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More anxious, more withdrawn  than an eight-year-old but still has varied interests, driven by time and wanting to do everything but unable to give anything up.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,


6 thoughts on “The Nine-Year-Old: A Traditional View

  1. This is very interesting! As my child is only 2.5, I only have the first 3 Gesell Institute books, but the first two are well read. I find them very helpful. One thing that really struck me, was how this fits in as well with the Natural Learning Rhythms pedagogy put forth in Optimal Parenting by Ba Luvmour. They break childhood up slightly differently than Steiner did, 1-8 (Body Being), 9-12 (Feeling Being), 13-18 (Ideal Being), and 19-23 (Reasonable (or Rational?) Being) years of age are the age breaks, but I do believe they studied Steiner, Montessori, Adler, Dreikurs, and many others in creating their pedagogy. I love your blog and will be reading the next two 9 year old posts as well. I will have to file these posts away for future reference!

  2. Thank you Carrie! I do notice a lot of these things with my 9-year-old. It is a joy to know this and see it happening before me. I notice when I am patient and let him finish things, all goes well. I have heard him say “nobody likes me at school.” I know that is not true because I visit his class once a week to share my music with his class mates and they like him very much. Can you give me suggestions on how to respond to this? I would love for him to have more self esteem.

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