Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child. It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults. I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning. I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.
In Part Two, we focused on birth through age 4. In Part Three we looked at ages five and six and in Part Four at the ages of six and seven. The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.
Birth through age four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world. The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality. Ages five and six also sees the same importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue. However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation). Play is the main theme for these years, and also a look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control. Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy, with seven often being more insecure, wailing, gloomy; a time of feeling the world is unfair and eight taking the bull by the horns with brash boasting and exaggerated tall tales.
Now we head into the world of nine. The nine year change is one that gets a lot of press in Waldorf Education as a time of great change within the inner life of the child. It can also be a time of increased maturity, with a child looking for more responsibility and a time of reaching out into the world for greater independence.
The best practices for discipline with a nine year old includes:
Simplify! Nine year olds need space to dream, to play and to just be. They don’t need a schedule crammed full of after school activities. In the past, this was the age for hanging out in the neighborhood and jumping rope, playing kickball or foursquare or tag, and playing games of make believe. Please don’t push it into teenaged year activities yet.
Have realistic expectations. Nine is NOT the new fourteen. There is a huge difference between a nine year old and a teenager, and yet we seem to be forgetting this in our society at this time. The twelve year change will see an even bigger leap in abstract thinking and maturity than nine.
Get your ho-hum on. Nine’s will melt down, get angry, cry a lot, and yes, have tantrums (even though none of the childhood development books seem to talk about this but I have heard it from countless parents of nine year olds!) Ho-hum, ho-hum. This too shall pass. I have heard from parents of nine year olds who were literally on the verge of going to family counseling to help their child deal with their intense feelings, but it just got better and better as time went on. I never, ever want to discourage anyone from getting professional help as think that can help anyone, but do also check in with other folks who have nine year olds. Your nine year old’s behavior may not be as isolated as you think!
Careful what you share with your nine year old. Nine year olds are still little. They don’t have great capacity for abstract thinking and such. I am still a proponent for elimination of media and screens for nine year olds.
Nine year olds love real life experiences. They are about doing. So, in this vein, if we are thinking about the risky behavior that often accompanies adolescence and seems to be filtering down to the ten to twelve year old crowd, how are you laying a foundation to deal with that? Try this back post.
Think about connection. Many nine year olds will bristle at anything they deem babyish from “when they were a child”, so how are you going to connect in a new and different way but in a way that still keeps a nine year old a nine year old?
If you want some ideas about handling the nine year change, try this post.
I would love to hear about your experiences with your nine year old, and what you thought was really helpful!