Toolbox of Tips For Dealing With 9-12 Year Olds

(This is Part One of a three-part series)  There is absolutely so much written about how to discipline, communicate, and recognize the stages of human development in smaller children, especially those under the age of 7.  And then…

Things just sort of drop off.  Community and friend support diminishes.  Family support may be there, but it can also be difficult if you are raising your children differently than your parents did.   It can feel invasive to talk about what is going on with a twelve-year-old to friends.  Parents end up feeling alone.  

The good news is that information is out actually out there, and this series of  posts is the round-up of helpful hints and ideas!  Take what works for you and your family and leave the rest behind.

Discipline:

Rhythm is STILL your friend.  Hold on to it!  This is the step that makes life and your nine to twelve-year-olds less crazy and easier to deal with! Don’t move too fast into the realms of letting 9-12 olds deciding everything that is going on for them.  Nine-to-twelve year olds still need bedtimes, help in not taking on too much at school, and yes, even helps in  taking breaks to eat and drink.  I personally recommend that if you are not working later at night and are home that your nine year old still goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 and that your 12 year old is in bed by 8:30. In order to do this, your children need to (and will be up) in the morning and will need to expend a good amount of physical energy  outside each day. The energy of  many boys in particular, seem to go up around age eight or eight and a half  and continue through about age fourteen, so they need hours of physical work and exercise.

That being said, RESPONSIBILITY is important, even as you carry the bigger pieces of the daily and weekly rhythm.  Nine to twelve year olds are very capable.  They should be doing chores and helping around the house, yard, or farm.  The way I work with chores is to make a list of daily chores for morning and evening, and assign teams. I only do morning and night because that tends to be when I have time to be available and check and rally the troops of this age.  I also try to catch children of this age doing fantastic things to help or be kind without being prompted.  Having a culture of taking responsibility and contribution is so important, and these ages are a great time to build that! I consider this step the first real step towards self-discipline.

WONDER is still important. This is NOT the time for a computer or cell phone yet.  It just crushes wonder and limits in-person communication – and in these days, most cell phones that parents give children also open up the Internet.  You can see more about smartphones here . Boys and gaming is also an issue, and I would encourage you to wait.  You can see practical advice about gaming here..  

I recommend clocking (in your head at least) the number of hours you are spending outside in nature – hiking, biking, walking as a family, camping. If you have difficulty with this and you are in the United States, there are several organizations you could look into that would help your children get outside, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fire Side, Earth Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Fresh Air Fund.  This is a step toward learning self-regulation.

PROTECTION – Yes, the world is opening up but some level of protection is still important. The best way to start is, of course, modeling and exposure to different people and culture in real life in whatever way that looks for your family and talking about things that you come across.

Talking about bodily changes needs to happen for most children who will have bodily changes between ages 10-14 (and some as early as 8 or 9). Most parents do not do an adequate job preparing their girls for menarche or talking to their boys about bodily changes.  The first part of sexual education is seeing the body in a healthy light, and yes, in seeing healthy relationships that include facets besides just sexual activity.  

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCEIn a society  where our number two killer of our teenagers is suicide, we have got to do a better job as parents talking to our children about growth mindset, resilience, emotional attitudes, positive attitudes, what to do with feelings, how to cope with stress, and providing techniques for breathing, yoga, body scanning.  

It is our job to model dealing with stress effectively and to model humor and to keep the lines of communication open.  This age benefits greatly from some one-on-one time with a parent if you have a lovable tribe of kids.

Also, don’t underestimate the sibling pack as the first way of promoting how we act in relationships, respect, love, loyalty, and yes, how we make restitution when we cross the line as siblings are wont to do!

SPORTS– I think in the United States if parents hold off till nine to start organized sports, especially in this day and age due to the lack of neighborhood play and less space in general to run for many children, you are doing well. Holding off until middle school would be even  better.  If you must start something, please see the back posts on sports (here is one to start). I recommend i9 sports for a variety of reasons, but mostly because this organization seems to understand the importance of rotating sports, of practicing and playing a game in one session for recreational sports, and the fact is that whilst some children are crazy about one sport and play for years on end, the majority of children involved in sports QUIT by the teenaged years if they are pushed too hard.  Also, from my standpoint as a pediatric physical therapist, many coaches are simply not educated enough about the developing pre-teen body, the importance of things like pitch counts, etc whilst they are in the midst of pushing intensive year round practices, weight training , and more.

 

Up in Part Two;  Communication!  This is what parents are really talking about  when they talk about “talking back” or “tween attitude”. I think it is actually less about discipline and more about teaching our children how to communicate not only with us, but with their friends.  More on that to come!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

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The Authentic Heartbeat of Parenting

I was thinking this morning about running and metronomes; that rhythmic quality of running on the pavement or around the track is like a metronome set to a certain tempo; steady and going at the same pace, reassuring in its steadiness and how we can speed up or slow down to match the metronome. Unceaseless and rhythmical and the source of strength and rest.

This, to me, is so much like parenting.  We need find that authentic heartbeat, that authentic pace, and be able to hold it steady when the times of development and changing and growing in our children is not so steady.

When older children and teens are ready to spiral out of control, we are there with our authentic selves, and holding that authentic pace so if they are trying to speed so far ahead or so far behind, we can reach down and gently whisper, “Stay with me for a little while.”

When do we lose our pace?

When we become overwhelmed by our own baggage and our own triggers and our own emotions and our own lack of self-care.   I admit it has happened to me so much over the course of parenting!  I used to feel ashamed.  Why is this triggering me?  Why am I so frustrated with this particular piece?   But I don’t feel ashamed of it anymore; the longer I parent I can separate myself out of it all, the longer I just hold that it will all work out, the more I know my children have their own journey and their own work to complete that is not my work.

And then it came to me…

I am the metronome, but what am I set to?

Inner work and the work of grace.

I am married, so hopefully I am set in time with my spouse.

Can I keep the pace myself and not forge ahead with a clash of emotions?  Can I keep it less about me and more about just the gentle pace of growing up, the pace of our values as a family, and less about the tiny situation at hand?  The big picture is calling and the tiny details of today’s scrabble must not get in the way.

Parenting older children is tricky business. No one can really tell you how to do it as every family is unique and every child develops at a different time and pace, even if following along in a general way the developmental and archtypal patterns we have come to recognize that are common to children everywhere.

Development matters.  We are having an amazing discussion over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page about parenting the 9-12 year old, and so much of it has to do with when the developmental changes (and on what scale) these changes hit.

The  reality is that all children eventually grow up, so changes will come, even if not at the standard times. And every family is different, so it may look different.  All we can do is be the steady pace, the gentle guide, the wonderful whisper of ease for those children who are finding no ease in the moment.

Stay strong,

Carrie

Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

I think rhythm with grades-aged children (which I consider children in grades 1-8, so ages seven to thirteen or fourteen) can become trickier.  As children grow, chances are that you are not only juggling one grades-aged child but perhaps children that are older (teenagers) or younger (the littles, as I affectionately call them) with children that are in these grades.  There can also be an increased pressure to sign up for activities or increased pressure at school  as a child advances toward high school.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 1-3:

  • Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!  I wrote a post about choosing time outside the home wisely in which I detail how many activities I really think a child in public or private school, versus homeschooling children need.   Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!
  •  Being outside in nature in an unstructured way is so very important, along with limiting media.  I suggest no media for these ages.  There are many other healthier ways for children to be spending their time that promote great physiological and psychological health rather than being a passive recipient. First through third graders need an inordinate amount of time to be outside, to swim and play in the woods or sand, to ride bikes, to climb trees, and just be in nature.
  • For those of you who want to homeschool through many grades, I do suggest getting involved in a homeschooling group or finding a group of homeschool friends for your child.  This usually becomes a much larger issue around the latter part of  age 10, post nine-year change for many children (especially melancholic children and typically girls over boys around the fifth grade year) and for those who are more extroverted.  However, one activity is plenty for third graders in anticipation of this “coming change” as a ten year old. 
  • Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.
  • In short, I do not think the rhythm established in the Early Years should be changing too much in this time period.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 4 and 5:

  • Rhythm begins in the home.  What are you doing in the home? I find sometimes fourth and fifth graders are anxious to go, go, go because there is not much happening in the home.  No rhythm is being held, preparing for the festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they now see being involved in things such as preparing meals and such as work instead of just part of a rhythm of breathing in and out.  This takes time to develop again by being home. Be home!
  • All the things in the first through third grade section above applies. Rest is still very important and fourth and fifth graders may need help in this area – both in resting and in having a reasonable bedtime.  Children this age should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep a night, plus time to rest! Most children this age are still going to bed around 8 or 8:30.
  • I do not believe fourth and fifth graders really need structured outside the home activities, especially for children attending public or private school. I have seen some fifth graders who really relished one special activity.   Many homeschoolers will find their fifth graders really wanting a homeschool community and friends at this point, so I think that might need to be honored.
  • Media!  I have written many posts about media.  Fourth and fifth graders do not need media or their own phones or their own tablets.  Think carefully about this.  There are other ways they should be spending their time that are much more important to development.  The reason media is important in the context of rhythm is that it generally is used as a time-filler – so if the pull to media is strong, that typically means the rhythm is not strong or that the child needs help in finding something to do – handwork, woodworking, and other activities can help that need to create and do.
  • Being outside in nature and developing the physical  body is still of utmost importance. Setting up good habits for physical activity is important in this stage because most children feel very heavy and clumsy when they are in the sixth grade and changing around age twelve.  Having great habits in this period of grades four and five can really  help with that.  
  • This is a great age for games in the neighborhood – kickball, foursquare, etc. – and general physical activity of running, biking, swimming.  Free play is probably one of the most important things fourth and fifth graders can do!
  • Keep your yearly rhythms strong.  This may be easier with younger children in the household, but never lose sight of the fact that a fourth or fifth grader is in the heart of childhood themselves and therefore should certainly not be treated like a middle schooler.  This time is very short, and needs to be treated as the golden period that it truly is!  Keeping the festivals, the times of berry picking and apple picking and such, is the thing that children will remember when they are grown up.  If everything is just a blur of practices and lessons and structure, there is no space and time to make those kinds of family or community memories.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.
  • This is a prime time to nurture life skills and responsibility around the home. If you are running everywhere, this time of learning, which is really the most important thing when children grow up and have to live on their own, cannot happen.   Life skills and home responsibility deserves a place in daily and weekly rhythm.
  • Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement..
  • This is a great age to pick up sports if that hasn’t already happened, although many children will say they feel they should have started much earlier. Again, this is such a symptom of our times that everything earlier is better, which I often find is not actually the case.  There is a big discussion right now about sports burn-out for middle schoolers who have started in elementary school.    If you want to see more of my thoughts about sports, take a look at this post that details the last pediatric sports medicine conference I attended.
  • I find the artistic component often needs to be increased in these years to really counteract some of the headiness of school subjects and media exposure.  It is a healing balm for middle schoolers, even if they complain they are not good at drawing or painting or such.  Keep trying, and do it with them or as a family.  Keep art and woodworking activities out, provide craft ideas and help them harness some of that creative power!  That can be a part of the weekly rhythm for your middle schooler.
  • Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Last tips for rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Where is the family fun?  You should be having tremendous family fun together.  Family is where it is at!  Family is more important than peers – you can look back to the book, “Hold On To Your Kids” by Neufeld and Mate if you need further confirmation.  Family fun can be part of all levels of rhythm – daily, weekly, and yearly! It is an attitude and an action!
  • Where is your rest, and your inner spiritual work?  I think you need this, especially as you enter the middle school years. Children can have a lot of emotion during this time period, and you have to be the steady rock.  If you need a reminder about boundaries and parenting, try this back post.
  • How is your home coming along?  By now, with children in these upper grades, there should be pretty steady rhythms and routines regarding the home and the work that it takes to maintain a home.
  • How is your relationship with your partner or spouse?  This is the time to really start thinking about date nights if your relationship thrives and deepens on that.

Blessings,
Carrie

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

Girls On the Cusp of Puberty

 

With two girls in our house, I have spent a bit of time thinking about girls on the cusp of puberty. It also is a pretty hot topic amongst my parent friends who have girls this age, and is getting quite a bit of attention in even the mainstream media.  Here is one article from the NY Times called, Puberty Before Age  10:  A New Normal?  I believe the study of over 1200 girls mentioned in this article is this one in the medical journal “Pediatrics”.

We can argue all day long about the causation of early puberty.  Is it the estrogens, phytoestrogens, and other hormone disrupters in our food, water and environment?  Is it the levels  of different things within our own bodies at the time we got pregnant with the children who are now growing up to be girls on the cusp of puberty?  Is it something we just haven’t figured out yet?

WebMD details a few of the possible medical causes and signs of puberty and notes that the difference between early puberty and “regular” puberty is not in the signs , but in the timing.  I find it interesting that in this article the signs of puberty for girls is detailed solely as breast development and the onset of menstruation, but when I talk to parents about the signs of puberty they are worried about it can be about breast budding as well, but many times it is more about the moodiness/fluctuating emotions, talking back to parents that may be presumed due to hormonal change,  pubic hair developing or body odor or even just their daughter wanting to wear a bra.

Here is what I am finding most of my parents friends and readers to be doing: Continue reading

Puberty Part One

Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty.  These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.

I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.

This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading

The Nine-Year-Change and Puberty

I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.

In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body.  However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in.  A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not.    Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.

I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change.  Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading