- Tips for Parents
What are milestones in physical skills development for young children 6-8 years of age?
By the time a child reaches 6 to 8 years of age, gross and fine motor skills have become much more sophisticated and integrated. One of the most impressive changes is related to a child's coordination. They will now have the ability to finely coordinate independent movements of both the upper and lower extremities into a synchronous motion. Successfully riding a two-wheel bicycle requires reciprocal leg motion (one side applies pressure to the pedal while the other leg relaxes) coupled with arm movements to maintain a desired direction all while maintaining the balance necessary to avoid falling. Some sports require these upper- and lower-extremity skills to be developed in tandem (swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, or hockey). Other sports have an emphasis on upper-extremity (baseball, basketball) or lower-extremity (soccer) skills. It is worthwhile for children to experience a number of various sports to allow experimentation in as many avenues as possible. Enjoyment over success should be the focal point.
What are stages in cognitive skills development for young children 6-8 years of age?
In Piaget's stages of cognitive development, the 6- to 8-year-old child has entered the "intuitive phase." Speech patterns have matured, and long and complex sentences are to be expected. Occasional stuttering or stammering may be noticed and should not be considered abnormal unless its existence interferes with academic or social activities. Thought processes are less egocentric, and the child begins to recognize that his/her actions have consequences (both intended and unintended). It should be remembered that children in this age range are bound by concrete thought processes. Behaviors and actions are either black or white -- grays do not exist. As a result specific "dos" and "don'ts" are important. The gradual development of a conscience is a major social milestone of this age range. The dictum "perception is reality" aptly applies to these children -- partially as a consequence of the black-white issue noted above as well as a residual magical belief system coupled with a sense of self-perfection. (The 3- to 5-year-old child believes he can do no wrong since he is perfect.) A 7-year-old may understand that his mother told him not to eat the cookies she has just baked; however, he may purposely invalidate the "do not" command by rationalizing that she would probably offer him one after dinner. Many parents learn by experience that single-step instructions work best in this age group. A shopping list of tasks to accomplish is overwhelming, and 6- to 8-year-old children find it difficult to see the forest through the trees. Lastly, boys in this age range seem to be fascinated by bathroom humor and are notorious for their scatological behavior (for example, by loudly imitating the passing of gas).
One area that may present itself during this period may be the designation for the first time that a child is gifted, either academically, athletically, or in the arts. It may be necessary to investigate and quantify possible academic superiority with formal testing. Such scales as the Stanford-Binet IQ Test or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children -- Revised (WISC-R) are commonly administered by an educational psychologist on retainer by the local school district. It is important for parents to understand that a gifted child may imply either a global intellectual superiority or a more focused enhancement (for example, math) while other academic areas are age appropriate. While it is exciting for parents to have such an intellectually advanced child, there may be strains in family dynamics as a result. The child may feel different, and siblings may suffer misinterpreted praise for their brother/sister as denigrating and lessening of their aptitude. The gifted child may adopt perfectionism as a mantra and suffer a demotion in self-esteem if academic success does not meet expectations. Families may invest large sums of time, emotion, and money to nurture such a child only to discover that he/she would prefer to play with friends. It is important for parents to realize that assignment of a child as gifted does not eliminate the possibility of a focused learning difficulty, ADHD and possible personality disorders associated with these areas. It is crucial to remember that the emotional maturity of the gifted child is generally synchronous with his chronological age.
What are tips for parents caring for a young child 6-8 years of age?
As a reflection of the asynchronous development of motor skills, some 6- to 8-year-old children gradually discover their athletic skills are not keeping up with their peers. The natural competitive nature of this age group and their awakening sense of imperfection and vulnerability are underscored on the athletic field. While many sport leagues attempt to limit this natural competitive instinct by avoiding keeping score or awarding trophies/medals to all players, many children are frustrated by these adult ploys to "make everyone a winner." Better for parents to recognize that their child may not be the best on the team. To the child, this may not seem fair. Emphasizing the purpose of participation in sports is for enjoyment will help a child establish a healthier attitude and provide an escape valve for such frustration.
Similar to the sports field, the family home may become a battleground among siblings trying to establish a pecking order. Parents often feel they are living in the midst of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. For most disputes, parents are most effective by establishing a policy of benign neglect unless significant physical or emotional harm is imminent. One successful strategy is to enforce a policy of loss of privilege/activity/computer-TV time for all combatants (regardless of "who started it" or "who's at fault") unless the involved children can successfully resolve the dilemma by themselves. While this may seem to be impossible at home, teachers often point out peer resolution of problems being successfully handled on a daily basis during school recess and lunch breaks.
By the third grade, many students loudly complain that "school isn't fun." Such a reaction is inherent in the more competitive atmosphere in the classroom where (by definition) everyone isn't always a winner. Commonly, academic evaluation changes from the more abstract (stars, colors, etc.) to traditional (A, B, C, etc.). As a reaction to this perceived unfair inequity, children of this age range start enjoying social bonding groups -- scouting, clubs, teams, and cliques. These groupings are commonly single gender since both boys and girls consider the opposite gender "yucky."
Perhaps one of the most frustrating parental experiences is the child's gradual realization that his parents aren't salient and omnipotent but rather human with their own foibles. The parental fall from Mt. Olympus must be counterbalanced by the continuous efforts of parents to be appropriate role models. Such efforts provide to their children successful strategies and coping mechanisms for the inherent frustrations of this age range. The transition from "doing it because I told you to" to "you should do it because you know it is the correct thing to do" is started during this time period.
How can parents ensure the safety of their young children 6-8 years of age?
For the 6- to 8-year-old child, parents have a primary obligation of providing an emotional safety net for an often turbulent period. Reinforcing that the love and respect they have for the child is not dependent upon academic, athletic, or social success is important. Coupled with this unconditional love must be the expressed parental belief of what is expected and what consequences may occur.
Parents have an obligation to provide athletic equipment that is both age appropriate and sized correctly. The concept of "he'll grow into it" can be a recipe for accidents. Bicycles, bike/ski helmets, skis/snowboards, and baseball bats/gloves should properly fit the child at the time the equipment is purchased. Many sporting goods stores have end-of-season exchanges facilitating "trading up" in size or skill level of equipment.
While many children feel they are adept swimmers, drowning remains an unfortunate event in this age range. Whether associated with accidental trauma (head vs. shallow pool bottom) or panic in ocean waves or undertow/riptides, constant adult supervision is mandatory.
Automobile seat belt and booster seat laws vary by state and should be strictly reinforced. Parental seat belt use and avoidance of distractions (cell phones, food, etc.) all underscore that absolute vigilance is necessary when operating a moving vehicle. Pedestrian safety rules ("walk" and "don't walk" signs) should be reinforced to children.
Passive smoke, firearms in the home, and easy access to matches are other areas in which parents can intervene to further guarantee their children's safety.
In the end, although there are never any guarantees, all parents are shepherds who must try to guide their children safely to the next stage in life.