PARENTING

Primary School Kids and Behaviour

By DR KEN MYERS

Posted  March 17 2016 | 0 Shares

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Primary School Kids and Behaviour – What to Expect

 

Children’s behaviour changes dramatically once they reach the school age years. Up until this point their parents have likely been the main models for how to act, but now they are exposed to a new world of characters, including teachers and other children, who may come from very different backgrounds. This is often a difficult time for parents as they can feel they are losing control over their children (and of course they are, to some extent). There are a number of behavioural considerations during this age range, including the following.

 

            Lying

 

Many children go through a period of lying which may be confusing and distressing for parents. The ability to lie reflects a child’s degree of cognitive and social development, first appearing in the pre-school period. A child’s early lies demonstrate that he or she has developed the ability to understand and predict an adult’s emotions and desires. Early lying is almost always done to obtain a reward or avoid punishment. For example, if a young child is put in a room alone with a box and asked not to look inside, they will almost always take a peek. When asked a few minutes later if they looked, almost all will deny having looked to avoid “getting in trouble.”

 

Despite their early propensity to lie as pre-schoolers, children do not begin to become good at detecting lies until the 6-10 year range. At these later ages, a child’s own lies become more sophisticated, difficult to detect and may be made for a variety of underlying motivations. Children will now also lie for positive reasons. Examples include lying in order to be polite or to prevent another child from being punished.

 

Children will of course still lie for their own self-interest as well. These lies now become more elaborate and retain more consistency over time. In some cases, children will make up lies even though there is no apparent benefit to them. This is often the most distressing to parents as they can’t understand why their child is deliberately deceiving them for no reason. In these situations, the child’s motivation is most likely a simple desire for more attention from their parents.

 

Ultimately, parents have to understand that, although it may be unpleasant to think about, lying is a part of normal development. In order to grow into mature, well-adjusted adults, children need to test out lying in different situations. They depend on their parents’ guidance to learn when lying is acceptable and when it is not. These situations are some of the first opportunities for parents to pass on their own moral attitudes and beliefs.

 

            Friends

 

During the pre-adolescent school age years, children’s interactions with their peers evolve to the point where, by the time they are 12 years old, their relationships are very similar to those of adults. Many experts have attempted to delineate the different degrees of friendship observed as children mature in order to describe this evolution. One popular model, developed by psychologist Robert Selman, can be summarized as follows:

 

Stage 0 – Momentary Playmateship (3-7 year olds): In this stage, “friends” are basically defined by physical proximity and accessibility, not by any specific qualities a child recognizes in another. A child’s “best friend” is probably the one who lives nearest to them and is most likely the person they are playing with at the time. Children at this stage do not have a preference for the companionship of one playmate over the other. If one friend moves away, he or she can be replaced by another without missing a beat.

 

Envy and jealousy only become a factor when a playmate is using a particularly attractive toy or taking up some other desirable resource. At this stage, the concept of trust in friendship only extends to physical abilities. A good example of this is found in Selman’s original paper:

 

            “Alan, age four, said he trusted his best friend, Eric. When asked why, Alan said, “If I give him my toy, he won’t break it …. He isn’t strong enough.”

 

Stage 1 – One-Way Assistance (4-9 year olds): Here, a “friend” is someone who is recognized as having individual qualities that are beneficial. These qualities are still generally basic – the “friend” is someone the child observes to have similar desires that may be useful to him or her. For example, Billy likes ice cream and seeks out Johnny’s company because he knows that Johnny likes ice cream as well. Reaching this stage means that a child has developed the ability to interpret another’s likes and dislikes. However, Billy would just as soon be friends with Jenny if he learned she had the same love of ice cream.

 

Stage 2 – Fair Weather Cooperation (6-12 year olds): At this stage, friendship becomes reciprocal, with give and take between children. A child is now willing to make some concessions to his or her own likes and dislikes, in order to more closely match those of their friend. These concessions are still limited to specific incidents and scenarios, with no long term relationship. To extend the example from Stage 1, imagine that Billy and Johnny both like ice cream but there is only a single tub and one spoon. In a stage 2 friendship, Billy and Johnny will be willing to take turns using the spoon so that both can eat the same amount of ice cream.

 

Children often have very fixed ideals regarding fairness at this stage and are inflexible when their sense of justice is offended. A basic tenet is that if you do something for someone else, they have to do something of at least equal measure in return. If this return of service does not immediately, there are usually disastrous consequences for the relationship. As quickly as an ice cream alliance is formed, it can crumble the second that Johnny takes two scoops in a row without passing the spoon back to Billy.

 

            Stage 3 – Caring and Sharing (8-15 year olds): This is the first stage in which friendship begins to have an intrinsic value of its own. The concept of trust has now gone beyond “you will do something for me if I do something for you,” to a deeper meaning more focused on intimacy. A friend is someone with whom you can share your feelings and secrets and, in turn, they will also confide in you. While there is still give and take, the exchanges are made over the long term rather than immediately. When disaster strikes (and it will, frequently, during adolescence), a friend will be there to listen and provide emotional support.

 

In this stage, Billy can confide in Johnny that he is uncomfortable with his physical appearance and would like to lose weight (perhaps all the ice cream had an effect). Johnny can listen, sympathize and help Billy explore the feelings. The following week, Johnny may get a bad grade on a math test and confide in Billy that he is worried that his parents will punish him. This back and forth ultimately leads to a long term relationship in which trust now takes on a more adult meaning.

 

Stage 4 – Autonomous Interdependence (12 year olds to adults): Discussed in Teenagers – Behaviour.

 

            Sibling Relations

 

Sibling rivalry, discussed in Toddlers – Behaviour, is a fact of life in families with multiple children. Though often frustrating through the toddler and pre-school years, inter-sibling relationships go through fascinating maturation once children hit school age.

 

At early ages, the relationship between siblings is very unequal, with the younger sibling dependent on (and often at the mercy of) the elder. This is probably why jealousy and rivalry behaviour are at their peak between the ages of 2 and 5 years. As the family ages, the inter-sibling relationship becomes more equitable and, not surprisingly, envy and competition become less prominent (though some would argue these aspects of sibling relationships never completely go away).

 

A more cooperative and mutually supportive sibling relationship is ultimately good for all members of the family. It is not uncommon, however, for parents to feel as though their children are “ganging up” on them at times during these transition periods.

Reviewed by DR KEN MYERS 17 March 2016 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Primary School Kids and Behaviour

PARENTING

Primary School Kids and Behaviour – What to Expect

 

Children’s behaviour changes dramatically once they reach the school age years. Up until this point their parents have likely been the main models for how to act, but now they are exposed to a new world of characters, including teachers and other children, who may come from very different backgrounds. This is often a difficult time for parents as they can feel they are losing control over their children (and of course they are, to some extent). There are a number of behavioural considerations during this age range, including the following.

 

            Lying

 

Many children go through a period of lying which may be confusing and distressing for parents. The ability to lie reflects a child’s degree of cognitive and social development, first appearing in the pre-school period. A child’s early lies demonstrate that he or she has developed the ability to understand and predict an adult’s emotions and desires. Early lying is almost always done to obtain a reward or avoid punishment. For example, if a young child is put in a room alone with a box and asked not to look inside, they will almost always take a peek. When asked a few minutes later if they looked, almost all will deny having looked to avoid “getting in trouble.”

 

Despite their early propensity to lie as pre-schoolers, children do not begin to become good at detecting lies until the 6-10 year range. At these later ages, a child’s own lies become more sophisticated, difficult to detect and may be made for a variety of underlying motivations. Children will now also lie for positive reasons. Examples include lying in order to be polite or to prevent another child from being punished.

 

Children will of course still lie for their own self-interest as well. These lies now become more elaborate and retain more consistency over time. In some cases, children will make up lies even though there is no apparent benefit to them. This is often the most distressing to parents as they can’t understand why their child is deliberately deceiving them for no reason. In these situations, the child’s motivation is most likely a simple desire for more attention from their parents.

 

Ultimately, parents have to understand that, although it may be unpleasant to think about, lying is a part of normal development. In order to grow into mature, well-adjusted adults, children need to test out lying in different situations. They depend on their parents’ guidance to learn when lying is acceptable and when it is not. These situations are some of the first opportunities for parents to pass on their own moral attitudes and beliefs.

 

            Friends

 

During the pre-adolescent school age years, children’s interactions with their peers evolve to the point where, by the time they are 12 years old, their relationships are very similar to those of adults. Many experts have attempted to delineate the different degrees of friendship observed as children mature in order to describe this evolution. One popular model, developed by psychologist Robert Selman, can be summarized as follows:

 

Stage 0 – Momentary Playmateship (3-7 year olds): In this stage, “friends” are basically defined by physical proximity and accessibility, not by any specific qualities a child recognizes in another. A child’s “best friend” is probably the one who lives nearest to them and is most likely the person they are playing with at the time. Children at this stage do not have a preference for the companionship of one playmate over the other. If one friend moves away, he or she can be replaced by another without missing a beat.

 

Envy and jealousy only become a factor when a playmate is using a particularly attractive toy or taking up some other desirable resource. At this stage, the concept of trust in friendship only extends to physical abilities. A good example of this is found in Selman’s original paper:

 

            “Alan, age four, said he trusted his best friend, Eric. When asked why, Alan said, “If I give him my toy, he won’t break it …. He isn’t strong enough.”

 

Stage 1 – One-Way Assistance (4-9 year olds): Here, a “friend” is someone who is recognized as having individual qualities that are beneficial. These qualities are still generally basic – the “friend” is someone the child observes to have similar desires that may be useful to him or her. For example, Billy likes ice cream and seeks out Johnny’s company because he knows that Johnny likes ice cream as well. Reaching this stage means that a child has developed the ability to interpret another’s likes and dislikes. However, Billy would just as soon be friends with Jenny if he learned she had the same love of ice cream.

 

Stage 2 – Fair Weather Cooperation (6-12 year olds): At this stage, friendship becomes reciprocal, with give and take between children. A child is now willing to make some concessions to his or her own likes and dislikes, in order to more closely match those of their friend. These concessions are still limited to specific incidents and scenarios, with no long term relationship. To extend the example from Stage 1, imagine that Billy and Johnny both like ice cream but there is only a single tub and one spoon. In a stage 2 friendship, Billy and Johnny will be willing to take turns using the spoon so that both can eat the same amount of ice cream.

 

Children often have very fixed ideals regarding fairness at this stage and are inflexible when their sense of justice is offended. A basic tenet is that if you do something for someone else, they have to do something of at least equal measure in return. If this return of service does not immediately, there are usually disastrous consequences for the relationship. As quickly as an ice cream alliance is formed, it can crumble the second that Johnny takes two scoops in a row without passing the spoon back to Billy.

 

            Stage 3 – Caring and Sharing (8-15 year olds): This is the first stage in which friendship begins to have an intrinsic value of its own. The concept of trust has now gone beyond “you will do something for me if I do something for you,” to a deeper meaning more focused on intimacy. A friend is someone with whom you can share your feelings and secrets and, in turn, they will also confide in you. While there is still give and take, the exchanges are made over the long term rather than immediately. When disaster strikes (and it will, frequently, during adolescence), a friend will be there to listen and provide emotional support.

 

In this stage, Billy can confide in Johnny that he is uncomfortable with his physical appearance and would like to lose weight (perhaps all the ice cream had an effect). Johnny can listen, sympathize and help Billy explore the feelings. The following week, Johnny may get a bad grade on a math test and confide in Billy that he is worried that his parents will punish him. This back and forth ultimately leads to a long term relationship in which trust now takes on a more adult meaning.

 

Stage 4 – Autonomous Interdependence (12 year olds to adults): Discussed in Teenagers – Behaviour.

 

            Sibling Relations

 

Sibling rivalry, discussed in Toddlers – Behaviour, is a fact of life in families with multiple children. Though often frustrating through the toddler and pre-school years, inter-sibling relationships go through fascinating maturation once children hit school age.

 

At early ages, the relationship between siblings is very unequal, with the younger sibling dependent on (and often at the mercy of) the elder. This is probably why jealousy and rivalry behaviour are at their peak between the ages of 2 and 5 years. As the family ages, the inter-sibling relationship becomes more equitable and, not surprisingly, envy and competition become less prominent (though some would argue these aspects of sibling relationships never completely go away).

 

A more cooperative and mutually supportive sibling relationship is ultimately good for all members of the family. It is not uncommon, however, for parents to feel as though their children are “ganging up” on them at times during these transition periods.

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 17 March 2016
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

0 comments

more articles by DR KEN MYERS

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MEET THE EXPERTS

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