Your Kindergartener / First Grader
What are typical behavioral characteristics and challenges?
Children are in their Kindergarten and First Grade Years from about 5 until 7 years of age. They face a range of issues including:
What are some solutions to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)?
- Intellect. By age 6, children love adventure and new things! They enjoy asking lots of questions and playing challenging games. They have a fairly good sense of time, enjoy thinking and reflecting and usually have a lot of curiosity and desire to learn new information.
- Happiness. Children in this age range engage their world with enthusiasm and happiness. They have a newfound sense of humor, fun, and maturity in relationships.
- Relationships. Kindergarteners and First-Graders may also have some difficulty with relationships with others. They may have violent temper tantrums or a strong need for love, praise, encouragement and acceptance as they transition into "big kid school."
- Independence. Children this age may appear indecisive as they try to make decisions on their own. Be patient; it's important for these children to do things "by themselves!"
- Personal space. As children become 7 years old, they become more interested in having their own personal space. This may become apparent when siblings draw "do not cross" lines across the room or the couch.
- High standards. 7 year-olds want very much to "do things right" and may set high standards for themselves. They need a lot of encouragement and reassurance during this time.
- Transitioning. 5 to 7 year-olds may have a lot of difficulty ending an activity when they're doing something that interests them a lot. Structure and transitioning rituals such as setting a timer can make transitioning smoother.
Children this age are finding their voices as they encounter many new experiences, especially through education. They may exhibit some common behavioral problems during this time. Try some of these solutions to Frequently Asked Questions you might have.
My 6 1/2 year old will not eat about 85% of what I serve to him. In fact, the only things he will eat on a regular basis are peanut butter sandwiches on white bread - sometimes some apple slices. I've become a short-order cook for my family! What can I do to change this?
When my child is really acting up, I give her a quick spanking and her behavior stops immediately. Spanking seems to work better than any of the other disciplinary methods I've tried, so why is it bad?
- Offer choices. If your child complains about food, ask (in a supportive manner), "You can eat what's on the table or fix your own sandwich. What's your choice?" You can teach him how to make his own peanut butter sandwiches at this age.
- Invite solutions. Ask, "What can we do about this problem?" This invites your child to use his thinking skills and problem-solving skills. He can use his power in positive ways to feel capable instead of in power struggles.
- Share tasks. Children are more cooperative when they have been included and feel like a contributing member of the family. Sharing tasks also helps teach life skills.
- Invite your child to help plan menus.
- Get him involved in creating the shopping list.
- Take him to shop at the grocery store. Many stores have small carts that can be pushed around by small children. Ask him to find certain items to put in his cart. If your child wants something that is not on the list, you can kindly and firmly say, "That isn't on our list."
- Have your child help with meal preparation. A three year-old can set the silverware and napkins and older children can help with snapping peas, mixing batter, and squeezing juice.
- Encourage him to help with the cooking. Let him decide which nights he wants to be the chef's "special helper."
- Respond without giving in.
- Use reflective listening (e.g., "Gosh, I guess you don't like that.") but avoid engaging in discussions beyond that.
- Allow your child to handle the problem (e.g., "You don't have to eat it. I'm sure you can make it until our next mealů").
- Choose your battles. Don't turn it into a battle of wills (e.g. your child sits at the table for hours while refusing to finish his broccoli). This is destructive to your relationship and may lead to eating problems in the future.
- Keep up those mealtime routines! A small snack can also help with after-school hunger pangs. Make sure that mealtime is regular. Have rituals such as a quick game before lunch or a walk after dinner. This sense of family togetherness, especially around the evening meal, can help children feel part of a secure, loving group.
- Ease your own anxiety about nutrition. Give your child a good multi-vitamin and relax.
My child doesn't always listen to me. It's a struggle to get her to do what I say. There's no reasoning with her, especially once she's throwing a tantrum. How can I effectively discipline her?
- Spanking is a form of punishment that leads to negative feelings. Discipline is different from punishment. Discipline leads to a learning experience for your child.
- Even though physical punishment may stop the behavior immediately, "hitting begets hitting" and children who have been physically punished often hit others because they have been taught to be aggressive.
- Spanking can have long-term negative effects on the child such as:
- low self-esteem,
- future abusive relationships, and
- the belief that hitting is okay
- Spanking children teaches the wrong lessons:
- Big people get to hurt little people.
- "I can hit others when I grow up."
- Hitting is an acceptable way to deal with anger.
- Hide the behavior instead of change the behavior.
- Focus on the "mean mommy" instead of the inappropriate behavior.
- "I am a terrible, worthless person who deserves to be hit." This may set children up for future failure, ill-treatment, abusive mates.
- It's not safe to make a mistake or take a risk.
- Do what you want but don't think about the consequences (rebelliousness).
- Don't misinterpret fear as respect. Some parents think that their children respect them more because of their physical discipline. This is not true!
- Remember that you are always modeling behavior. If you don't want your child to hit others, don't hit your child either.
More general parenting tips
- Have both respect for your child and positive discipline in your disciplinary routines.
- Communicate with your child after she's had a moment to calm down. Calmly review the behavior with your child and explain why it was wrong using age-appropriate words.
- Be consistent and firm, yet kind.
- Try these strategies to deal with problematic behavior:
- Ignore mild behavior. If a child does not get attention for a behavior, he will often stop doing it.
- Use distraction. Try redirecting your child to another behavior, toy, or activity. You can also use humor as a distraction tool.
- Give warnings then follow through. For example, "Food stays on our plate. If it goes on the floor, I will take it away" (the warning). If the warning needs to be repeated more than twice, take the plate away and end the meal (the consequence).
- Time-out. Remove your child from the situation (e.g. put her in another room, have her sit in the corner) for a short period. This will help her calm down as well as motivate her to behave so she can "get back into the game."
- "Calming time." Giving your child a quiet activity (drawing, coloring, puzzle pieces, etc) can calm her better than simply sitting (a time-out)
- Stay in control. Be emotionally neutral and matter-of-fact. Avoid spanking, shouting, or pleading for cooperation. If you start using these techniques, it's okay to say that you made a mistake and to start over using a different technique. Remember to take a "calming time" to cool off when YOU need it too!
- Trial and error. Remember that each child is different and your strategies may need to change for each child or as your child grows through different phases. Find what works specifically for you and your child.
- The best strategies are ones that prevent problem behavior from occurring:
- Be playful. If you want your child to clean up her toys, get down and do it with her in a fun way. For example, have a "10-second tidy" where you see how much you can clean up in 10 seconds or sing a silly song like "Clean up clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up clean up, everybody do your share." Feel free to make up your games and lyrics!
- Say "no" less. Prevent battles by childproofing your home and removing objects your child isn't allowed to play with.
- Problem-solve difficult situations. For example, if grocery shopping always leads to a major battle between you and your child, try to figure out what's going wrong. Are you going at the end of the day when your child is tired? Would some snacks or small toys in your bag help keep him well behaved?
- "Time in." Make sure your child has at least 15 minutes a day of your complete attention. This reduces "attention-getting" behaviors and shows your child love and support.
- Take care of yourself. As a parent, you need to find time for yourself so you have the energy to give the proper attention and discipline. Paying attention to your needs, feeling rested and being calm improves your relationships with others.
- Take parenting classes, read books, ask lots of questions, visit www.howkidsdevelop.com!
- Try to "walk a mile" in your child's shoes. The key to understanding children's behavior often comes with understanding what/how they are feeling and the events that lead up to their negative actions.
- Actively listen to your children to find out what's causing their behavior and help them through difficult moments.
- For example, you find your child throwing toys at the dog. Ask questions, listen and reflect. You might discover that your child wanted to play for the past hour but everyone was too busy and her feelings of rejection caused her to throw the toys out of frustration.
- Sometimes, even just the simple act of a reassuring hug can say "I love you" and help stop negative behavior.
- Praise and encouragement is extremely important. It's not just the act of praise or encouragement, but HOW you praise or encourage that's truly important in what's effective, positive and reinforcing for your child.
- Keep your praise and encouragement specific. When your child draws a picture, instead of saying, "This is great," talk to your child about it. You might say, "Tell me about these stripes here - are blue and pink your favorite colors? What kind of shape did you use here?" This way you can talk and learn together, while sending the message that the picture is important to you too.
- Watch the content of your praise and encouragement. Saying, "Wow, that is the most beautiful artwork I've ever seen!" can make your child focus on always trying to please people. Instead you could say, "I like all the colors you used in this picture."
- "Catch your child being good." Instead of always pointing out everything your child does wrong, give them attention for the things that they do right. Celebrate the positive things they do and reward their good behavior!
- Instead of focusing on the two Lego pieces your child forgot to put away, praise him for cleaning up all the other pieces.
- After you praise him, you can ask if he notices anything he missed and then praise him again when he figures it out. This creates two situations for praise and helps your child feel confident twice!
- Be consistent! You can empathize with your child's feelings, but it doesn't mean you think his behavior is always okay. For example, let him know that violence (e.g. hitting a sibling, breaking a toy) will not be tolerated or allowed. When the parent is consistent, it's easier for the child to learn the rules.
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