Today we are up to common discipline challenges and responses for our terrific ten year olds! Our last post about the nine-year-old and the nine year change, can be found here.
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. In Part Two of this series, 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.
As a quick recap of development up until this point, 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 but play and social experiences now expands during these years. Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy in developmental outlook, 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. The nine year old is in a time of great change in the inner life of the child, typically with a more insecure and inward gesture. The ten year old typically is in a smoother stage of childhood development with a niceness, goodness and friendliness about him or her. Usually ten year olds love their family very much, love activities and outings, and they typically don’t resist too much what you ask them to do; a fairly happy age. The challenges parents write to me about their ten year olds are as follows:
“Mature” Social Development: I see many articles about how the ten year old is all about their friends and drifting away from their parents. Yes, ten year olds enjoy friends and when I was young, this was certainly the age for neighborhood friends and playing hours of tag and kickball outside. However, developmentally most ten year olds are very happy to stay around their own home and neighborhood and are most at home in this realm. Folks, please do not confuse the ten year old with a sixteen year old. Parents are still the mainstay of a ten-year old’s world (or should be. This does not mean they always get along with siblings, however!) Hold on to your kids and do not take things meant for sixteen year olds and bring it down to the level of a ten year old. Decide where your line is on peer time, sleepovers and the like. In this day and age, this is different because many children do not have a neighborhood core group to play with.
Use of Technology: It is, again, a different world than I grew up in. A friend was showing me her son’s homework (and he was younger than ten years of age) that involved scanning bar codes to retrieve each math problem for his homework from a website. Technology has filtered down to young ages. This is a reality for children in school, and the technology has moved into the “out of school time” domain as well. However, with this reality comes the need for parents to think carefully about the limits regarding phones, handheld devices, playing games, texting and the general goals of neurologic development for the ten –year- old. If we want to work toward increasing executive function, self control and regulation and neuroplasticity, this is done in a ACTIVE way by DOING things in real life. Again, a ten year old is not a sixteen year old. Many parents find that once the genie is out of the bottle as far as technology is concerned, it is hard to put the genie back in. They end up spending lots of time trying to limit devices by requiring a certain number of hours outside to earn screen time, saying perhaps that whatever is required on a screen for school is okay but otherwise the child needs to go and play and create on their own. or by having screen free days during the week. I urge you to think about the value of a child creating his or her own ten-year old world rather than being passively entertained. Thinking ahead is much easier than trying to make it up on the spot!
Physical Outbursts and Yelling, Screeching: None of the child development books seem to talk much about this as ten is generally a happy and not very anxious age, but a ten year old will have physical outbursts. Very rarely is it just solely a verbal outburst for a ten year old. Ten is one of the ages with the least amount of crying but an angry response can be pretty immediate, with tearing up things, kicking things, etc. Ho-hum parenting and keeping calm yourself is of utmost importance. Some ten year olds will stomp off to their rooms to be by themselves when they are upset.
Relationships with Peers: Boys of this age usually have fairly harmonious friendships with other boys; girls may have fights and not speak to one another and then make up. Can be an age of cliques, secrets.
Many Interests and High Activity Level (or the opposite): Ten year olds typically have lots and lots of things to do – things to do in nature, things to collect, games to create with ten year old rules (not adult rules). This is usually the height of creating “clubs”. However, recently I have been seeing more and more ten year olds, especially boys, who seem to lack this variety of interests. If this is the case, I recommend to limit media and screens and get the child outside in nature. Set up woodworking and art stations, involve your child in lots of work around the house and see if something doesn’t blossom.
Lack of Personal Hygiene: This seems to be an age where many children find showers and baths offensive. Having a schedule for bathing posted can often help alleviate this. It is less easy to argue with a written schedule than a parent nagging about bath time. A parent may still have to get the shower or bath going and be there to supervise.
Trouble Going to Bed: Ten year olds need you, the parent, to set a consistent, routine bedtime and push for the child to get into bed at that time.
Difficult Sibling Relationships, especially with siblings ages 6-9: See back posts regarding sibling bickering on this blog.
Lack of taking care of personal property: This is typical for age ten, and it does improve with age. Ten year olds are fairly careless, and they don’t seem to mind if clothing is dirty even. A ten –year- old’s room tends to be messy as well, although there will always be children who are neat. Try paring down what is in the room, and how many clothes are available in the room. Also having a set time to show a ten year old exactly how you want the room cleaned or picked up and then supervising through three or four of these sessions will help get things off to a good start, as will having a dedicated, consistent time each day and week devoted toward completing these tasks.
In general, a ten year old is not great about helping out around the house and will need to be closely supervised. They will delay, dawdle, object.
Food for thought: I was thinking about the Gesell Institute’s Ten Developmental Principles that can be found here, but especially this one in relation to the ten year old:
Principle Number 6: Growth of self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, and working memory (executive functioning skills) cut across all domains, and are a vital goal of development.
I think ten can be an important age to really start looking at some of these characteristics as a foundation for the teenaged years.
Please share your experiences with your ten-year olds!