The Uneven Eleven-Year Old: A Traditional Developmental View

After the very balanced and harmonious age of ten(see here for a quick view of that age: , eleven year olds are in a decided stage of disequilibrium.  They are often highly contrary and behave like a beginning adolescent.  Here are a few characteristics of age eleven, taken from my favorite series on child development by the Gesell Institute:

  • Eleven year olds are energetic. They like to be on the go and cannot sit still well.
  • Eleven year olds tend to be egocentric and make no effort to cooperate with anything within the family.  They expect their parents to be perfect, and expect very little from themselves.  An eleven year old tends to criticize their mother the most out of anyone.  However, away from home an eleven year old can be delightful, helpful, and full of good manners.  And as uncooperative as they can be, an eleven year old loves family life.
  • Eleven year olds are not good at helping around the house.
  • Moods come and go rapidly; eleven year olds can have a violent response to things with fighting, kicking, yelling, swearing, talking back, saying mean and sarcastic things.  This seems awful and defiant and rebellious to parents, but in reality many eleven year olds are just trying to start to differentiate themselves from their parents and to define not only themselves, but what other people are.  Again, they really do relish family life, so try to hold steady and calm.
  • Eleven year olds are smart, imaginative, alert, active, energetic, ready for anything.  Enjoy that aspect!
  • This is a year for a high number of cold, flu, ear infections, pneumonia, and lots of general fatigue.  Eleven year olds can get really fatigued.
  • Tensional outlets include blinking, sniffling, grimacing, even falling down and dropping things.
  • Improvement in focusing visually on things and less chance of developing near sightedness as at ages nine and ten.
  • Girls have a wide variety of developmental change – some have no trace of childhood development, but some will have pubic hair by the end of this year.  Some will have breast pain or nipple pain or sensitive breasts as the breasts begin to develop.  Some girls will need a bra at this age.  Some will not.   The average girl will have reached about 80 percent of her adult height and 50 percent of her adult weight.
  • Dramatic food preferences and refusals that can change quickly!
  • Most eleven year olds do not want to go to sleep, and also don’t like being alone.
  • Boys and girls of this age have strong emotions, and most do better on a simplified schedule that includes time for play, and The Gesell Institute also recommends times for sports.  I see this as up to the family to determine how they want to handle sports as there are varying opinions out there regarding sports for this age.
  • Eleven can be very angry, and take quite awhile to calm down.  Eleven is also one of the most tearful ages.
  • Eleven year olds tend to be fearful.
  • Remember that being belligerent, selfish, unapproachable is an eleven year trying to search for themselves.
  • No other age gets on as badly with younger siblings as an eleven year old.  Give them some space.
  • Friends are more important than the play itself.  The strong urge to be outside also is diminishing.
  • Many fifth graders love baseball, soccer, kickball, volleyball.  This doesn’t mean they have to play competitively; what about pick up games in the neighborhood?
  • Eleven year olds still thrive on routines.
  • Eleven year old boys are more likely to cheat, but girls are more likely to shoplift at this age.
  • The best parenting advice for this age:  Let your end of the rope go.  As the Gesell Institute book, “Your Ten To Fourteen Year Old” by Louise Bates Ames and other authors states: “Let things go as  much as you possibly can.  Your child’s character will not deteriorate if for a few months you do not follow through on all your directives, do not make your children do their fair share of household chores, do not force them to complete every bit of their homework.”

Mothers of eleven year olds, weigh in!

Many blessings,

8 thoughts on “The Uneven Eleven-Year Old: A Traditional Developmental View

  1. This description doesn’t really fit my 11yo. I know it’s all relative and he could behind/ahead. Just to offer what 11 has looked like in our house: He is super helpful, always willing to pitch in and even initiates at times. I’ve watched him blossom with his siblings this past year and balance his needs for alone time, friend time, and family time with much grace. He’s been very accepting of challenges and stepping outside of his comfort zone. He has been forgetful, especially with responsibilities. He’s awkward in this stage between childhood and teenage years. Thank you for these developmental posts! I really do enjoy them! Looking forward to what 12 has to offer!

  2. We have had glimpses of this, but really my oldest just turned 11 a few days ago. And here I was just thinking how much I enjoy his company, ha ha. I may need to come back to this after we are a few months in to “eleven”. I think the “just let it be” will be the hardest to swallow, but going to take a big leap of faith. Thanks for posting these Carrie!

    • Tanya,
      I wouldn’t expect you to see much of this until 11 and a half or so, and as each child is an individual, maybe never. 🙂

  3. My eleven year old boy is quick witted, forgetful and definitely needs down time to dream and imagine. Sibling relationships are hit and miss for him lately, tending to draw away a little, seeking validation of peers moreso. Thanks for your post, it reminds me to let go a bit.

  4. Thanks for this Carrie! My 11 1/2 year old daughter (homeschooled) is helpful with her littlest brother (age 2 1/2) but quite irritates by the other two brothers (aged 7 and 10). She is motivated to keep her space and our family space clean. She will take initiative with mopping, sweeping etc at times with a cheerful attitude to help give our home a nice appearance and at other times with anger and disapproval as she shuffles papers and items off counters in disgust at how untidy our home is!! She is recently grumbling at mealtime and has stopped eating certain ‘staples’ in our house like oatmeal 😦 She respects me one minute and then demeans me the next. She is growing rapidly- 5’3″ and 108 lbs. She swims competitively 5 days/week and she does best when she is busy. Also asking to bake and thinking constantly about how to find ‘odd jobs’ to earn money. Flip flops with opinions of her friends- adoring them one minute and thinking them mean and unfair the next. Just a glimpse here!!

  5. Pingback: Joyful July! | The Parenting Passageway

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