Terrible twos, threenager, the f’ing fours – there are many hilarious nicknames for all the stages of development our children go through as they grow. Let’s be honest – no stage of parenting is easy. Yes, your physical work diminishes over the years as your child learns to eat, dress and use the bathroom by themselves. But emotional, academic and social challenges emerge that sometimes seem more complex than a simple wipe of the bum.
As my daughter approaches nine years of age (nine!! How did that happen??) I am beginning to see the first signs of pre-teen attitudes and behaviours. Many friends have warned me about this stage in childhood development, and I’ve been observing the ways that girls at around 8-9 begin to change (as a Brownie leader, I have the unique experience of being able to witness these changes in a large group of girls!)
Many of these changes apply to boys as well, but alas, I only have the female side to experience. My own research has helped me understand that:
- This stage is a “transitional” stage, marked by a shift from young childhood to the tween (pre-teen) years
- Peers gain greater influence, and children begin to assert themselves more as to dress style, room décor and accessories (for example, my daughter recently asked for a plain black backpack, instead of her brightly illustrated one – apparently it’s too babyish)
- Children develop a strong conscience and can easily determine the difference between “good” and “bad” behavior
- Girls become more aware of their bodies as puberty approaches
- Independent thought is important in this stage, and children will try to assert this independence
The following tips are what I've been learning along the way when dealing with our pre-tween. I'd love to hear from other parents going through this (or have gone through this) as I'm learning as I go! Leave me a comment below!
Parenting your nine year-old
After dealing with a fairly rational and happy-go-lucky kid, you may be surprised by the sudden shifts in mood from your nine year-old. One minute they'll be playing a fun little game, and the next they're throwing the game on the floor and stomping to their room. Very early signs of puberty are starting to show, and emotional shifts go hand-in-hand with those hormonal shifts! (and the eye rolls...oh man, the eye rolls!!)
Another challenge in dealing with budding independence is that your child may begin to contradict you or disobey you depending on whether they believe what's being asked of them is right or wrong. This goes along with their deeper understanding of values and morals, and how they see their place in the world.
As parents, we have to provide a lot of guidance at this age, so that we can continue to build a strong emotional bond with our child that will carry forward into the teen years. Here's a few tips!
Keep spending time with your kid
Seems simple, but once they've reached a certain stage of independence, parents are dealing with the busy-ness of family life and we often leave our kids to their own devices. Try to set aside time each day that you are fully focused on them, even if it's just reading a story together at bedtime.
Take time to listen
I find it's easy to resort to a "I'm the parent, you're the kid" attitude when our pre-tweens are giving us flack. This only fuels the fire, and usually ends in one of us stomping off and slamming a door. Try to recognize that your child's defiance is a healthy stage of their development, and take time to truly listen to their arguments.
Often I find arguments stem from one of us wanting to gain control, and the easiest way for me to deal with that is to step back from the situation and ask a lot of questions.
Example: the other morning my daughter refused to walk the dog when I asked her to, as I was running late and trying to get my five year-old ready for school. We got into an argument and she stomped off in a huff (to walk the dog, thankfully.) I took some time to reflect and approached her later when we had calmed down. I found out that she was feeling tired that morning, and not up to a big walk - I could have instead asked her to do a "mini walk." I also chatted with her about the importance of the whole family pitching in with chores.
Set clear expectations
Using the same story above, what would have been even more helpful is if I had "assigned" her the task of walking the dog on a regular basis, so that it became part of her regular routine. Kids who are busy playing or reading don't always respond well to requests to do a chore, but if she had exepcted it in the first place, I would have been met with much less resistance.
Be a "yes" parent
Being a "yes" parent has nothing to do with leniency. It doesn't mean you don't have clear rules and expectations (see above!) It DOES mean that you stop and think before saying "no." It's so easy to be a "no" parent, because it's less work for us. Usually saying yes involves a lot of guidance, support and help with cleaning up. A kid that has a brilliant scheme for building a robot out of things in the recycling bin is probably going to leave a long trail of mess behind them. As parents, it's important to allow creativity to unfold (within limits) while also teaching our children the responsibility of following through (and cleaning up!) At the end of the day they've created something they're proud of.
How have you found age nine? Any challenges or positives? Share in the comments!