Toolbox of Tips For Communicating With 9-12 Year Olds

This is second in a three-part series of discipline, communication, and development for 9-12 year olds so we can all be more effective parents!  The first part to this series can be found here and got a warm reception from readers as it tackled discipline, responsibility, protection, sports, emotional intelligence, and more.

One thing I love about this age is that I think we have a chance to make a big impact on how we resolve conflict and communicate with one another.  The home is really the first and most major place in which children learn this!

So, the first thing to be aware of is what is your communication style?  I find many adults have a really hard time helping 9-12 year olds with conflict and communication within the family because they themselves were never taught communication skills or conflict resolution?   So, I think we need to think of things such as:

  • How do we deal with things and other people when things are not flowing smoothly? How do we react? What do we say?
  • Do we accommodate conflict by being a people pleaser and backing down on our boundary?  Do we avoid conflict and run away?  Do we become competitive and try to win over why we are right?
  • How good are we a collaborating during times of conflict?
  • Are we direct?  Can we say and use “I ” statements directly when we communicate – “I am frustrated!”  “I am angry!”  But……
  •  What do we do with those feelings then, though?  Take it out on everyone around us?  Yell, scream, shut people out, cry?
  • Do we put people down when we are frustrated or irritated at the situation?  What do we perceive as “disrespect”, why, and what do we do about it?
  • Do we use steps in resolving conflicts?  Only then can we really model.

For younger children, we often think of things such as using our bodies to walk over to the child, connecting with the child and getting the child’s attention, using a calm voice with a simple request, helping the child follow-through in the request.  If conflict ensues, it often is just a matter of hungry/tired/exhausted/needing connection, helping the child calm down, following through or making restitution.  Attacking, lecturing in a long tirade, blaming doesn’t do anything to teach a child how to communicate or solve conflict.

For older children, things become infinitively more complex however.  There is often less of a “working together” model in place developmentally, which is normal, but it can also impact communication and openness.  Here are some suggestions to lay a good baseline:

What are the ESSENTIAL family rules (boundaries)?  Not like pick your socks up off the floor, but the really essential things. What specifically triggers the adults in the family, and the 9-12 year olds and makes the house less peaceful?  What is so essential it can’t be avoided, but what is not essential and could be discarded?  Pick and choose the ESSENTIAL.

In our family, this does include respect and good manners for one another.  Manners are how we show we care about one another, and we should have respect for the fact that we are all different people with different temperaments, personalities, and interests living in the same house together.

If there are things like doing homework or completing chores causing conflict in the family how could you break it down into an action plan that garners cooperation?

Make the family a place of POSITIVENESS and SUPPORT.  One of my favorite phrases to use with my children is, “I am here to help you.  Tell me what you would like to see happen.”  That opening often sets up a much better conversation.

Make the family a place of TEAMWORK.  This is often set in ages birth-9, but it is never too late to start!

EMPOWER.  Children ages 9-12 are not going to do things the way you do them as an adult, but the more empowerment you can give them within the rules of the house and what needs to happen. What will happen if responsibilities are not done?  If poor words are chosen?  If the child becomes completely angry?  Figure these things out in a time of quiet and calm, and have it ready to go and draw upon.

START TEACHING. Responding to what other people say in a defensive way is not an effective way to communicate, and just like learning to walk or throw a baseball, learning how to communicate takes PRACTICE.  A few hints:

Everyone must be calm. This step often takes much, much longer than everyone would like.  Take the time to calm down. Come back later.  There are few things that have to be solved in a split second.

No defensiveness. No yelling. No name calling.  No accusations.  No physicality. If any of these things happen on the part of your 9 to 12 year old to you, stay calm.  Tell your child you would like to help them.  Most 9-12 year olds can still get really overwhelmed by emotions, and need space and time. Defensiveness, yelling, name calling, accusations only ramps up the whole thing and instead of problem solving it is just emotions spilling everywhere.

We can all disagree, but the reality is if we all live together, we have to come up with solutions that work for the family, and we have to agree upon boundaries and rules in order to  live together.  Nine to twelve year olds are often not really logical, so it is important to help guide the discussions.

Listen carefully, and talk about how things happened and what you would each like to see happen.  Come up with a plan.   Make restitution.

I would love to hear your experiences in communicating with your 9-12 year olds!  Let’s exchange ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

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“Getting Children To Do What We Want”

I field questions all the time that basically boil down to, “How do I get my child to do what I want?”  Well, welcome to dealing with another human being who isn’t you! It is a precious dance between two often very different people with different activity levels and temperaments.  I always joke and tell people if you expect obedience, well, that is more like a dog than a human! Haha.

But seriously, first of all, if you can, please stop thinking of it as a war where the child is thwarting what you want or need to happen. If you come in with the attitude that your child or teen has to do only what you want in the way you want it, then it becomes a mindset of a battlefield.   Put out into your family space that you are team and that you can work together with you, the parent or parents, leading.  Take the time to SHOW your younger children how, when, and where you want things done and also accept that there can be, especially for older children and teens,  more than one way to accomplish the same task.  This is an important attitude to carry!  If you need help with this and see most of the main things your children do as “defiant” then I recommend you take a moment to go through this back post:  Defiance

If you are looking to help children and make a peaceful homelife, then here are some suggestions by age since this is what developmental parenting is all about:

If you are talking about a tiny toddler to second grade  the best way to help guide children along amounts to using connection,  rhythm, pictures in your speech, distraction, and stop talking so much!   If you need help, try these back posts:

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Talking in Pictures To Young Children

Stop Talking

What Kind of Family Are You?

From third grade to sixth grade, I think the best way to help guide these children is through the idea of  connection and loving authority.  Yes, in the Waldorf Schools this is seen as very important in the grades, beginning in first grade and coming into full force with the students in the nine-year change. You simply must rise up and be the kind authority in your home.  This means having actual boundaries and actual consequences. Rhythm is still really important as well as NOT overscheduling this age group.  There should be plenty of time for movement out in nature and child-led play (not games led by adults).

Back post to help:  Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Freedom Versus Form

Boundaries for Gentle Discipline: Why? How?

Helping A Child Learn To Rule Over Himself

In speaking with twelve to fifteen year olds, I think the main piece of advice i have is to Let. it.go within reason.  You cannot micromanage everything, and everything simply cannot be a battle.  You can use rhythm, connection, simple guiding and conversation about why something should be.   Bite your tongue more.  Many of the awkward or angry or tearful stages these teens go through will be done with the fifteen/sixteen change, whenever that happens for that individual child, and whatever they are doing will change as well unless they are facing serious challenges that need professional help.  Increased responsibiity and freedom in the right amounts is important.

Blog Posts to help:  Playing for the Same Team

Finding Center

Changing Our Parenting Language

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

This idea of responsbility and freedom always carries over into the time when young adults are forging out into the world after the fifteen/sixteen change.  This is the stage of mentoring and helping along.  Some parents are better at this than others – it can be a fine line between being overbearing and doing everything for a young person or stepping back and not really helping at all.  It is the stage of reminding young adults that whilst there is fun and freedom, there is also responsibility and consequences of their actions.  The seventeen year olds transitioning to this may need some extra help sorting through some of this, and since we know the brain is not fully developed for executive functioning and decision-making until age 28, we know we may need to be around to help, but this is definitely more of a mentoring relationship and model.

Blog Post to help:  After the Fifteen/Sixteen Change

Do You Over-React to Your Preschooler?

The ages of three to five can be such a hard time for many parents.  These ages see a change in behavior from when children were two, especially for first children who previously were interested in being at their mother’s side.  I have had many parents of three and four and a half year olds write me and ask me what is going on with their child that they have changed SO MUCH.  “They were sweet, and now they are not” is a common refrain I hear.

Your child IS still sweet, but now they are realizing they can use their bodies and will forces in all sorts of ways.  Much of it is simply to see what happens without an preconceived ideas of what will result; much of it is repeated since the capacity for memory typically is not well-developed until age six or seven.  Words often are of little help until about four and a half.  For example, a two and half or three year old can often repeat something such as “we don’t hit”, but then will turn around and hit a playmate.

In many developmental phases, it is important to remember that when parents describe children as “bossy, tense, rigid, demanding, explosive” this really covers up the fact that the child may actually be experiencing a sense of insecurity or uncertainty as development shifts.

Ho-hum, ho-hum is your friend! Find your ho-hum and turn it on. 

Consistency and rhythm is so important and the number one thing I see parents struggle to attain.  Much of this stems from the fact that there is societal pressure to exposure small children to many different things – exposure is seen as good for tiny children. Also,  things seem to need to be “bigger, better and more stimulating” because it is exhausting to “entertain” a three to five year old all day long.  But remember…

You shouldn’t have to entertain your child all day long and you shouldn’t have to leave your house in order for your children to be happy.  Meaningful work is the key to this, along with being outside.  I have many back posts on these topics!

Distraction with verses and singing is still your very good friend when you have three to five year olds.  Going outside can also help.

Keep activities outside the home limited.  I know it is the “norm” to have children in preschool and classes  at age three, and I will continue to rally against this.  Even two or three hours out of the home is a lot for a three year old.  They do not need lessons, classes, or structured activities for their own development at this age.  “Play is where it is at!”  Studies have shown that children in play-based settings (again, though, we don’t need a program to play!) have greater academic gains in fourth grade than students who were in academic learning programs from an early age.  Earlier is NOT better.  We CANNOT rush development.  Development of the child has not changed.  If your child has to be in a program because you work, look for a play-based program that involves lots of time outside in all kinds of weather.

Tantrum tally for you!  It often is not about what our child is doing, but how we react because we are exhausted, tired, trying to do too much, alone with a small child many hours of the day.  Dealing with anger is a real part of parenting!Try this back post about regarding dealing with anger and also this one about anger and forgiveness.  .  Also, if you look under “Book Reviews” in the header we went chapter by chapter through the wonderful book, “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma”.

No screens.  Screen do absolutely nothing for the development of a child these ages.  Movement, movement, movement – not sitting still and focusing on a screen.

Lots of love to all my parents of small children today.  You may not hear it enough, but you are doing a wonderful job!

Blessings,
Carrie

Talking Back and What to Do About It

 

“Talking back” seems to be something I see getting press in more and more mainstream American parenting articles, with comments something along the lines of, “We expect teenagers to talk back, but we don’t expect six-year-olds to talk back and this is really infiltrating down and down into younger and younger ages.”

I think this is an accurate depiction of what is going on in American society at least.  I am hearing from parents about talking back and what to do about it from about age five or six on up.

So, How Did We Get Here?

In general, I think part of what has gotten us to this point is that authority in general in society has changed, especially since the 1960s.  No longer are there figures of complete authority to obey without question and children see this in society.  I am not saying these changes are bad!  However, they do lead children to “question” authority more than before, and to also lead parents to be fearful of being an authority, because in our generation’s history this has often been linked with abuse of power and unfairness. Parents seem to walk a difficult line these days in regard to their views of authority and what that means in leading their own family.

The other large change has been the seeping of adulthood down into childhood, including the sheer number of choices a child has, the sheer power of decision-making a child has within the family structure and an awareness of the stress and pressures of the adults in the family.  Related to this has been the seeping of the adult world of information down to the child’s level.

Many American families I speak with feel that part of their children’s talking back is related to that child feeling entitled to experiences or things.  If you feel there is a correlation there, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

For What Ages Is Talking Back the Biggest Problem?

From my mail, I am judging most parents are having difficulty with talking back during the six/seven year change, age eight (the age of boasting and bragging and exaggeration), and the years marketed as the “preteen years” – ages 10-12.  Surprisingly, I don’t get a lot of mail from parents being frustrated with their teenager’s talk.  I am not sure if that is because the talking back has actually died down at that age, or if parents are just used to it or something else.  Again, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

What Can I Do To Figure Out Where We Are Right Now?

  • Always go back to the basics, especially for those under the age of 12.  Are they overbooked and overscheduled?  Too many choices and just generally holding too many opinions/ too much power?  Are they getting enough sleep, rest, time for unstructured play, eating whole and healthy foods?
  • What are your rules?  What exactly constitutes talking back by your child to you?  Does your child know what talking back really is and when they are doing it?
  • How are you treating them?  What kind of a model are you with them?  If you are constantly sarcastic and snippy with them, then that is their model.  That is exactly what they will parrot back to you.  Are you respectful and polite as well?
  • Are they more connected to their peers than to the family unit?  The privileges of a sixteen or seventeen year old  and the schedule of a sixteen or seventeen year old are not the privileges or schedule a ten year old should be having.  If you need help knowing what is appropriate for a ten year old versus an older child, please leave me a comment and I will be happy to dialogue with you.
  • What is their media intake?  Unfortunately, many of the nicer “family” shows that used to be on television or in the movies are long gone.  Today’s media often portrays a family where the children are snippy to their parents and seem to know much more than their hapless, bumbling parents.  The fathers are typically portrayed as extra bumbling.  Portrayals such as these really have not helped our society as a whole.

So What Can I Do? Continue reading

Freedom Versus Form

This has been a season where the theme of freedom versus form has been coming up repeatedly in my life, and as usual, I took this as a sign that I should write about this subject for my readers.

During one of the first few weeks on her Yahoo Group for homeschool planning called “Sketching It Out” that in homeschooling, Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie wrote something to the effect that we have a freedom so different than what is found in the Waldorf schools in bringing the impulses of Waldorf Education to the home, but then we have to create the form.  I have been mulling this thought around for several weeks now, where it has been germinating in my heart.  I  know from my own experiences in talking to  so many mothers and families that creating the form seems to be the most challenging part for families not just in homeschooling, but in parenting.

A small example in  parenting, for example,  Continue reading

Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Authority is so necessary for parenting in  today ‘s fast-paced world.  Authority, sharing its root with words such as authentic and author, gives us the number one way to guide our children into peace.

It is not a big house, or a small house.

It is not the amount of money we have or don’t have.

It is not what activities our children are enrolled in or not.
It is how we connect to our children through authority.

Authority is a special way of holding the space for our children in such a way that the child can enter fully and wholly into the world without anxiety, worry or distress.  They do not have to enter into the adult world but can be an innocent in childhood play and the childhood repetition of play, work, being outside, submersed in the rhythm of the year.

The challenge of our times is that so many of us grew up in homes where Continue reading

Boundaries For Gentle Parenting: Why? How?

Often in  the world of gentle discipline we are implored to look at our child’s needs and wants when they are acting in a way that we don’t understand or want. However,  I often think that just attributing a reason “why” a child does something is really not enough or honestly, even always necessary. I have known and worked with a lot of children and their families, and I just don’t know as every childhood action that is trying or challenging  to adults is the result of an unmet need that the parent needs to decipher. Yes, sometimes there are things going on that the child is feeling stressed about and cannot articulate well.  Yes, we live in a fast-paced world and many children have an awful lot to deal with.  Connection and attributing positive intent  to a child’s often immature but developmentally appropriate actions are so important. But some actions are just things that children do for whatever reason, many times without really thinking at all. Continue reading