School Age: Ages 6-11 How You Communicate
Find time to talk. With a school-age child, you won’t have as many opportunities for conversation as you did with your preschooler. As your child grows up, she may turn to you less frequently, so you may need to make a special effort to spend time together.
Speak to your school-age child in a mature fashion. School-age kids want their “bigness” acknowledged. They may be offended if they feel they are being spoken to like babies (even if they happen to be acting like them). You might say, “I expect you to begin your book report. What time would you like to work on it?” instead of “How many times do I have to tell you to do your book report!”
Show your school-age child respect. One way is to ask your child for help in understanding her and her needs. If you acknowledge that your child has some information you don’t, she will know that you respect her, even though you are making final decisions.
Ask your school-age child specific, rather than general questions. Instead of asking a question such as “How was school?” you might ask, “Did your teacher give you comments on your science project?” Also avoid leading questions. A query such as, “Do you think it’s appropriate to talk to me that way?” often backfires. Instead, you might say, “I feel angry when you talk to me that way.”
Listen to your school-age child without contradicting her. Instead of saying “That’s ridiculous,” you might simply say, “Hmm,” or “Really.” Then, ask specific questions based on the situation your child has described.
Repeat what you heard your child say, but in a more mature way. You can reflect her statement in the form of a question, implying, “Am I getting this right?” In this way, you are respecting your child’s intelligence, making her feel understood and encouraging her to tell you more. You might say, “So, you think your gym teacher is stupid, but you don’t want me to intervene? Can you tell me what you are upset about?”
Laugh a little and admit your mistakes. At times, humor is the best way to resolve a dispute, react to an upset or make a request of your school-age child. You can also ask your child for help in figuring out what to do. Kids love to hear parents admit they were wrong. You might say, “Am I making a mess of this? Should we try to figure it out a different way?”
Ask your child to help set her own limits. Don’t be afraid to say “No” when your school-age child (or you) needs it. However, within reason, your child can make some rules, too. For instance, you might ask her to propose a reasonable time to begin her homework. “Discuss it and then back off,” recommends Gillian McNamee, Ph.D. “Ask your child to be the boss of deciding what help is given, how much and when (in accordance with her teacher’s instructions).” In this way, you help your child to feel in control of her world.
Keep talking even if your school-age child won’t talk to you. “You will feel at times that you have lost your credibility with a school-age child,” comments Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “If you take silence or impulsive remarks personally, things can go quite badly. But they are often simply trying to establish their independence.”
Pause for a Moment Before You Respond
“School-age children want to feel that their parents are listening to, acknowledging and considering what’s on their minds. Pausing for a moment to consider an idea lets your child know you are taking him seriously. Even if your answer will be ‘No,’ you might say, ‘Let me think about that for a minute,’ or ‘Will you tell me that again?’ ”
-Michael Thompson Ph.D. Co-author, Raising Cain, Senior Project Advisor