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Six-year-olds: Development, behavior and parenting tips

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Your budding 6-year-old

Understanding your 6-year-old requires a basic understanding of what is happening developmentally. This is the age when your child's personality really begins to shine, while their little bodies undergo some major growth.

Six year old girl

Every parent has hoped for that mythical parenting handbook to appear at one time or another — to no avail, of course. Hoping won't get you far when it comes to parenting, but learning all you can about your child's stage of development will definitely give you an advantage when it comes to parent-child relations.

What's happening physically?

Six-year-olds will demonstrate increased control over their bodies, while their physical development continues to boom. They also show an ability to perform tasks associated with more advanced activities such as athletics, dance, drawing or dressing themselves.

According to Dr Anandi Narasimhan www.doctoranandhi.com, a noted child psychiatrist based in Los Angeles, "Six-year-olds begin to make gains in their developmental, motor and language milestones. They develop better motor coordination, and at this age they may learn to ride a bike."

The energy level of your 6-year-old may surprise you, though most do fall asleep easily at night. How much sleep do they need? Doctors recommend around 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

What's happening neurologically?

The brain of a 6-year-old is pretty much full-sized, but it will continue to develop neurologically over the next 20 years. At this time, your child will have a good sense of right and wrong, although he will still need some direction from you, especially when it comes to more advanced concepts like time management and organization. This is the time when children really start to actively interact with the world around them, rather than simply observing and reacting.

"Six-year-olds begin to further develop language skills, writing skills, and understand more abstract concepts," says Dr Narasimhan.

What's happening socially AND emotionally?

Six-year-olds are just starting to explore their mini-social scene. Friendships can blossom, but they can also fizzle, which may be a new concept. "They also will want to seek approval from authority figures like parents and teachers," says Dr Narasimhan. "Children at this age will want to socialize and develop friendships, and sometimes will have conflicts with certain concepts like sharing."

Although it can sometimes be difficult to watch your child grow up, your opinion and feedback is important to your 6-year-old. She will need your guidance when it comes to learning how to share, dealing with the drama of relationships and expressing emotion.

parenting Tips for 6-year-olds

When children are young, it seems like each year comes with a new set of challenges. With that in mind, Dr Narasimhan suggests the following tips for parents of 6-year-olds:

  • Provide your child with a structured environment, routines and physical activity. Positive reinforcement can also be highly effective. This involves praising or offering a reward for positive behaviors and applying consequences such as time-out or taking away something (like TV time) for negative behavior.
  • Many parents remember to enforce consequences but forget to do a lot of positive reinforcement. Sometimes it may seem unnatural to praise behaviors that are expected of the child, but it is important to remember that if you want to see more of these behaviors, it helps to provide children with incentives. Even simple praising or thanking can make a child feel special, appreciated and more likely to continue to display those behaviors.

Chances are your 6-year-old will put your parenting skills to the test but with a little guidance, you can make this a memorable year.

More child development tips:

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