The elementary childhood years between six and eleven are filled with both excitement and stress. Well beyond the chubby cheeks and toddling steps of their younger years, elementary-aged children have the verbal and physical skills to be independent in many ways.
However, their energy and lack of social skills often also mean that they start to spiral into serious behavioral struggles. Having an elementary child who is out of control can seriously impact a parent’s ability to care for their kids – or just to keep their own sanity! To reign your 6-11 years old out-of-control child back down to earth, try these simple steps.
1. Talk it through
When a parent is met with resistance, it can be easy to try and pull the “parent card” and end the conversation with a “because I said so” or “I don’t want to hear it.” However, rarely does that address the root of the problem, or prevent it in the future. Realistically, all it accomplishes is that your child feels unheard and resentful.
Rather, take the time whenever possible to talk through the source of the conflict. Hear out your child’s side of the issue, and listen to their reasoning. Explain why you think the way you do, especially if there are outside considerations that your child may not have thought about.
For example, your 8-year-old child might feel like it’s unfair to have to leave the park after only a few minutes, but they might not know about the errands or appointments you have for the afternoon that it making your schedule tight.
Often these conversations won’t result in you changing your ruling – after all, you made your decision for a reason. However, try and be flexible when you can, especially if your child raises some valid points with regards to why you might be wrong. Being open to listening to their point of view builds trust and respect, and will make them feel like it’s fairer during those times when your decision isn’t negotiable.
2. Establish limits
Having a clear set of rules and limitations is critical for all 6-11 years old children, but especially those who struggle with behavioral issues. It’s important that they be able to accurately predict what is and isn’t acceptable. The last thing you want is for your child to be unclear about whether they’re allowed to be roughhousing in the house or when they’re meant to be going to bed.
Talk about rules during a calm time, not when you’re already in the middle of a conflict. Explain why the limitations are in place, especially where safety and health are concerned. Also, make sure to bring up any possible exceptions to the rules – for example, it’s not polite to shout in the grocery store until there’s an emergency and you need adult help immediately.
Some limitations may be permanent, such as the guidelines for how to behave when getting ready for bed or playing with friends. Some might be situational, such as the specific rules for going to a particular event.
If there are situational limitations, make sure to bring them up ahead of time. If your child has never been to a wedding before, they won’t know what the expectations are for how to behave at one unless you discuss it ahead of time. Be clear and simple, and also bring up any possible consequences there might be for violating these limitations.
Make it clear that these conversations are just that – a conversation, not a lecture. Encourage your children to ask questions about the how and why of these limitations. It takes some extra work to explain, but giving them your reasoning for these rules is a great way to help them learn to anticipate expectations in the future, both from you and from society at large.
3. Maintain consistency
Now that you’ve talked it through and set your boundaries, it’s time to hold fast to them. Changeability with a child who’s out of control only makes for more chaos and confusion for the both of you. Once you have set limitations and rules, be consistent about them.
This goes both ways – obviously, you need to hold firm on not allowing behavior that you’ve specified as being unacceptable, but you also need to allow for behavior that you had previously communicated was fine. Once a 6-11 years old child starts to notice that you will start shutting down their behavior without prior notice, they’ll become combative because of rising feelings of insecurity.
Maintaining consistency is about more than simply holding firm to limitations, though. It’s also about keeping your daily routines consistent and your interactions predictable.
Having a predictable environment and routine can help calm a surprising amount of behavioral issues in elementary-aged children. While they may seem so much more mature than they were just a few years prior, they still are very much uncertain about the world. Having their parents and home feel easy to predict will make it easier for them to regulate their own emotions and expectations.
Set up the same expectations for them each day, such as what they should do when they come home from school, what they should do to get ready in the morning, and how they get ready for bed. Having these parts of their day be easier to navigate will help level out their emotions and make them less likely to have intense emotional reactions.
4. Respect their independence
The hardest part of raising children is always learning when to let go. For children at 6-11 years old age, it can be easy to still see them as impossibly young and immature. However, elementary-aged children have a strong need for their own space, independence, and privacy. Show them that you respect their independence by allowing them a certain measure of privacy. Give them some space where they can be “grown-up free,” in whatever way is most impactful and practical for your family.
Great options might be making a small space where your child can read without interruptions from the rest of the family, or putting up a small treehouse in the yard where they can play alone. It may even be as simple as knocking before entering their room or allowing them privacy for things like their diary or their phone conversations with friends.
It’s also important to show that you trust your child’s independence when it comes to their capabilities. Whether it be their math homework, their household chores, or just being able to beat a level of their video game, show faith that your child is capable enough to handle it on their own by giving them space to try and accomplish it themselves.
Of course, there may be plenty of times where they do need a hand with their homework, but start with the assumption that they’re capable of handling it themselves and offer to help if they need it, but don’t assume they will.
5. Give them responsibility
As your child is trying to assert themselves as being grown and capable, show them your confidence by assigning them responsibility. This tactic has several benefits; firstly, your child has a chance to feel capable and independent. It’s also a chance to have them direct some of their energy into something constructive, rather than adding more fuel to the chaos and destruction. It’s also a great way to teach work ethic and accountability!
What kind of responsibility you assign to your 6-11 years old child may vary widely based upon your child’s age, temperament, and the needs of your family.
Some great options may be to have your child walk the dog each day when they get home from school, or helping care for their younger siblings in the morning. For older children, you can even have them contribute to the household by preparing a dinner for the whole family. Make this decision with your child.
Last Updated on September 24, 2021