and girls of this age.”  Most children this age need about nine hours of sleep a night.

BATHING and DRESSING:  Most still need to be reminded to brush their teeth or wash their hands.  They typically still throw their clothes on the floor when they take them off, and need to be reminded to hang things up.  Interest in clothing is there, but usually are still okay with whatever Mother picks out in the store and brings home.

HEALTH:  Typically in good  health with quick rebound from illnesses.  May hurt or have to go to the bathroom in related to a disliked task or chore, but parents should still pay attention to mention of the child being uncomfortable because “The Nine-year-old is very much aware of inner symptoms that  he feels when overexerted or strained.”

TENSIONAL OUTLETS:  Fewer at nine than there were at eight.  Boys let off extra energy by wrestling around, girls are more likely to be moody. 

SENSE of SELF:  Most nine=year-olds feel good about themselves and their family, although they may still burst into tears if they feel they have failed

PLAY:   Able to enjoy more competitive games, plays hard; boys tend to like building models or rough housing and girls still tend to like dolls.  Hiking, biking, soccer, ice skating, swimming, sledding, bowling are all liked.  They are apt to do one thing until they are completely fatigued and exhausted.

Most do not believe in Santa Claus by this point.  There is little interest in the Big Questions of faith/deity/God or death.

“Now comes a quantum jump.  Successful fourth-grade work demands a new kind of thinking, a new kind of abstracting, a new way to use information that up  till now may have been more or less memorized.    Teachers recognize this big extra requirement that fourth grade makes of most pupils, but many parents are not aware of it.  Thus many are surprised when their child, successful in school up till now, suddenly runs into unexpected difficulties.  It is is in part because of this extra demand of fourth grade that we warn parents  of the importance of being sure that their children are properly placed, in a grade that meets their basic maturity level, right from the beginning.  This is true because even though he may be overplaced, a bright child from a reasonably good home background can often slide through the first three grades.”  (page 87).

Look for an anthroposophical view of the nine-year-old and discipline tips for the nine-year-old to follow!

Many blessings,

Carrie

More About Quiet Time

This comment came in from a reader of the blog and I wanted her to have some feedback regarding Quiet Time.  She writes, “My 4 yr old has not napped since she was three and a half to four, but we continued having “rest time.” I had her stay in her own room to do this since she sometimes would fall asleep, but lately I have had her try doing her quiet time out in the den with me while the one yr old naps. Sometimes she tends to be less focused when I am there and wants to talk to me… I am interested in what parameters others set for quiet times for non-napping kids? Alone in room or out with mom in the den/living room? What kinds of activities – books only, quiet toys, does mom read to the child for part of the time or do they stay silent?

Also, I am curious how interruptions in sleep affect a four yr old… my daughter tends to wake at least once a night, sometimes twice, to use the toilet. And sometimes she just wants to be tucked back in and have one of us lay next to her for a couple minutes. I know at some point she’ll feel confident enough to just go to the bathroom on her own without waking us… But I wonder if this is disruptive to her quality of sleep?”

These are a few of my personal thoughts, but I hope many mothers will leave comments below as to their own practices.

I feel that during Quiet Time, mothers should be resting.  This may change as your children grow, but I feel if you are going about the house doing work, folding laundry, etc. and your child is younger than 7 and in that imitative phase, than they will want to be doing what you are doing.  Also, as homeschooling mothers, I feel it is an important priority for us to have some true down time to think, evaluate in our heads what happened in the morning in our homeschool time and to prepare in our heads for the afternoon activities.

I personally don’t mind if my child wants to be our big bed with me, but I am laying down with my eyes closed! or if they want to be on their own bed.  I also don’t mind when my four year old looks at (a few!) books (not the “ole giant stack!) and then rests, but I also feel many Waldorf mothers would feel this undermining to the point of Quiet Time – which would be the ability to be still and not have to be “entertained” by a book or by reading or by toys.  I don’t know, I would love to hear the perspectives of some of the Waldorf mothers out there!

As far as the waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, it seems to me that many four-year-olds are not dry through the night, so this may be a real need.  I think as long as she can really get up and go right back to sleep, then it is just where she is.  However, if she is up and fully awake, perhaps you could investigate a bit further.  Does she wake up at the same times every night to do this?  Could you bring her to the bathroom before you go to sleep yourself and would that change these nighttime waking patterns?  And then observe what goes on during the day…

C’mon mothers, please give your perspectives on Quiet Time and sleep.  Leave your comments in the box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie