The Snazzy Six-Year-Old

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.


  • Increased equilibrium
  • Lively intellectuality
  • Amusing, has a good sense of humor
  • “A certain maturity”
  • Loves new places, new things, new ideas
  • Enjoys life


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,


28 thoughts on “The Snazzy Six-Year-Old

  1. Pingback: Your Super Seven-Year- Old: Traditional and Anthroposophical Viewpoints, Part One « The Parenting Passageway

  2. Thank you thank you thank you! I really needed to read this. My 6 1/2 year old daughter has become much more physical with her 5 year old brother. She has injured him a couple of times, and been just all around much more complex in the last couple of months. Her trouble with friends has been weighing on her, and the emotional outburst are more frequent. This article really has helped me to understand a little of what’s going on with her.

  3. So glad to read this! I was looking for an article on the change. My daughter is nearly 6 1/2, and I’ve been thinking, “What is going on?! What have we done wrong?” I have a difficult time trying to figure out how to deal with her insecurity, emotional rollercoasters and bossiness. I know I need to be the calm in the storm, but it’s just plain hard, especially with a 4, 2, and four month old. I am just glad to read that at least she is developing normally, even if it doesn’t feel very “normal.” Thank you.

    • Erika,
      I am so glad that was helpful to you – you can email me off the about page if you need anything.

  4. Except for the sleep (because mine doesn’t go to bed well. unless it is very late, she takes at least an hour to fall asleep and asks several times to go potty before…) I see many common characteristics with my soon to be four year old daughter. I always thought that it was just her personality and the fact that she’s a girl too…

    • Hi nathalie,
      Six is kind of a ramped-up four…Did you see the posts on the four-year-old? There are many!

  5. YES this is exactly how it happened!

    The mainstream public needs to be informed! Really truly why is this not common knowledge? I feel so much sadness and anger in my heart that there is not more support and understanding for the true developmental stages of children. I have intuitively felt them but lack of support and being an only parent has been so hard. I thank you for shining light on this once more. This is vital information for all parents! Tears of gratitude for the acknowledgement of truth for these little beings… and for an outer confirmation of what i have felt. Although, via this transformation for my son I was very much lost.

  6. Pingback: Other Questions Parents Have About The Six/Seven Year Change « The Parenting Passageway

  7. Thank you so much for your posts on this change. They are helping me! It’s really been hard lately with my 6 1/2 yr old daughter & I’ve been feeling at a loss. It’s so nice to know that it is normal! I do have a question about teachers & school. She does attend school K (not Waldorf) & she is perfect at school yet when she comes home can be a nightmare. It was a hard transition last year when she went to pre-K & I just couldn’t understand what happened! It was like she was trying out all the “bad” behavior she witnessed from other kids. She loves school & her teacher but I don’t understand why she is like this. It does seem a bit better this year or it may be I’m getting used to it 😦 Do you have any advice about transitioning from being at school to being home in the afternoons?
    Thank you! Audra

    • Audra,
      I dont think it is actually so much as trying out all behaviors, maybe some of that, but that school is tough for small children these days. They don’t get a lot of movement and outside time, there typically is not a lot of art or music or drama, and there is a great academic emphasis as opposed to other things, and it is hard to hold it together for that many hours all day. The academic work that the child does now in prek, k and first is really what most of us were doing in first and second grade in the past. I suggest and strongly recommend having a very, very solid rhythm of bathroom, snack, and outside time when she gets home. Go out and walk, go out and ride bikes, walk some trails, go out in the woods. Have dinner started ahead of time so all you have to do is reheat or get dinner from the crockpot when you come inside, a nice warm bath and an early bedtime (7).

      Let me know how it goes! It will take a good 40 days to really establish this habit.

  8. Pingback: Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Three | The Parenting Passageway

  9. Thank you … I felt as if I was a failure
    My six year old son has most of these behaviours, however, he does not behave well at school. We receive numerous calls re: not listening or sitting still during mat time or too loud in cafeteria. I am at a loss what to do. I keep having conversations with him about his school behaviour but nothing is working. He is extremely strong willed / defiant. He is not behind with his learning actually a little ahead.

    • Hi Tracy,
      Is it possible he is actually not engaged at school since he is ahead? I don’t know what your options are, but some parents have found success in changing the school environment. It could also be he is not moving enough in general. I don’t know if you are home after school, but after school and sitting a lot many children need hours of outdoor unstructured play. I would also check into the general things – sleep (enough?), diet (no junk, sugar, dyes) and yes, screen time. Screen time can really impact behavior.
      There is another post on here about the angry aggressive six year old that might be of use to you, along with the parent comments.

  10. Thank you for this post. I stumbled upon it feeling at a loss with how to raise my 6 year old. Knowing her behaviour is typical of her age I feel empowered to take a deep breath, maintain firm boundaries and keep loving her unconditionally. I am concerned about the impact that the English school system is having on her. I don’t know how the expectations compare with your school system but it’s intense. A reading book every night, homework at weekends, sight vocabulary and spellings to learn too. Previously, I have given her a snack and TV time to chill out after school on the days I pick her up as she is shattered. I know you suggest outdoor activities but when we walk home she often complains that her legs ache …any other ideas?

    • Hi Vicki!
      I wonder if a warm snack and warm bath, particularly in these colder months, would be soothing to her. It is not physical exercise, but it is a sensory experience that may help her. I wonder if she is drinking enough at school? Leg pain always reminds me of that. Is it too cold to go and play at a park? Walking or hiking might not be her after school thing, but is there some type of physical activity she would enjoy to release some energy and get out of her head, so to speak, for a few minutes after a long day. I would say our American public school system in grade one can be about the same, depending upon the school district, but I am seeing some movement from public schools that have banned homework for younger grades and that gives me great hope! I am hoping so much that the tide turns on the homework issue for these tiny children.
      I am so glad you are here! Welcome! There is a lot under the six year old category to read!

  11. Oh my, I’m weeping as I read this. It is like a light in the dark as it describes our 6 yo son ! We have really been struggling with challenging behavior and how to handle the tantrums and I can say we were feeling so very alone–wondering, is this normal?! (We are also trying homeschool this year, too–which brings its own new set of challenges. Needless to say, this mama is feeling overwhelmed and bit defeated at times!) I’m on my way to reading your following posts about age 6 right now! Thank you so much for this!! ✨🙏🏻

  12. Wow!! I was trying to work out my normally affectionate and lovely 6 year old daughter has become so over wrought, anxious and over reacting over the smallest things (not getting help IMMEDIATELY, socks not *feeling* right). I was wondering if she was on the autistic spectrum!
    She went out with 3 friends the other day and kept crying as they weren’t listening to her.
    Reading this has given me reassurance that it’s a phase, and to help her through. Thank you

    (But I think she’ll always overreact to flys/wasps 🙄)

    • Hi Renovationx – So glad that was helpful! 6,9, 15/16 can all be kind of humdinger years in my experience. Totally recommend the Bates and Ames book series “Your Six Year Old” “Your Seven Year Old” etc..most libraries have them or they are very cheap used. Glad you are here reading. If you click the development tab, a drop down menu will come down and you can pick by age (birth through 16 right now) with lots of pertinent posts! Also, if you follow on Facebook The Parenting Passageway page I post pictures there and book recommendations and more! Blessings, Carrie

  13. Thankyou for your blog. I have been home educating and have read so much regarding child development, methods, philosophies etc. This year I have found myself increasingly finding answers to my son’s struggles and sometimes interests through waldorf methods/curriculum. As a Christian I have been skeptical to even read about Waldorf/Steiner.
    I’m on holidays (Australian family) and was looking into parenting help for my children but son especially. My little ones are 9.5, 6.5 and 5.5
    Your blog posts are so helpful to me right now. Thankyou for all the effort you have put in its soooooo helpful.

    • HI Tam, I am so happy you are finding what you need here. I understand your reluctance to really delve into Waldorf, but I have found nothing in Waldorf Education itself that would contradict Christian religious beliefs. Anthroposophy itself has many ways of looking at Christianity in an esoteric and not mainline way, so perhaps the study of anthroposophy itself would not be an ideal fit, but the outgrowths of anthroposophy such as waldorf education, eurythmy, biodynamic farming, the Camphill movement for those with special needs, all can provide helpful insights. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that how you use or don’t use this information is up to you. As an Episcopalian homeschooler, I have found comfort in this experiential, artistic, developmental curriculum and I hope you find some helpful insights as well. Blessings and love, Carrie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.