Your Budding

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, 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:

Tags: children's emotions

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Comments on "Six-year-olds: Development, behavior and parenting tips"

Natalie December 02, 2013 | 1:42 PM

Spanking is abusive to a child. Teaching respect and self control is important - hurting your child will not teach him self control or better behavior it will teach him that you hurt him. Wrong move. If the child is having bad behavior try speaking to his developmental paediatrician for advice. Maybe there is an underlying issue. I have a very intelligent, stubborn son who is also controlling. Turns out he is Autistic. Patience and love and always remember any behavior is shaped by this equation: CHILD + YOU + Environment = Behaviour. Is something bothering him? Sensory issues? Stop and think if perhaps he is just asking for attention and realizes that even if he misbehaves he is getting quite the rise out of Mom. Alternatively - maybe something is happening that is stressing him and he can only let it out to Mom because he feels safest with her. Try to analyze what happens before the atrocious behavior - where in the home, are there noises, smells, something in the environment bothering him, is he bored, tired, lonely, etc. What we've learned is that you have to be 100% consistent. Having house rules can help too - what is acceptable and what is not needs to be spelled out and the child needs to be reminded daily in a loving manner and praised for good behavior.

Kim June 06, 2013 | 2:08 PM

There's nothing wrong with controlled spanking for a disrespectful child. She may need to read Dr. Dobsons The Strong Willed Child. Another good resource is the If-Then chart. You can google and print a copy. It has If you then the consequence is. A 6yr old can understand that well, and consistency will produce results. The five Love Languages of Chidren is a good read to make sure he's bein loved in a way he receives it best while discipline changes are happening.

Anne Kember December 04, 2012 | 11:04 AM

My daughter has been experiencing upsetting times with the dreadful behaviour of her 6 yr old child Max. He is constantly extremely rude, very controlling. Her husband thinks she is too soft and she thinks he is too hard in that he does constantly nag the child. They have tried everything reasonably bar smacking which they don't wish to resort to. Max does not behave like this elsewhere and also as my daughter agreees, exhibits this rudeness which is directed mainly at her. She wonders what it is she gives out that seems to produce this awful behaviour. This evening she rang me and Max wanted to know who she was talking to and if it was Super Nanny about his behaviour and if so he would behave well while Super Nanny was in the house but as soon as she had gone, would play up again. He is a very articulate child but also very knowing. she naturally fears for him in later years if this behaviour cannot be checked. Is there anywhere she can go to get help? Be grateful if there is any advice to be had.

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