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How to Survive the Elementary School Years

At every stage of development, parents face new challenges and the elementary school years are no different. Read on for some tips to help you through this adventurous but trying stage.

1. Tattling. Does your child tattle when a sibling or a playmate breaks a rule? Kids tattle for different reasons. Sometimes they just don’t know the difference between tattling on someone and telling someone about something important. Other times, kids are looking to get another child into trouble.

Explain to your child the difference between tattling and telling. 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. On the other hand, telling is when another child is doing something that could cause harm to oneself or others. Make a rule for your child that you don’t want to hear tattling but telling an adult if they think someone is harming themselves or others is okay and necessary.

2. Lying. Every child tells a lie at some point or another. Teaching kids to tell the truth is vital to them developing into trustworthy adults and forming intimate relationships with others. Talk to your child about how lying diminishes yours and others’ ability to trust your child. Explain how lying can negatively impact your child’s relationships with others. Then, if you catch your child in a lie, remind your child and explain how their future freedom and privileges will be dependent upon how well you can trust them.

To build your child’s trust in you so your child will always be comfortable being honest with you, practice being open and nonjudgmental; it will go a long way toward your child’s willingness to be open with you now and in the future.

3. Media overload. Invite your child to help you establish rules about their media use. Consider the various forms of media used by your child including TV, video games, laptop, and smartphone. Establish a total number of hours per day your child can use these various forms of media, and then ask your child to help you break down further how much of that time can be spent on specific forms of media. Also, discuss the measures you’ll take if the rules regarding the amount of their media use are broken.

4. Chore wars. As your child grows, so should your child’s responsibilities. In the elementary years, children can pick up their rooms, set the table, clear the table, dust, sort their laundry, fold their laundry, 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 for your child to do. As they grow, increase the number of chores or the 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, if this suits your family’s values.

5. Homework. This is a routine challenge for many parents. Set up a meeting with your child to discuss their homework schedule. Let your child know you’re going to set some rules but give your child a couple of choices so that your child has some say, which can increase cooperation. One option might be to give your child 30 minutes of free time or media time after school before beginning their homework. Another option might be for your child to do their chores first and then have some free time right after school, but then they must start their homework immediately after dinner. Avoid saving homework time for late in the evening.

Choose a distraction-free location in your home for your child to complete their homework and make it a rule that your child must put their phone on the charger during this time (and away from the homework area).

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, let it go.

On the other hand, if the name-calling or teasing is one-sided, mean-spirited, or the child on the receiving end seems angry, upset, scared, or hurt, 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 to the other child and it isn’t acceptable.

7. The birds and the bees.
The question “where do babies come from?” and discussions of puberty can leave even the most open-minded parent fumbling for the right words to say. It’s best to prepare in advance for these inevitable discussions with your child. That way, you’ll be able to answer your child’s questions in the best way possible and without showing discomfort. Your comfort is essential to making your child feel comfortable and will lead to your child being more open with you about sex-related topics as they mature.

To help you get started, during the early elementary years, read Where Did I Come From? to your child or another age-appropriate book. Such books help take the guesswork out of what and how to discuss the birds and the bees with your child.

By the later elementary years, discussions of puberty and sex should be more substantial. Many children reach puberty by the age of 10, so you want your child to be fully prepared for these important changes that will take place. You also want to make sure your child is accurately informed about sex since by late elementary school, many kids are already talking about sex (in its various forms) amongst each other and are often given misinformation.

8. Defiance. As kids grow, they become more independent - and with independence comes defiance. For handling your child’s 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 in consequences is crucial to being effective. Second, don’t argue. If your child tries to debate you after you’ve already stated the issue and laid down the consequence, calmly say you’ve already made up your mind, and you’re not going to discuss it with them any further. Then leave the room so you won’t be tempted to argue or give in to your child’s badgering.

Kimberly is a freelance writer and the author of a children’s STEM book, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery? containing fun experiments to help kids understand the scientific method and develop critical-thinking skills.

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