Evan Woodall, EdS, LPC
Six year olds can be such complicated little humans! They are learning so many new things and their brains are changing so much! With the learning, though, comes the mood swings and the stubbornness. The 6-year old has a strong pull to independence and will push the boundaries in an effort to do things themselves….and then become extremely overwhelmed and just want to cry about it all.
They are curious, creative, and talkative at 6. They probably love showing off their skills...or just showing off in general and like to share their knowledge. They expend so much energy in their excitement that they often tire themselves out resulting pretty good mood swings as well.
Don’t worry, though, you will notice your child calming down, some...we tend to notice they are pretty likeable beings that make us laugh or just like to be silly. They crave routine. They like to be around people and to explore new places.
Self-control is learned around this age...finally, right? They are better able to focus and set goals. Thus they are also starting to become goal-driven. Success is really important at this age because it teaches their learning brain the self-control to be able to focus and reach those goals. Encouragement helps them succeed while failure may teach them to give it. It’s perfectly okay for them to experience the feelings of failing but we don’t want the constant reminders of it (just like their adult counterparts) so make sure to set them up for success too.
They may be:
-becoming aware of differences in themselves and others
-afraid to be alone
-fight bathing, changing their clothes, brushing their teeth...or anything that will make them clean
-sick more often
-learning their handedness, reverse letters, write large, etc.
-enjoy doing work (as long as they are successful)
-are sensitive to criticism
-start feeling judgement
-competitive and/or argumentative with peers and siblings
There are other areas that are also improving...it’s exhausting for adults to think about…while we love our kids, they can be a challenge at this age too...So. Many. Emotions.
-may lie or cheat (Yep. Normal.)
-love to ask questions (Did you know they ask like 300 questions a day?)
-have a longer attention span (though it’s only 20-30 minutes)
-love knock-knock jokes <insert eyeroll>, am I right?
-make up their own rules to games (they never lose that way)
-start recognizing gender roles (“pink is for girls!”)
-sometimes become super interested in the opposite sex
-play with their genitals (not usually as a sexual act)
-may start sexual play (as a curiosity)
-may be bossy (have you noticed yet?)
-get hurt feelings easily
-may be sore losers
They will probably behave worse for their primary caregiver...so mom, dad, you aren’t crazy but it IS normal, so there’s that. No offense guys, it’s usually mom who they are worse for...it may have something to do with mom growing them in their bellies for 9 months...
They do get overwhelmed easily, especially when tasks are challenging. They may need extra help walking through a problem, but ask if they want help, don’t just jump in and fix it for them (that just teaches them that they aren’t competent).
They spew all of their emotions all over everyone...the good and the bad.
Any of this sound familiar?
Yeah, it can be tough. Remember they are growing and learning so much and they are predictable in their inpredictability. Fun times.
Here’s what you can do…
-Spend one-on-one time with your kid
-Practice patience- Remember they are really active and, thus, tire easily, so schedule downtime
-Routines- Set routines, especially around mealtimes and bedtimes.
-Consistency-They NEED and THRIVE on consistency and routines because it gives them a sense of control.
-Choices-Offer choices of just 2 or 3 things, any more than that can prove to be overwhelming
-Praise their efforts, not only their achievements
-Keep your cool
-Give lots of hugs, fist bumps, high fives, ect.
Six-year olds still need you, even when they think they don’t. They need to borrow your ability to think through or problem-solve scenarios. They are often hands-on and curious and will likely do best in activities that allow them to move, explore, and create. Keep that in mind when parenting. They NEED to be playful in an effort to learn the social rules in our world. Keep in mind though, unscheduled/unscripted play is the best play...extracurricular activities are fine but keep them at a minimum because kids need the chance to play and figure out the rules on their own.
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Unfortunately, sometimes we just have to ride the waves with them...as they figure out the world they will become overstimulated and overwhelmed at seemingly small things...that’s typical and okay. When the waves get really big, remember your kid probably needs connection rather than punishment...sit calmly and quietly in the room so their body can borrow your calmness and calm down faster. It’s not in these moments that criticism and threats will help. Stay calm. Stay quiet. Be patient. And remember, they are “too big” for naps (not really, but they think they are) but quiet times will be beneficial. The other thing is to watch them so you will be able to anticipate the emotions and, thus, be able to use your ninja moves to distract them out of the emotional moment...or prepare yourself to help them through it.
Breathe. You got this.
(Oh and when the kids go to bed, laugh at the craziness.)