The Science of Parenting

School-agers | S.5 Ep. 5

May 06, 2021 Season 5 Episode 5
The Science of Parenting
School-agers | S.5 Ep. 5
Show Notes Transcript

For school-age kids, learning is more than math and reading. Help make your child well-rounded by finding time for play, sports, and new challenges outside of school.

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Hey, welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in three different life stages. One is launched, one is in college, and one is in high school and I am a parenting educator. And today we are going to talk about the research and the reality around parenting school-agers or sometimes we call it middle or late childhood.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, or elementary age or elementary. This is the one that's like weird, like all the other ages we talk about. It's like you're a toddler. You're a preteen. You're middle.

Lori Korthals:

And you know, I have been struggling with those words.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, she's like middle and late childhood.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, that's middle. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Anyway, we're talking about school-agers, right? Yes, it's just easier. It is. So yeah, we're talking this season about the different ages and about the skills and the things that our kids are working on at different ages from birth all the way up through early adults. And as we look at this, looking at some of that research, we're talking about our typically developing kids. But we know that every kid develops at their own pace, right? Some might be a little early, some might be kind of right on time, and some might be a little later. But our role today is just to provide some research based information to help to allow you to make informed parenting decisions.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, and remember that there are many factors that impact their rate of development in children. One, of course, is that there's temperament involved, right? Season three, all of it. All that temperament information impacts the development of our children. And other things include the environment that they're in, their genetics, all kinds of things. So if you do have concerns about your child's development, we do recommend that you talk with your family health care provider or reach out to a local Area Education Agency.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, lots of really great resources to tap into that want to help us with our kids' development.

Lori Korthals:

They do. And we actually maybe also recorded a short little bonus episode on how it feels to be a parent of a child with special needs.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Because not all kids are typically developing.

Lori Korthals:

No, they aren't. And as we went through this season, I kept thinking, I want to talk to those parents that sometimes feel like I do. And so you have to look for that in our podcast list. But let's kick things off by simply defining what age and stage we're talking about today. So this is the ages between six and 11.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There is this line of we say early childhood is preschool, and then mixed in here together when we put together school age is that middle and late childhood. So some debate, but basically, school age, right, school age children.

Lori Korthals:

Let's call it 6 to 11. So as you think about the six to 11 year old, what do you think is the main task that you see for this age?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I feel like it's the word I always say in all of our episodes when we're talking about school-agers, mastery. They're working on their skills, and they're getting good at stuff. And, you know, I think of in school, you know, and in early childhood, we do a lot more of just learning social rules and some of the beginnings of learning. But now that kids are a little older, they can handle mastering some stuff, right? I think of like math facts, or like shooting a basketball, right? Like their physical stuff. And even making friends. So there's all these skills that they're working on mastering, so much of their world is about getting good at stuff. And yeah, I don't know, what do you think?

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so I thought of a word and I can't decide if that word is because I had an incident with this word during the game or not. But that word is branching. They're branching out. They're going outside of our own family unit more often. And for longer periods of time. They're branching out on the things they try. They may try to climb branches and fall off of branches and encounter the health system for the first time in their life at this age, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm getting a hint of that incident with branching.

Lori Korthals:

Branching, Lori and branching, yes, so we still talk about it to this day. They are, they're branching out away from us. So we talk about different domains at these ages. And that's what we're looking at, especially during this season, are these different categories, these milestones, the things that commonly occur during these ages. And so, as we look at these different categories, we've been walking through kind of the specific typical, again, things that might be happening. And remember, not all kids are going to deliver at the same pace. So ask questions from your health care providers, from your schools, from your administrators, your teachers, colleagues, and friends. But let's look at this first category, physical development. And this is where they really begin to see an increased coordination of small and large muscle movement. You know, kids are trying their hand at different types of physical activity, whether it might be a bicycle or group sports, you know, swimming, soccer, things like that. Patterson calls this the most active period of life. It's where we encourage kids to get outside and play and explore the great outdoors.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Definitely. Outdoor play, I feel like it's such a huge part, just go outside and play. You're playing ball with the neighborhood kids or whatever it is like, yeah, most active. I love that quote of yes, the most active part of life. You're busy. You're exploring now that you're more coordinated, how your body works, and the things you can do. Love that. Yes. And so our text that we are kind of leaning into, of course, we're always looking at the research. But talking about kids' development. For school-agers, we lean on this text by Patterson that has all kinds of good info on our kids' development. So our next domain or category is looking at the cognitive, the language. Sometimes we call this the thinking domain of development. And so one thing to understand about our school-agers is that they're getting a sense now of being able to understand other people's perspectives. So we talked about our preschoolers are still pretty egotistical, but now our school-agers are starting, sometimes, but not always, right. They're not always doing this. But they're getting the skill of being able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. This can help make them a more empathetic friend or sibling. But they're learning about all that. But that also means that they're like, okay, wait, Mom and Dad, when you make rules for me, why? Like, what's that? What's going on with that? And so we also need to make sure we're explaining our reasoning, and all those kinds of things. They need a little more explanation, which also goes along with the second tidbit about their thinking or cognitive domain is that they're starting to increase their processing speed. Like they're not a computer.

Lori Korthals:

They are very quick witted.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. So quick witted, quick thinking. Sometimes maybe just a little back talk. Right, it comes out quick. They're thinking of a response a little faster. But like I said, I have young kids, and I very much look forward to the day I can give multi-step directions. Yeah, cuz school-agers are getting better at sequencing. And they're just processing faster. Instead of, okay, get your shoes. Okay, alright, put on your coat. Okay, we're gonna walk with car. It's like, hey, shoes, coat, car, let's go.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Sometimes not always. Yeah, but they're getting to be quicker thinkers in school age. They can process more things like that. And then finally, this one I think is fascinating when we do get to teach about language and reading. Up to third grade, so about halfway in the middle childhood, kids are learning to read, right? They're doing lots of practicing, spelling, letters, phonics, all that great stuff. But after third grade, kids are kind of expected to read to learn, so to take in new content in school. So that's why third grade is kind of such a pivotal age. Because we see how the teaching changes and so right, it's a really important part to understand about your school-ager, right? Are they learning to read? Or is it now where they're now expected to be able to read in order to take in their information from school?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, yes. It's such an important piece that sometimes we forget about that third grade and after that, they're starting to really need that reading skill, to continue to learn in other areas.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So we do, we really encourage with our young kids, reading with them, helping them learn to read and and then continuing to kind of build that love. Exactly. For sure, exactly.

Lori Korthals:

So the final category that we've been looking at for this particular age is social and emotional. And as parents, we may have to be ready to adjust to all of the different emotions that are becoming more and more apparent during this timeframe. Right, we've had these toddler and preschool emotions, but in this middle childhood, we have a lot more words and naming of these emotions, right. All of a sudden, it's not just mad, it's, you know, furious or irritated. Right. So different different options for mad,

Mackenzie Johnson:

The intricacies of emotions.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, we might need to be prepared to have to, you know, keep lines of communications open. Because we may find that the emotions don't match the situation. And we'll explore a little bit that when we talk about the reality and strategies, but during this age, it just becomes important for us to be ready. I think that those are some things I've thought through as you were speakin . Okay, we have to be ready, re dy for that quick thinking. We have to be ready for them to e frustrated with mastery. We ave to be ready for the soci l, emotional types of thin s.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's funny you say that, because like the word you were thinking is ready. And you were just talking about setting the stage. Exactly. I think of like, we know, there's going to be a lot of change happening in puberty and in the teen years. And keeping those lines of communication open. We're establishing that pattern in that relationship. I mean, hopefully, we have been. But you know, we continue to do that in the school-agers in preparation.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. They're going to be starting to develop their own racial identity during this time. Their sense of self is really focusing on their competence, you know, things, how do they categorize their school competence? How do they categorize their, you know, physical competence, or their social competence? They start to have a sense of their place, or their popularity, where they belong in groups, and they might still prefer similar gender groups at this age.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think, I talked about mastery and competence goes right alongside that. But I just think of the big question they're asking themselves is like, what am I good at? Like, you know, yeah, am I popular? Which might mean, I'm good socially. Like, am I popular or am I athletic or am I smart? And I mean, we hopefully we can encourage our kids to be more growth mindset and process oriented, like, I work hard. Those are the kinds of skills we want to encourage in them rather than, oh, you're smart, or not smart. Right? But they are, they're really asking themselves and kind of establishing that sense of self esteem, so much of this is who I am and who I will be. Yeah, they're exploring it while establishing it.

Lori Korthals:

They are because when you're thinking about this age, they're involved in so many different environments. The number of environments is just increased, whether it's the school, the neighborhood, extracurricular activities, familial types of things. Their boundaries have expanded. And so where do they fit in all of these boundaries? And what's their place becomes a big question in the social emotional development.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Definitely, yeah, who am I? What am I good at? And even you know, as they have those relationships with all these different people, right? It's like, okay, who am I on the soccer team? Like, who am I when I am at theater practice? Who am I? And yeah, so much of that sense of like, Who am I? What am I good at? Yeah, a lot of that happening here. So I've got to ask, so knowing what we know about school-agers and what we just walked through, in your own experience, what stands out to you about elementary age, middle and late childhood schooling, for whatever reason?

Lori Korthals:

So I've been trying to visualize each of my three children at this particular age, you know, that six to 11. And I think one thing that really stands out to me is a) how different they are all individually, but also how different they are at the beginning of this stage, and at the end. So each of them in their own right as a human being is different at this stage, but my oldest, she was a very different person at six than she was at 11. Yes. And my middle daughter, the same thing, different child. And so when we come out of parenting that school-ager or that, you know, middle childhood, the expectations we start with at six years old, should be different than at 11 years old. And approaching our parenting during this age shouldn't start with, here they are as an 11 year old. And here they are as a six year old. And we grow and change with them as they become the 11 year old.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Definitely, I think you're bringing a great point. The CDC actually splits in terms of how they offer positive parenting advice and those things. They split in middle and late childhood because there is a lot. Five years, a lot happening in those five years. And the first five years, we covered three different stages. We did infant, toddler, preschool. Exactly.

Lori Korthals:

Definitely. And then it's 11, right? And we said the brain doesn't stop growing till 25. So at the end of this stage of development, their brain is still barely half built.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah.

Lori Korthals:

Their brain is barely half built. So there's a lot of learning and growing and changing left to do.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They are getting more responsible, but at the same time, like, hold on. A lot of growing left to do. Hold on. These are not just small adults.

Lori Korthals:

No, they are not. And sometimes by the time they're 11, they might be your size. So they might feel like a small adult, right? What about, in your experience, what stands out for you?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, well, not having a school-ager yet. But as we walk through these domains, these categories and understanding the different ways that our school age kids are developing, yeah, that idea of self-esteem. And that idea, almost the word that comes to mind is fragile. Because it is such a big developmental time period for them, getting a sense of who they are. And it's like, what am I good at that really sticks out to me and so that we're encouraging our kids' self-esteem, and I know sometimes self-esteem, like I even just did it myself. Like, eye roll a little, it's like overblown and all that and there is a balance for sure. It's not that our kids will never have a hard time or that they need to be good at everything or anything like that. But that we are there cheering them along, encouraging them to take healthy risk, right? It's good to try something new. We can do this. You know what? It's okay if we find out later, this isn't for me. I'm glad I tried it. Yes. And so encouraging that because, yeah, it's very formative. That's kind of the word I want.

Lori Korthals:

That's a good word. I can literally remember something that happened when I was nine, maybe or 10. And that fragility, that fragile word has everything to do with what I believe my own capability is here as an adult, like in middle adulthood. This happened in those years that I suddenly began to believe that I could not do and would not be good at math. Now think about all the years that have come in between that time frame. Yes, that fragile time set the foundation for what I believed in myself about my skills in terms of arithmetic. Hmm.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Saying the word fragile, I remember having a conversation with my mom. Because I was in the kids' choir or whatever, doing this little middle school, not quite middle school, I was a little younger than that. But I remember like, I'm an alto and not a soprano. But what I thought that meant but like your sense of identity is just so starting to be formed. Yeah, we talked about racial identity, how you feel like you fit in, you know, and the skills that you have in these different areas that are honestly, I was gonna say seem like a big deal. They are. They are a big deal to kids as they figure out who they are. Those athletics or extracurriculars, or social skills, skills in school, gender preferences, all of this, all of it is a big part of their identity. I feel like identity is the word I associate more with teens, but it's really here we're starting to develop. It's here, too.

Lori Korthals:

It is. It is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's definitely here. So what do we do about that? We call ourselves The Science of Parenting. So yeah, it's good to understand what our kids are going through at this age, but also looking specifically at, okay, but what do I need to do now that I know that

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. Now that I know.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Now that I know I can do, we got to partner up with ISU professor Dr. Diana Lange, who has an open access book called Parenting in Diverse Contexts. So much great research based parenting information in there. She has these awesome one liners for guiding kids of different ages. And so the one related to school-agers says that, as parents we increase our child's own responsibility for self control via the integration of previously developed internalized rules of conduct. Okay, when I read it like that, it sounds very technical and formal. Let's break it down a little bit. Let's unpack. But we are increasing the responsibility that we give to our child, right? With the choices they can handle, that problem solving, those goals that we talked about. So we increase that responsibility, but the way that we can do it, is by helping them kind of understand the different expectations and appropriate behavior, those rules that they learned as young kids of like, don't bite, try to share your stuff, right? You know, like the rules of games that we play. So all these rules that they've been soaking in their whole life, they're gonna start practicing those rules in other contexts, right? Lori said ranching out. The rul s in the neighborhood, the rules at practice, the rules at school and at home. And so our j b as parents, we get to help the kind of take on more res onsibility by helping them nderstand and integrate those d fferent rules across all the di ferent places they

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. And in the first episode this season, we brought up the work of Ellen Galinsky. And when you look at what she said about this age, she refers to this age stage as the interpretive stage. So that plays right into that. We're helping children interpret all of the things that are happening to them, with them, about them, that they have control over, and interpret their responsibility in it. Help them interpret their self control. Help them interpret how to integrate, and honestly, you know, just help them interpret all these things that they're feeling. And we also need to think about what is our role in their environments. So our children are also interpreting how we as adults are behaving at their sporting events. They're interpreting our behavior with our friends, or our frenemies. They're interpreting us and still watching everything that we're doing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, they're still sponges. And the way we talk about their schoolwork, the way we talk about their teachers. I remember you talking about that in a previous episode of okay, the way I talk about their coach, they're probably internalizing that a little bit. All the modeling, so true, and the interpreting of our behavior.

Lori Korthals:

They're looking for us as to how to treat others.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, they really are, they really are. So we're gonna do it. I'll say we're a little bit getting into the positive parenting tips. We have, I mean, holy cow, so many tips from the CDC for parenting kids of this age. We're gonna highlight just a few of those tips. And so we had some, I mean, several categories, because we had to lump them together. There were so many.

Lori Korthals:

We did. So I'll run through the categories. And then how about we run back to the beginning, point out a couple and then put all of the information on our blog again, just like you did last week. So we'll put the CDC information on the blog, but we'll just highlight a couple of things here. So the categories for our positive parenting tips are going to be things in these arenas, continuing to connect with your child, teaching skills and mastery, guiding behavior to help them learn, supporting academic and social growth, and preparing them for what's about to happen in the coming teen years. So continuing to connect with your child. Tell me a little bit about that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

The tip that really stood out for me in this area is just this idea of talking with your child. Because they're having more experiences outside of our home and our specific circle, we still want to be connected with them. We still want them to know, I'm still in interested in what's going on with you. Just because I'm not physically with you all the time, like I was when you were little. And so really connecting with our kids is having those conversations, doing things together, you know, showing that affection, we should show more interest in their world.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. Connecting with them. Love that. Okay, so the second category is teaching skills and mastery. And here's the deal. Remember, age six through age 11, it is not going to be perfect, right? So helping them develop a sense of responsibility, while at the same time understanding that the things they're responsible for, they're not going to be perfect. Their brain still has another half to grow, right? So things like involving them in household chores. Now, if you have a specific way that you'd like a household chore to be done, that might not be the chore to give them. Give them a chore that it's okay if it's not completed exactly to your specifications. Just remember you're teaching them to develop a sense of responsibility.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm thinking what you're thinking?

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Sometimes not always. Right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. And I think about the ones that really with the skills is this can really start to think more about like goals and problem solving. Yes. So helping them set goals like, okay, you're working really hard on, you know, basketball, on softball, on dance, on theater, like, what are you working on? You know, what's the skill you're trying to build? Are you hoping to make a basket? You know, it's helping them develop those goals. But then on the flip side, helping them problem solve? Because sometimes that goal is not going to go great. Whether that's conflict with friends, or whatever else, but my favorite line is, so what's your plan?

Lori Korthals:

I love hearing you say that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, that's really hard that that's going on, you know, that's maybe not what you expected? Like, what's your plan? What are you thinking? You know, because they do. That also helps with that responsibility of like, I can handle things. I can do it. They can do it.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. My favorite was telling my child when she said, Hey, we're going to go to Sophie's house, and Sophie appens to live five miles out of town. Sophie's mom's gonna bri

Mackenzie Johnson:

So then we move into this category of kind g us. And I remember specifical y saying, great, and how are you getting home? Like, wha 's your plan? Never crossed the r mind. of guiding behavior and helping learn appropriate behaviors. Another big thing, right? We're always working on this in our parenting.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, guiding their behavior. What do you think I'm going to say about guiding behavior? Oh, it totally involves respect, respect, not only respecting others, but respecting yourself, respecting the children, respecting the adults, the adults respecting the children, and having legitimately, real conversations about that word. What does respect mean? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How did it feel when someone didn't give you respect? There is no time like this age group right there to start to teach them about respect, because they're not always within your environment. They're in all of these other environments. And so, you know, they're going to be practicing levels of respect when you're not there. And what do you want that to look like?

Mackenzie Johnson:

And some of the way we do that, you know, is by, I mean, we talked about the modeling, but also how we guide them. And if we go back to last season, how we mentor them, you know. That was one of the three Ms, how we mentor them. And so, you know, there's a tip here about making our rules and our expectations really clear. Also, clarifying what we do not want them to do, right, what the undesired behaviors are. We do offer those clear expectations. And then, because it's sometimes not always right, because they're sometimes not going to follow our expectations, you know, using positive discipline techniques and guidance techniques, because really, our goal is to guide and protect them. And so not focusing so much on the punishment aspect, but more on the positive discipline.

Lori Korthals:

It is, and this is a great space to talk about the fact that they're old enough to help create those guidance plans. So if there is something that they didn't follow through on, you can ask them, well, what do you think the consequence should be? You know, they could come up with the consequence. They could come up with the plan ahead of time. If you have a particular thing that you struggle with with your child, you know, sit down and talk about it with them in a time when neither of you is emotional, and have a conversation and help them come up with the plan for the consequences when this you know, type of behavior happens, or this follow through doesn't exist.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. When the expectations not met for sure. Mm hmm.

Lori Korthals:

So the next category is support academic and social growth. And I love what you said about this one, so I'm going to give this one to you.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. The word that stood out to me through so many of these was just involved. Like, as a parent, we're getting involved. We're encouraging our kids to be involved. And I think respecting whatever the level that is for you and your child, you know, some kids would enjoy being at a practice, you know, however many nights a week and some kids are like, I want to stay home, I don't enjoy too much physical activity. I'm tired after school. And so getting a sense of what kind of involvement makes sense for your child to take some of that healthy risk. You know, try new things, but also for you, you know, showing your child that you care about the world by being involved in it. You know, whether coaching, PTA, just asking questions or being present when things are going on. Finding ways that make sense for you and for your specific reality and your family to be involved.

Lori Korthals:

And your temperament and their temperament. Yes, exactly. And then the last category is to start to think about how can you prepare them for the changes that are going to be happening in their preteen and teen years. And a really important message from us, as well as the CDC, is this age is not too early to start having those conversations. Start having conversations about what your family values and beliefs are when it comes to risk taking behaviors, like alcohol or drugs or smoking. Those things that impact physical health, decision making with friends and peers. This is the age to start having those conversations. It is not too early. Children are exposed to many, many things during this age, when they are not in your own home environment. So you need to be brave and have those conversations.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think talking, you know, I love keeping it in the context of we're talking about our family values, because that goes across peer pressure situations, giving them a heads up for that. What they see on the media, right? At this age, we have less control of that. What's their friends say, what they hear their coaches say, their teachers say. And so keeping that in the perspective of family values around those things keeps it an open conversation. But then the other thing we also talk about, puberty is coming in the preteen. And honestly, for some kids, it's going to be coming in late childhood. And so giving them a heads up on, you know, that these changes could be coming. We don't want them to be surprised and then feeling secretive about that. And so helping them understand how things will be changing for them in their body and their emotions with their friends, all that kind of stuff. And so again, just getting them ready so they feel prepared for the changes that they're going to be taking on. And like we said, whether it's risky choices, healthy development, whatever it is, it's not too early to start talking about it for sure.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And we have some resources to share as well.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We do. So now they're a little older. I've talked about our Ages and Stages newsletters before, written by our fabulous colleague, Lesia Oesterreich. There's some on school aged kids that just help us understand. It's like a front and back sheet. It really summarizes it really nicely, our kids' development who are school aged kids. But another one that I really love is actually from 4H colleagues. We know that in school agers, a big question we tend to have is when is my kid ready to be home by themselves, whether is for a few hours or however long. And so our 4H colleagues have a really great opportunity called On Their Own and Okay. And so there's information for your kids to participate in to get a better sense of how to be safe when they're home alone. And then also a part for you as a parent to give you information about how to make that decision safely and with your specific kid in mind. So yeah, On Their Own and Okay and then our Ages and Stages publications. Great resources that are research based.

Lori Korthals:

They are, they are, and you can find the Ages and Stages on the right hand side of our website if you just go over and click the links over there, you'll see them down the right hand side. So we debated today whether we were going to invite our producer Kenzie DeJong. We noticed earlier today that her internet wasn't working very well. And we thought, well, this would be a great opportunity to just practice not having a Stop. Breathe. Talk. moment. You know, that moment in our episode where we give our producer an opportunity to ask us a question kind of off the cuff, one that we don't know about. And she comes in and helps us to take a breath and think about our topic. You know, just from a different perspective. Hi, Kenz.

Mackenzie DeJong:

And then it automatically, for some reason, put me in the middle of you two, rather than alongside, like it usually does. So I moved myself over. So you talked about this a little bit and to be fair, I had this question ready to go, in the bag, you didn't really talk about it as much beforehand, and then you started talking about it a little more in depth in the actual recording of the podcast. So I would like to talk a little bit more about organized activities. So this is the age when our kids really are getting into those organized activities we have. Usually they're involved in things like dance or other sports. I know I did basketball when I was a kid. My nephew's in Taekwondo, or 4H starts during this time, art, and Mackenzie mentioned music, that sort of thing. How does a parent, and you kind of touched on this already, but how does a parent decide how many activities they should get their kids involved in? Or they should let their kids be involved in or like, or do I just pick one? Do I let him be involved in everything? How do we make those decisions?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I have thoughts on this. Because I have a four and a half year old right now. So this is a literal conversation in our house regularly of like, oh, there's an opening? Like, oh, you could sign up for this. Oh, you could sign up for this. Oh, do that. Here's the newsletter from school, you can do this. So, okay, my answer is actually like, it really super depends on your reality. And so some of the things we're considering in our family, in order to make this decision, the financial commitment. We are not willing to put more money into an extracurricular activity than is reasonable for our family. And so the financial commitment is a big consideration for us. The time commitment. Part of that is because sometimes, you know, our job can be somewhat irregular in hours. And for me, I didn't want to be signing my child up for an activity that I didn't know if I'd be able to attend. Because that's how I want to be involved at this age, in this season of life that we're in. And so your time commitment. You know, if you have a parent that's working overtime shifts, like it's a very different thing than if you're working a nine to five, or if you're working part time, or 60 hours a week. And even a stay at home parent, you know, there's still time commitment factors. And so the time commitment, and then the interest of your child. You know, I did not do dance. I did like basketball, softball, volleyball, all of these things. But if my daughter's interested in dance, or if my son is interested in dance, and so that is a thing as parents, I think we envision as parents. My husband talks about that. I pictured being their t-ball coach. I pictured being there and so sometimes that can be a little bit of like a, oh, you don't want to do this thing? I've pictured this thing but following their interest, but keeping it reasonable. It's okay for you to say like we can't commit to dance, soccer, theater and like, let's try this right now. Yes, it's okay for you to have boundaries as a parent around that.

Lori Korthals:

It is and I think that there is a lot of, we need to go back to season two parental shaming, judging, unrealistic expectations that we put on ourselves. And so I would say that we need to look at who is really interested in that activity. Is it us or the child? And then it's important to continue to watch and observe during that activity. And so let's say that you do pick a couple of activities, and all of a sudden, you find that your child and you are maybe more irritable with each other, or you find that your child is kind of shutting down, maybe they're getting more ill more frequently. And so it's really important to be able to be open to the suggestion that maybe it's too many, if you have more than one, and maybe one is too many at the beginning of this stage. Some children are not going to, their temperament, they are just not the highly active child. And so, you know, recognizing that, and then being okay with saying, not right now. It doesn't have to be not ever. And I also recognize that, you know, there are some activities that if you don't enroll your child by early in middle childhood, they can't play on a certain team or be at a certain level. And we also have to be okay with that. We also have to be okay with, you know what, it's alright that this isn't the way we envisioned. The last thing I would maybe toss out there is the idea that it's okay not to finish, especially if we are seeing very strong reactions. And I say this in that idea of I remember, you know, people, whether it was other families or other students or other parents saying, you may not quit midseason. And I understand that. I totally understand the idea of following through. But at the same time, being very observant to recognize the signs of if we don't step back from this, it will cause more harm than the good of the lesson of following through. Right. And so, it's so easy before we're in a situation to set hard and fast rules that sometimes the most important thing we can do is allow ourselves to change our minds, and not have such rigid rules about things we haven't experienced yet.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Are you saying I have to be flexible?

Lori Korthals:

Oh, Kenzi? You have to be flexible.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think it's a really great question. And it's one I think, we struggle with as parents, how much and when and when to say no. I love a framework, we know that, I love when there's like a super clear cut. And it is, it just really depends and I think you make a great point about the judgement of it. It does feel like a lot of pressure, social pressure from other parents, family members, whoever it might be, but ultimately, only you and your family know your very specific reality that affects that decision. And it's okay for you to say, I can't commit to this. That's not realistic for me. And then your kids can help you problem solve, too, right? Get involved in this decision.

Lori Korthals:

Yes.

Mackenzie DeJong:

This is a high school example. But I basically had the choice in high school to do dance or everything else. Because dance is pretty expensive, with costumes and everything. And that was one of those that like, I had to make a decision, but it was my decision. You know, as a younger child, as a school ager, it might be if you can only afford one, dance or all the sports you want to be involved in. That sort of thing that might be you know, part of that decision making with your child.

Lori Korthals:

And, you know, a six year old really is not capable of making that decision on their own. Right. And especially, then having to have that firm stance of well, you decided, so now we're going to follow through. Okay, but, you know, detrimentally, they're not sleeping at night, and they're anxious and they're anxiety ridden over, you know, having to now show up and that you know, they're six, right? So, you need to have some flexible thinking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Definitely. And especially does a six year old have, like, I mean, cognitive capacity to understand the very tangible responsibilities and having to come and like, I can't stay home? I want to stay home. You know, understanding their development does help inform that picture, too. And I will say, we have been getting nudges to get our child involved in things at a younger age, and I've been like, no, not yet. Like, no, I'm not there yet. And like, literally, I'm not there yet. But also, my child likes to be at home. My child will ask me if we stop on the way home from school or from picking up from childcare kind of stuff. Don't stop, let's go home. All of those things roll into this decision.

Lori Korthals:

They do. Yes. Good question. Excellent question.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I'm glad we can go into that a little more deeply, too, because I was worried when you started mentioning it in the tips that there was definitely more to talk about.

Lori Korthals:

They ruined my question.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Thanks, Kenz. So yeah, that's our producer, Mackenzie DeJong. She does. She comes in with our flagship parenting strategy of stop, taking a breath, and then talking. We like to take pause there and think about what's really important here. And so we know with our school-agers, that is a big question that we have. So we did, we walked through, you know, we're looking at middle and late childhood school-agers, six to 11 year olds, talking about some of the domains, the cognitive changes, social changes, emotional, physical, all these things that are still going on. They're not even halfway there yet in their brain development, right, Lori.

Lori Korthals:

They are not even halfway there yet.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They've got a lot of years left to develop, which is hard, because I think they get a little more responsibility, and they seem more responsible. And it's like, come on, but still a kid. But yeah, so much great stuff here. Great tips for helping our kids kind of interpret the world around them.

Lori Korthals:

It is. So next time we're going to talk about preteen, not teen yet. So, you know, you said we walk through five years here from six to 11. We're actually really just gonna kind of be talking about that, you know, 11 to 12 year old next time. That preteen and so you know, come back and hang out with us. And thank you for joining us today on The Science of Parenting. Remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. You can watch the show on video each week and join us on Facebook and Twitter at scienceofparents to see our content in your feed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.