Normal behavior for 8-year-olds

Friday, April 02, 2010

Eight is great when it comes to your child! Your young person is getting more independent, perhaps shares some of your interests, and can still be reasoned with. But what else is typical for eight-year-olds with their siblings, classmates, parents and friends?

Can eight also have its rough spots?

The answer is, of course, but Chip Woods, "YARDSTICKS: CHILDREN IN THE CLASSROOM AGES 4-14" helps take some of the guesswork out of your child's behavior at every stage. Let's explore 8-year-olds up close!

Eight-year-olds can feel invincible. They have tons of energy and imagination and very little idea of their vulnerabilities. It's tricky trying to help them think through the work that might be involved behind staging a neighborhood play by tomorrow, or doing a science project in 2 days if they haven't prepped.

So part of a parent or teachers' job with eights is to help them cut down tasks to bite-sized pieces. Homework is a perfect example. If your 8-year-old is struggling to get it all done, or to feel competent with a tough math problem or a long spelling list, try breaking it into a morning and evening effort.

With my son last year, I had Jake do half his math problems in the evening, and leave several for after breakfast. Then I make sure to praise him for how much easier they went the next day! Or you can keep a chart from the beginning of the school year, showing your youngster how much progress they've already made. In September they mastered 3-digit addition, by October they started subtraction of short numbers, November was longer equations, etc. It helps to remind them how far they've come since 8-year-olds will often be one of two extremes, overly confident or overly critical of themselves.

Plus don't be too worried if your eight-year-old complains about being "bored." It might mean they're getting frustrated with homework or schoolwork that's hard and they're struggling to find another approach. They need your encouragement and you shouldn't label them "lazy" or "unmotivated." It might help if you tell them an example from your day of something you didn't get right the first time and how you tried a few different ways without giving up.

Here's a typical checklist of 8-year-old behaviors:

  • Like to talk, explain their ideas, but often exaggerate
  • They tend to have a limited attention span and love to socialize
  • They're beginning to master handwriting, handcrafts, computers and drawing
  • They're good at cooperating in a group and hang with kids of the same gender
  • They adjust well to change and can bounce back quickly from mistakes with some gentle encouragement
  • May still be awkward physically, but like to play hard and therefore they tire quickly
  • They like responsibility but often don't finish long tasks; short jobs are better.
  • They start showing interest in logic and how things work
  • They work best in groups and enjoy the sense of unity and cohesion from group projects at home and school
  • They still enjoy being read to from longer chapter books with more detail
  • Favorite themes include nature, history, community institutions like the newspaper or bank, their neighborhood
Try out some different approaches. I remember Jake went through a month or two where he couldn't just get up, sit at the breakfast table, and sit through 3 hours of school before having a "break" at recess to run around at 11:30 a.m. So I started getting him up 20 minutes early, and playing a quick game of catch or pretending to "run the bases" in our rec room to help him get out some energy before breakfast.

If your child has 10-15 minutes before the school bell rings to do the same thing on the playground, that's another solution. Just try to think outside the box and help your child instead of just punishing them for being antsy at school. Because although your eight-year-old might start looking more mature, they still have plenty of "little kid" in them that needs to be nurtured. A combination of responsibilities and good old-fashioned fun should do the trick!

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