How to Survive the Elementary School Years

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8 Parenting Tips for Ages 6 to 10


At every stage of development, parents face new challenges, and the elementary school years are no different. During this exciting period of growing independence, added responsibilities and increased social interaction will bring new issues parents must contend with. Here are some tips to help you through this adventuresome, but trying, stage.

1. Tattletales. Does your child tattle every time a sibling or playmate breaks a rule? Sometimes they just don’t know the difference between tattling and telling. Other times, kids are looking to get another child into trouble.

Explain to your child the difference. Tattling is when another child breaks a rule (or maybe there is no rule), and the action your child is tattling about is relatively harmless. Telling, on the other hand, is when another child is doing something that could cause harm to oneself or others. Make a rule that you don’t want to hear any tattling, but that telling is okay and even necessary.

2. Lying. Every child tells a lie at some point or another. In fact, most adults are guilty of occasional white lies. Still, teaching kids to tell the truth is vital to them developing into trustworthy adults and forming intimate relationships.

Talk to your child about how lying diminishes yours and others’ ability to trust your child and can impact your child’s relationships. Then, if you catch your child in a lie, remind your child, and explain how your child’s future freedom and privileges will depend on how well you can trust your child. Also, to build your child’s trust in you, so your child will be comfortable being honest, practice being open and nonjudgmental. It will go a long way toward your child’s willingness to be open with you.

3. Media overload. With the overwhelming variety of media available to kids, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that kids be limited to no more than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day.

Invite your child to help you establish rules about media use. Consider the various forms of media including tv, video games, computer, and cell phone. Establish a total number of hours per day your child can use media. Then ask your child to help you break down how much of that time can be spent on specific forms of media. Also, discuss the measures you’ll take if the rules are violated.

4. Chore wars. As your child grows, so should your child’s responsibilities. In the elementary years, children can pick up their rooms, set and clear off the table, dust, sort their laundry, fold and put away their clean clothes, bring in the mail, rake leaves, and many other simple tasks.

During the early elementary years, choose a small number of simple chores. As they grow, increase the number or level of difficulty. To gain your child’s cooperation, set a regular schedule for each task, and offer daily or weekly rewards or an allowance.

5. Homework. This is a routine challenge for so many parents, so it’s best to set up rules and guidelines early on. Involving your child in the decision making can increase cooperation. One option might be to give your child 30 minutes of free time or media time after school before beginning homework. Another option could be to do chores and free time right after school, but homework will start immediately following dinner. Avoid saving homework for late in the evening though. It’s important to agree on consequences if the rules are not followed, so they are clear about what to expect.

Also, choose a distraction-free location to be used for homework. Then require your child put their phone on the charger (away from the homework area) while working on homework.

6. Name calling and teasing. Sometimes when kids call each other names, they’re just playing. If two kids are going back and forth at each other, both laughing and having a good time, it probably isn’t a big deal. As long as it’s just play, balanced, and no one’s feelings are getting hurt, you can just let it go.

On the other hand, if it’s one-sided, mean-spirited, or the child on the receiving end seems angry, upset, scared, or hurt by it, it’s usually best to intervene. First, try to empower the child being teased, and encourage the child to tell the other one to stop. If necessary, take a more direct approach, and make it clear to the child doing the teasing how hurtful the behavior is and that it isn’t acceptable.

7. The birds and the bees. The question of where do babies come from and discussions of puberty can leave even the most open-minded parents fumbling for words, so it’s best to prepare in advance for the inevitable discussions. That way you’ll be able to answer questions in the best way possible and without showing discomfort. Your comfort is essential to making your child feel at ease and will lead to your child being more open with you as your child matures.

To get started, during the early elementary years, read to your child Where Did I Come From? or another age-appropriate book. Such books help take the guesswork out of what and how to say it to your child. By the later elementary years, discussions of puberty and sex should be more complete. Some children reach puberty by the age of 10, so you want your child to be fully prepared for the changes that’ll take place. You also want to make sure your child is accurately informed about sex since by late elementary some kids are already talking about it among each other and are often filled with misinformation.

8. Defiance. As kids grow, they become more independent – and with independence comes defiance. For dealing with defiance, lay out the ground rules ahead of time, so both you and your child will know the consequences for such behavior.

When your child is defiant, keep the following in mind. First, consistency is crucial to being effective. Second, don’t argue. If your child tries to debate you after you’ve already discussed and stated your position on the issue, calmly say you’ve already made up your mind, and you’re not going to discuss it any further. Then leave the room so you won’t be tempted to argue or give in to your child’s badgering.

By Kimberly Blaker, a lifestyle and parenting freelance writer and blogger. •