Middle childhood is a time of what is called "latency," when everything lies dormant and settled. Theoretically, it is a time of calm before the storm of puberty. Many parents of teenagers wistfully recall the happy eight-year-old they once had.
|Middle Ages For Primary School Children|
One interesting aspect of these years is the "I'm not going to be your friend any more" stage, in which the child begins to exert her willpower in social situations. Many parents find themselves being told on occasions that they are hated by their children. One mother developed a "hate-ometer," in which she kept a count of the number of times she was told she was hated each day - the record was 87 times! One way to look at this is that it prepares you to have a thick skin for later on, when the battles can get really serious. One possible response to a child who insists that they hate you is to say, "You can hate me all you like and I can love you just as much as I like."
Early to mid-primary school (about Years 3 and 4) is the time that many Barts decide school success is unachievable for them and take on the job of class down. Help them to be academically successful by keeping them interested in books through reading to them, in games through playing with them, and in learning by focusing on areas of their interest.
Sometimes bright children will also be defiant, and will threaten to kill themselves if you don't let them do what they want to do. It's always alarming to hear a child angrily say, "I wish I was dead" or "I didn't ask to be born." While we always need to be watchful for signs of depression, mostly this is defiance rather than depression. Nevertheless, we don't want children to get into a habit of threatening self-harm in order to get their own way. Say, "I can hear you are angry right now and I'm not going to let you hurt yourself."
This is the time to be clear about family rules and expectations. Taking the time to calmly explain rules that help to create the sort of family you want to be is useful. It won't stop them from disputing some of these rules later on, but it does help to have clear, consistent, and calm parenting with reasonably high expectations of the contribution children and young people can make towards family life.
Having high expectations, hopes, and dreams of children and supporting them to contribute positively to family life is one way of promoting resilience in young people. Going on a "treasure hunt" with children - i.e., searching for their talents, skills, and abilities, finding them, and making much of them - assists them to gain positive self-esteem.
Helping boys to develop the ability to put their thoughts into words is important at this time. Involving boys in conversations in which they are not allowed to get away with monosyllabic, caveman-like grunts is important here, and can set them up as good communicators for the remainder of their lives.
Hearing stories or audiobooks (i.e, without any pictures) is a way of helping boys to develop the internal images that help them to build language expression. But I'm not for a moment suggesting that you do away with picture books.
Keeping girls confident with numbers can be useful at this time. Teaching them through the use of money - counting change, working out how much to pay and so on - is effective. Both boys and girls benefit from developing concentration skills. Three of the big skills required for success in school - concentration, sequencing (or keeping things in the right order), and memory - can be developed with the help of parents. The easiest way of doing this is to play games with them, like cards, chess, dominoes, and battleships.
This is the stage when Manipulators can be prone to perfectionism and hurrying. This can mean they won't try things they are not sure they are good at. And they can put down others. Emphasize having a go rather than always focusing on outcomes.
Developing friendship skills
Primary schools often find that bullying increases around eight years of age as children jostle for position with peers. This continues to be a common issue until 13 years old or thereabouts. For this reason, help your child develop a range of friendships, ideally some in school and some out of school. Developing the skills of being a good friend helps children to not only fit in at this stage, but also sets them up for success in careers and relationships later on.
Many bright children don't develop friendship skills easily and may need considerable assistance in this area. Some of the key skills are:
- An awareness of the feelings of other people and how a child's own behavior impacts those feelings. Parents can help to point out how others might be feeling, and empower their child to help that person feel better. These are the building blocks of empathy and compassion.
- An awareness of their own feelings. Bright children often emphasize action over emotion and are relatively poor at knowing how they feel. Parents can help them to identify their own feelings.
- Having a range of interests that enable them to talk to a variety of people.
- Having ways of managing their competitive nature by learning about collaboration and teamwork, and by understanding that others' successes are not a threat.