The Science of Parenting

School-Ager Set Point | S.7 Ep.5

November 04, 2021 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 7 Episode 5
The Science of Parenting
School-Ager Set Point | S.7 Ep.5
Show Notes Transcript

School-agers face many things that may bring out – or go up against – their natural set point. Homework, teacher/child interactions, friendships, organized activities… all times when their temperament can be noticed! Learn ways to help your 6 to 11-year-old navigate life through a temperament lens. 

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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 two different life stages. Two are launched, and one is in high school, and I am also a parenting educator. And here we are, again, talking about temperament. We're in season seven and we have been sharing for several weeks now about the idea of looking at temperament from a child development perspective. We took our season five child development ages and stages, all those developmental things, and combine it with season three, which was all about those nine temperament traits. And so we have been, I don't know, sort of marrying, combining collaborating, mishmashing, talking about those developmental milestones and how temperament can interact with, play into it, enhance at times, those temperament traits.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Highlight, enhance. Yes, I was gonna say other words, those are probably that's plenty. Those are plenty.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, that works.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. And that we get to talk about middle childhood. Right. And what is it? I don't know what it is about this stage in particular? I think it's because all the rest, I feel like, they have a name like you're a preschooler, you're a toddler, you're a teen. You're a school age, middle childhoo, middle School, middle childhood, no.

Lori Korthals:

So we're talking about the ages from six to 11. Today, if you have a child in those ages, if you know a child in those ages, if you were once a child in those ages, that's what we're focusing on today.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So yeah, we get to see how that temperament is going to interact with this age. How do we see it come out to play with the developmental tasks that kids are working on when they are school agers? Maybe I just need to let go the middle childhood thing. School agers. Yeah, school agers. Let's do that. But one thing that we do know about temperament, and honestly lots of things, is that it influences our relationship with our kids, because parenting is actually a bi-directional process. So, you know, so often we think about like, well, I'm the parent, I impact my child, right? All these things of if parents would just, or you know, and there's this aspect of, but also my child influences me as a parent, right? My child's temperament being a big one, of course, which we focus on. But you know, there's also things like gender identity, bi th order, health status, all f these other factors that mix in that affect us as parent , and how we parent and just thi little cycle of our child im acts so we do this thing, our ch ld does this thing, we impact o r child, right? Around we g .

Lori Korthals:

And around and around.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hopefully, it's like a carousel and not like a sickening merry go round. But so yeah, we get to see how we're going to talk a little bit about how that temperament comes out to play in middle childhood. And yeah, how it intermixes with these developmental milestones, as we call them. In middle childhood, I just said I wasn't gonna say it anymore, in middle childhood, in our school-agers, or just something like that.

Lori Korthals:

So let's just take a quick moment to remember what temperament is. And we have been sharing a definition, one that Mary Rothbart and her colleagues use, but I came across something last week as we were researching and it has stuck with me. Even in the middle of the night, I'll wake up and think, oh, I love that. And so in a good way, middle of the night, right? It's alright. It hasn't been an anxiety ridden middle of the night. But this idea that temperament is our factory settings. So I think of my phone, right? So here were the factory settings, okay. And this is how it works. This is how I work. This is how temperament made me work. And then what happens is, we begin to put all these apps on our phone, right? Things that help us and things that remind us and ways we want to behave, remember, and that's what temperament is. So temperament is that foundation, and then interactions we have with others, those close to us in our lives, our teachers, our family members, our neighbors, all of those things begin to adjust the factory settings. Yeah. Now here's the deal. Remember, those factory settings are always there, right. And oftentimes, when we are highly stressed, very sick, we return to those factory settings and temperament. And so that has just been swirling around in my mind. And, you know, my mind is kind of a swirl anyway. So add in this idea of factory settings. Ooh, I've been thinking about that all along.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. Okay. So when you shared this earlier, I took notes on why I think it's a beautiful metaphor on temperament. So one of the things I love was this idea of, when you have your baby, when you adopt a child, whatever it might be, when this child arrives in your life, you're opening the package, and you don't know exactly what you're going to get. Right? You don't know exactly what temperament they're going to be gifted. You might have some insight, like, okay, my co-parent and I are both yada, yada, in terms of temperament. So you might have some insight, but ultimately, you haven't had that experience with their temperament. Kind of like when you open a brand new phone, maybe it's the upgraded model. So you have a sense maybe, but really, it's like, maybe brand new. It's like, I gotta learn this, right? I gotta figure out how this new thing works with the settings it's given. Okay, so that was one thing. Another one is that it's always in the background. Right? You open up that phone for the first time and those settings are just there. They're going to be there. They're not going to go away. But I also loved, but wait, with the factory settings is also like, what ringtone it's automatically on? Oh, I love that. Right. That's also part of the factory settings. But that can be adjusted and adapted, right? Like with the apps and reminders, we can learn ways to adapt with our temperaments. I like this. It's there. It's in the background. It's genetic. Yeah, it's not changing. But the way we can learn to interact with the world and navigate the world with our temperament can be adjusted. The ring tones can be adjusted. The brightness and the way we navigate the world with it can be adjusted. So I was like, oh, look at your metaphor.

Lori Korthals:

Should we go back and record everything?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do. I think this is what happens. You bring this brilliant word picture into my brain. And my brain is like, hey, don't let this go. Add nine more things to it.

Lori Korthals:

But also, you said something, and I kept thinking, oh, my gosh, what is our expectation when we open the package? And then what's the reality?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Whoo. I think of the transition. This is so silly. But like, when my phone went from having a button on the bottom to now I have no button on my touch screen. Yeah, it's touchscreen only, there's no home button. And I think of how big of a transition that was for me. And I'm like, hey, remember that time that you had a baby that was very spirited and it was not what you expected and you had to learn a whole new way of doing things without a home button. Uh huh.

Lori Korthals:

And a whole new phone the next time you got a different phone like you had another baby. You had a whole different version.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Totally different.

Lori Korthals:

So yeah, this could just open up a whole new podcast. Okay, but ages six to 11, that school ager. Right. Okay, so what is happening developmentally? That's what we want to talk about, what developmentally. Just a quick reminder, the ages six to 11, what are they learning? What does their body look like? What are they thinking? Ooh, please help us learn what they're thinking. Right? So they have grown into this tiny human being, tiny adult maybe. They have way more language. They have lots more physical skills. They can argue and discuss with us, right. They can negotiate with family members with their learning and how to negotiate with friends. Physically, they have a lot of different skills, they might even be playing some organized sports. So physically, they're more mature, a little bit more coordination, the ages six to 11, boom, a lot happens. We talked about cutting this down into different, you know, shorter segments, but we're gonna stick with this middle childhood school age, but you know, there's a lot that looks differently from the age of six to the age of 11. And so as we think about this is a really critical time that, you know, children are developing confidence in all areas of their life. As you think about schoolwork and friends and even just confidence around the house with household chores, or around the neighborhood riding their bike up and down the driveway right, then onto the sidewalk, then down to the corner. Okay, so a lot of different things happen during this age frame.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think you just highlighted, if you listened back in season five, when we did the ages and stages on school agers, we talked about this big range between six to 11. But I think the thing you highlighted is they're still in the same kind of stage of development, similar milestones. The difference between age six and age 11 is how much? Right? Learning to get yourself ready in the morning when you're six, what are the things that I need? Versus how much more elevated it is to get yourself ready when you're 11? Yeah, like, I can ride my bike now that I'm six, right? I have this figured out, versus I can ride my bike to the corner versus I can ride to my friend's house.

Lori Korthals:

And I want to ride farther. Right? And I want to ride farther.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And we talked about mastery is a huge part of being a school ager. That's what's happening here, the mastery. And so yeah, they are getting more independence from us and our family. You might notice their interest in their friends is really increasing at this age. And so friendship is a huge part of healthy development for our school aged kids. They don't spend all their time at home with us anymore. They're like, Oh, I'm in this extra activity with my friends, or I want to go to another neighbor's house wherever they might be. But because friendship is increasingly important, we also start to see the beginnings of peer pressure. Because they really value the social relationships, some kids particularly related to their temperament can be more prone to that peer pressure, you know, sometimes just risk taking. I jumped out of a tree and broke my leg during this stage because I was taunted, actually by my siblings.

Lori Korthals:

Funny, so did I but it was my wrist, right? So yes. Maybe that's a rite of passage breaking a bone in middle childhood.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But the risk taking and the peer pressure can increase. So yeah, it can be important to help our kids with that confidence, help building those skills to navigate those social relationships. That's a lot of what we focus on in the school age, but also a few more that I think are interesting that I'm like, okay, don't go on and on. But a few more worth highlighting. One, they're starting to be able to handle a little more responsibility, right? Along with that mastery of tasks, right, at six, I can handle even more responsibility. At 11 of being able to go further on my bike and of handling more household tasks, of maybe doing my own laundry, of things like that. Responsibility. Yeah, that's a good one, responsibility. Okay, and then two more and I'll keep them quick. One, thinking about for some kids, puberty will start during this middle childhood, you know, towards that age of 10 or 11, especially for girls. And so helping prepare our kids for that is something that's important during this time period. And that for those 11 year olds, depending on what school district you're in, you might be getting ready to go to middle school. And so the transition of how that's very different than the experience that they've had in elementary school. So anyway, lots going on with our school aged kids, lots and lots.

Lori Korthals:

There is a ton and Dr. Diana Lang is a faculty member at Iowa State University, and she has given us permission to utilize her book. And in her book, she talks specifically about temperament in this age range. And the temperament theorists that she talks about in her book are ones that we've talked about. And that's Thomas and Chess. And they really identify that idea of goodness of fit of parents and adults really taking the time to understand children's temperament allows for us to have this more positive relationship. Because we begin to understand that natural factory setting, right, and especially as these children go out into the world more in schools and formal settings, the more adults that can understand that natural factory setting, and how to work with it allows for this idea of a better fit, more mutual understanding, more positive interactions, and just that back and forth, like you said, bi-directional opportunities. And this really is important during this age as children kind of begin to decide who am I in this great big world?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. And yeah, you know, you mentioned confidence, responsibility and mastery, all of these things and the feelings about who they are as people, you know, can really be solidified during these years. And so, yeah, we want to understand our kids' temperament, help them develop, you know, sometimes it's us developing goodness of fit, but sometimes it's helping them learn the skills to create better fit in their environments. Maybe by asking for what they need, by learning strategies to adapt, whatever it might be. So there is, there's a lot going on here.

Lori Korthals:

There is. Okay, so let's pull the two together. Let's pull temperament in and we're going to use Thomas and Chess' nine different traits. And as we look through these traits with that lens of the six to 11 year old, remember, what we're looking at is, how much of each particular trait did the child receive, because it's a continuum, right? They either receive a little bit of this trait from us genetically, or a lot. And as we talk through the age and temperament, kind of collaboration, let's call it a collaboration between development and temperament. How can we as the adult caregiver really help them begin to understand their temperament? And how can we the adult caregiver, have a better fit with them and their temperament instead of trying to change the temperament? Yeah, because we know that can happen, right? That's not happening. That doesn't work. Alright, so I'm going to start off with activity level, and then I'll let you kind of continue on. So activity level, that natural energy, that natural kind of gusto in terms of how fast or how slow do we move. And think of this as children at this age, they move. They're involved in things that make them move, right. So do they feel more energized after moving or is this something where you know, they might be energized and active and then need a break. So a more active or highly active school aged child, you might find them racing out to the playground at recess, and spending a majority of their recess doing things like climbing and running and kicking, and really engaging in that movement type of activity, and that's energizing them and giving them energy for the rest of the day. Where a less active child, you know, they might run out to the playground, take a couple pumps on the swing, climb up the gym equipment, then take a break and watch everyone for a bit. And then they might jump back in, they might join in a little basketball game, but they're gonna just take more breaks. Because their energy, they can get more energy for the rest of the day with a few of those breaks in between. It's that idea of a collaboration between the brain, right, the brain is growing, the brain is moving, and the physical body so that coordination. More active children probably have spent more time practicing and so they might even be a little bit more coordinated during this age, while less active children, you know, they're not spending all of their time practicing. They're spending some time here and there. So they might, you know, be still working on some of those coordination types of things. And I do think that as I look at activity level in this age, I think specifically of, you know, them sitting in their desks, and in a classroom or being more prone to less active things as they're focusing on school lessons. And so we really need to pay attention to this activity level, because the activity level isn't going to stop when they're sitting at their desk. Right? Their activity level then may come out in are they tapping pencils? Are they moving their foot? Are they shifting in their seats, right? So a highly active child might still be wiggling in their seat while a less active child can sit quietly?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Which makes me extra grateful that you know, there's kind of this movement in schools around flexible seating. This is like yeah, an active kid can really benefit from that opportunity to get some of that out while doing the tasks that they need to so definitely, absolutely. Because activity level doesn't stop after recess. It's like, oh, you were active then, now no more.

Lori Korthals:

It doesn't. Exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, they still have all that energy bursting out, when they've got that high activity level.

Lori Korthals:

It's just coming out their fingertips and toes, right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Alright, and then I'm gonna look at approach and adaptability. And as you know, these two are similar and sometimes create a little confusion. But I tend to think about approach as in what's new, right? When things are new people, new situation, new place. And so you know, even like, first day of school, how did your child feel? A high approach child, you know, might be excited. They're excited to show people their new backpack or their new school supplies, or whatever that might be or, you know, you might have a low approach kid that maybe he's feeling a little cautious or I hear mine say, I'm a little nervous. Right, that's maybe not quite as sure. And so, our low approach kids can use some coaching a lot of times of helping reduce the newness is what comes to mind for me of like, yeah, moving to school, the first day of school in particular, but when you're in a new place, it smells new, it looks new, there's new people, all of these things. And so with our low approach kids, they can really benefit from when we can help reduce that newness by helping them know what to expect, know what's going to be similar and things like that. Versus our kids that are more high approach might need some coaching on risks. Right? I remember in our interview with Rob Copeland, we were chatting, and I was like, Oh, yeah, somebody's got to heed caution. Probably isn't the one. And so helping them understand to slow down and be like, I don't have to say yes, immediately to everything, which is something I still work on as an adult. You know, which is similar, but different to adaptability, which is really focused on unexpected or transition, both of those things. For a high adaptability child, the unexpected maybe isn't as stressful for them. You know they're a little bit easier going from those things. It's easier for them to go with the flow. So they might not be your natural planner for homework. Right? Like, well, I don't know, I was just kind of going with where the night took me. Exactly. You know, a less adaptable child might be the planner of this is what I'm doing, this is what's coming up. But also, I think what's really important with adaptability is during the school day, especially during elementary school, there's a lot of transitions. We're transitioning subjects, maybe they have a different classroom for different subjects, or if they have a special right, like an art or a PE or whatever. There's a lot of transitions during the day. And so I actually picture I was like, as a parent, I might not see all that. But I might see the less adaptable kid that gets in the car at pickup or when you pick them up from after school care or wherever, that they are exhausted and barely holding it together. And that , oh, I've just got to stop at the grocery store quick on the way. Oh, can't we just go home. And I think of when we have those sometimes in this age, they've got practice. They've got commitments, extracurriculars. And so the in the evening of, okay, we're gonna stop home, grab this, we're gonna go do this, and then we're gonna come home, eat supper, and then we got to get to bed. And for that less adaptable kid, that can be a really hard thing. And so they like to be prepared for what's coming. And so we do, we see that approach and adaptability are definitely here. Always there, the background, right, those factory settings, always in the background.

Lori Korthals:

And like you sa d, all day long they've bee adapting. All day long they've been flexible. They've been hold ng it together, and you get them in the car, and you

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right. And you're like, I wasn't expecting ay, oh, guess what, we get to g do this. And you think they're onna be so excited. And they ave a meltdown. That's so hard as a parent, right? Yeah. a meltdown. You're totally tapped out. You've given all of your adaptability to the people in the school.

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so let's pile on a little intensity and sensitivity. So especially when it comes to this age group, as they're navigating their friendships and navigating these new experiences outside of the home, a more intense kid, they might be very loud. They could be coming off as brash, they could be coming off as a bull in a china closet, you know, those types of words that we use, as you know, they just have a lot of umph. And they do everything with a lot of umph versus the child who when their friend gives them a gift, they might just smile or maybe not smile, because inside, they're happy, but outside their face hasn't said it yet. And so, as a parent, we need to understand and help them also understand their intensity level. I think of the child who maybe exclaims loudly, and their friend might think they're mad at them when actually it was just a loud exclamation. Or the friend who has given them a gift or done a really nice favor and they haven't maybe said thank you or maybe they didn't acknowledge that gift or a special favor in the way the friend thought. So helping children understand their intensity. They're not aware of their expressions. They're not aware of what cues they give off. So that's intensity level. And then I love what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says about sensitivity. She says some children just come with a super set of sensors. So sensitivity is all those senses and a highly sensitive child is super sensitive to things like taste, touch, smell, even emotions, right? So as you look at navigating those friendships, the ... might be more sensitive, again to someone not acknowledging a gift or not acknowledging a bid for friendship, they might be more sensitive. If they're left out of a group, they might. A more sensitive kid might notice the teacher's look from across the room as the classroom gets a little loud. But conversely, the less sensitive children in the classroom may not even notice the teacher's frustration level rising. Not even on their radar. They might not notice the teacher turn the light off to grab attention, right? They're not sensitive, they just don't even notice that little subtle hint. They don't notice the subtle hints of their friends. And so again, we need to help them recognize what are the other cues that other people are giving? What are the social cues that are happening, especially during this age group?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. Well, and then yeah, rolling right along on that similar to sensitivity, which has a lot to do with that sensory emotional experience, there's distractibility, which also has to do with attention. Both pieces of sensitivity and distractibility fit into this concept of attention. In particular, for a highly distractible kid, the daydreamer, like my brain has lots of things to think about, places to go, things to notice, things to take in, yeah. They're supposed to be sitting down working on this or yes, they're not supposed to be chatting with their neighbor, but they have this really specific thing they need to tell them. I just remembered and I gotta tell them, because my brain will be somewhere else in a few minutes and it'll be gone. Exactly. Yeah. So that attention for the highly distractible you know, versus that less distractible child. It might be easier to tune people out for that less distractible trap. I think I've already said this example in a previous episode, but I'm amazed when we talk through stuff on our team meetings, Barb, Barb Dunn Swanson, our content curator can just like no, I'm not listening to you guys. I'm doing this and I'm like, Oh, that's not a thing I could do. Another thing I've learned to navigate the environment with that skill. So that attention, the highly distractible versus the less distractible. And then its sidekick, particularly when it comes to homework, its sidekick persistence. So this is also sometimes called frustration tolerance. So a child with a high frustration tolerance might be the kid that's like, I'm not done yet. I need to finish this. This isn't, I really caution from using this word in my house and I'm trying to let it out of my vocabulary, but perfect. It's not perfect yet. And so that highly persistent child, you know, I got to stick it out, I gotta come back to this. I can't let this go. Or it's hard for me to let this go, I should say, versus the less persistent child that's like, this is too hard, right? This is overwhelming to me. I don't like to feel frustrated. I'd rather just not do this. And so yeah, both of these traits of distractibility and persistence, huge things as Lori pointed out to me earlier, related to homework. Lots of conflicts between parents and kids around this and one other thing, I was gonna say maybe you could tell them but I didn't give you any context. Lori said earlier that this idea of sometimes the things that helped you do homework well as a kid, or even as an adult, help you to focus in, those might not be the things that help your kid, right? Maybe silence is what you needed. Maybe they need a little bit in the background. You know, maybe you needed to work on it right when you got home from school so that you remember to do it. Maybe they need a break, and then can come back to it later or to take it in in little bites, rather than to sit down and crank it out. And so it's okay to say you know what, maybe the way I did it isn't the way they would benefit most from doing it. So yeah, homework.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. I think is one of the biggest questions when I've done temperament profiles, or temperament consultations, the biggest questions parents of this age have is how do we make it through homework. And in all honesty, the thing is, is that you you could end up battling your child around homework for three hours. Really, honestly. Oh, yeah, that's average, r ght, for three hours. Okay. An why is that? Well, because I kept trying to tell them if they would just get it d ne, it would be done. Yes, that s true. But because of the chil 's temperament in this case, it's often the child who just needs things in little bi es because they're not persist nt and the parent is persisten or the parent is not persi tent and has learned tools, ti s, tricks, and techniques themselves as they're older, ri ht. And so we recognize that c ildren who need bite sized bits and pieces of homework, it's pro ably going to take them three hours to do their homework. Howe er, giving them bite sized ieces, do a little bit, take a break, do a little break, ta e a break, do a little bit, ta e a break. That means that we ar n't arguing with them for thr e hours. We actually might b enjoying them for three hour . And they get the breaks that hey need to focus and submit ho ework that's correct, right. Yea . This is a tough one for arents. This distractibility persistence, homework and the ges six to 11.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, it's really a new concept during this stage, right? That like homework starts somewhere in this range, depending on your child's teacher. And so it is a new challenge that will continue, though, right through into the later years of preteens, teens and stuff.

Lori Korthals:

We do. We have two traits. So let's toss in regularity, because this one, as we talked about when they were smaller, this is the trait that parents most want to control, right? Because it has to do with eating, sleeping and eliminating, right, the bowel bathroom. Okay. So as you look at this age group, these children are far more adept at controlling these things on their own. And they actually do a better job of telling you how they feel about these things, right? I'm not hungry now. I don't need to use the bathroom now. I need to use the bathroom right now. I'm not tired. I am tired. And so when it comes to regularity, and we think about this, and we think about this age, it really comes down to again, helping them learn their cues. So helping them learn their cues if they are irregular, means that we have to help them learn to recognize when they do become tired, or to learn to help them recognize when they do need to use the bathroom. And conversely, against that is that if they are a regular kid, and they're in a very structured environment, that bathroom break might not be during the time that they usually need to use the bathroom. So how do we cooperate and collaborate with other people in their lives to say, you know, my child is a very regular kid. He's going to need a snack if you guys are traveling and going on a field trip, can I toss a granola bar in his bag? Yeah, and the same with bathrooming the idea of, is there is there a way to have these irregular kids have some flexibility to use the bathroom when they need to? And some of that is just honestly having open honest conversations with your child and the other adults in their lives that it's okay for you to ask. It's okay to stand up for how you feel, right? It's okay to express your needs. And so regularity, we also call it biological rhythms, that's super important to teach children that your needs, wants, and desires are super important and they're valuable. And so let's talk about that. Yes, listen to your body. Listen to your body. Yes. And then the last one is mood. We've shared all along that mood is kind of that silly versus serious or somber temperament trait. And so I look at the, you know, the silly child of this age is probably notified that they are the class clown. You know, they might just tell silly jokes. They laugh easily, the big belly laugh. And then the more somber or serious child might giggle or smirk at a joke or they might have that furrowed brow as the teacher is doing a lesson because they're really seriously thinking about it, deep in thought. And so again, what are those social cues? What do friends and other adults expect that feedback to look like? And if that feedback is a furrowed brow, you know, what might someone else be thinking and so it does become again important to share with the child, right now I see a big frown on your face. Are you really feeling like a frowny face? Or are you thinking hard about something?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Okay, I have literally had an aha as you were just walking through this. Okay, so this is not related to kids in middle childhood. I have very high mood and so I do come off as very silly and I'm not afraid to joke around and I'm realizing that throughout my life I've been very worried that people think I'm never serious. Or that I'm not smart and so I guess it does relate to being a school ager and that just because you're silly and just because you like goofing around doesn't mean your child does not learning. It doesn't mean your child isn't intelligent or can't perform well. And so I'm like, you know, the whole silly thing that people tend to think, high mood, what a good thing that you're so fun, but also people might think, well, yeah, they're fun. But they need to take this seriously. It's not always either or.

Lori Korthals:

And the opposite of that is because they're somber and serious, maybe people think they're a snob. Oh, they don't like me. They don't like me because they never smile around me. Well, gosh, actually, they might really like you. And they're really concentrating on how do I get into that friend group?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. mood. I feel like we don't focus on that one a lot. But I was like, oh, aha. Oh, yes, yes. So yeah, middle childhood and temperament. It's there all throughout at every stage, but in this one in particular, we see it in their tasks related to homework, in their friend groups, and they're spending more time outside of our home. And so what do you think of as we walk through this temperament, middle childhood, and how they interact? What comes to mind for you, Lori?

Lori Korthals:

So I was thinking about all three of my girls as they were six to 11 year olds. They are all past that stage now. And I was thinking about how, you know, a couple of their traits are very opposite. So one is highly, highly sensitive, and she in second grade was moved to the front of the room because she's also distractible, right, and not very persistent. So her teacher, bless her heart, moved her to the front of the room to try to help her focus, which was a great idea, one I fully supported. But what we found out was that this particular classroom was in the northwest corner of the building. And here in Iowa, it's a little cold, and typically in the northwest corners of any building. And so the teacher had a small little space heater under her desk, and my highly sensitive child, even though she was in the front of the room and less distracted because of the children all around her, she was now even more distracted by the hum of the space heater under the desk. Yes, super sensitive and so during that age group, we were trying to, yeah. And then another daughter who is less approaching but very adaptable. I sometimes chuckle because she's got a positive mood. But not particularly approaching and it always surprised me when she would suddenly stop at something new. I just was constantly, I don't know why I was constantly surprised. But it would surprise me that, oh, well, she actually isn't interested in just randomly inviting a friend over because she hasn't done that before. And I think, oh, what a perfect match. You know, this particular child, they had the same interests. I mean, I'm happy that I've met their parents. Of course, she wants this to happen. And so then I would be surprised when she would be like, Mom, no, I'm okay. And I'm like, oh, darn it, I blew it again. I didn't read the cues.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Missed that one. That's all right.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. But it is. Yeah. And that the differences between kids, that temperament is a huge factor in those differences between our kids. But yeah, to be able to notice them and help them navigate the world with the gift they were given. And their temperament, their factory settings versus their siblings, which is a different model.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, oh yeah, two different models. And the idea again, that, you know, the exact same trait can be difficult at one age and not difficult at another age, you know, so same child, same trait. All of a sudden, you know, now in school, we maybe don't value their high activity level as much as we did when they were an infant and we were hoping they would learn to walk and crawl right. And now their high activity level is an issue in the classroom because they're fidgeting and wanting to get up and move around. So same kid, same trait, different age, we feel differently about. And different expectations. Yes. The expectations versus reality.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. And so okay, we always like to wrap up our episode with a few little segments at the end, one of which focused on this idea of how do you take this information into your reality? And this season in particular, we're focusing in on one kind of developmental task in particular, right? So what do we got for middle childhood?

Lori Korthals:

Yes. So we really wanted to think about, okay, at 2am when parents are surfing the net, right? And parents of six to 11 year olds are still doing this at 2am. Right? So this particular age group, we really have kind of talked about it off and on is the idea of them being in the social circles, and how does temperament impact those relationships outside of the family? How does temperament help them in the group? How does temperament help them get into the group? And how does temperament come into play, you know, with all of those relationships and social cues?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. And so we have a couple that are really awesome from Raising Your Spirited Child with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, but that we thought a lot of these tied, whether you have a spirited child, a flexible child, you know, a more fearful or cautious, that all these could come into play. And so I have two that I'll start with, and one of them actually my sister will laugh if she hears this episode, because she was teases me about how much I love the word boundaries. The first one is to be able to recognize your boundaries. And so helping your eight year old set their own boundaries, right? Like, this is not a thing I'm okay with or recognize the boundaries of others, like, it's okay for your friend to say they're not ready to share that. Or it's okay for your friend to say, I don't like when we do this. And it's okay for you to say that. So helping them learn about boundaries, because that's a really big part of social relationships. And then also, whether you have a high approach or low approach child, helping them learn to enter a group. So both ways, a low approach child might need some coaching about like, I don't know, you know, I remember you telling the story of your daughter physically leaning in towards children she might want to play with, but her feet were glued in the cement. Yes. And so you know, that low approach kid could maybe use some help with how do I get started, you know, versus your high approach kid might need some help softening that startup of the jumping in, coming in, coming in hot, that might be your high approach kid. Soo helping them learn appropriate ways to enter or be a part of social groups.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. And even as you said, I can visually see her standing outside on the edge of the playground just leaning forward, because she can see a group of children playing and she really wants to go play. And yeah, just that idea of learning how to enter a group, which again then can bring us right into these next two ideas that Mary shares is resolving conflicts with words. And the idea that helping children notice, or just perceive different things. So helping children resolve conflicts with words really brings us back to that idea of the upstairs and downstairs brain. So all of our logic happens in the upstairs brain. Our upstairs brain isn't fully developed till our 20s. And so this six to 11 year old is barely halfway developed. Okay, so let's give him a little grace, right? And then the whole idea that the emotional center is down there in that downstairs brain, and children getting involved with other children, that's emotional. Oh, are they gonna accept me? Do I belong? Are they not going to accept me? Do I not belong? And so it's sometimes easy for children to dive down into that downstairs brain and maybe use their fists or their legs to resolve a conflict, right? Kicking, right? We don't often see that. But when we do, it really means something to them, like I am struggling here, and I need help. And so practicing ahead of time, helping them with those words in times where they don't feel so intense, and they don't feel so frustrated with not being able to get into a group or being asked to leave a group. All those types of things happen in this age group,

Mackenzie Johnson:

Or with our sibling. Yes.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. Okay. Those siblings, right, yes. So resolving those conflicts with words instead of our bodies, and then the idea that especially perceptive, spirited kids, they can catch the subtle and so we sometimes have to help them notice. Actually they already notice things. We just have to help them to interpret what they're noticing. Will you tell the story of your daughter and going the wrong way? Because I think that is a perfect example of they notice it. And they don't understand it, and we need to interpret it for them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So I think I've told part of this story before, but usually I would drop my daughter off at school and my husband, my co-parent would take my son to childcare on the opposite end of town. So we just kind of split the morning. And on this particular day, I had both. And so I had taken my son to childcare and then was taking my daughter to school, and we're getting closer to school and she goes, Mom, that blue house is on the wrong side of the car. And you know, I was like, there's her adaptability, right? I struggle with it. I'm like, no, it's on a different side of car. Yes, but helping her understand. I was like, you know, we took a different way to school than we normally do. So she had noticed the small detail of our route to school. Yes. But helping her understand the reason it's different, right? You notice this thing, and I'm going to help you understand why that might be the way it is. So I even think of so-and-so always does this. And it's like, okay, how can I help you interpret that thing, right? That particular behavior, like, maybe they're not ready for whatever. Maybe they don't want that or like that. But so we do want help our kids of this age interpret, especially those kids that are really perceptive. They might notice it, but they're like, I don't know what this means. Why is it this way?

Lori Korthals:

And I can even count on my fingers the number of times that I was told I was wrong because that's not the way the teacher said it was. Right. So during this age, we do have this idea that you know what, Mom, you're wrong because that is not the way the teacher said it was. So, helping them to interpret the differences, helping them to find that flexible thinking, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And so, you know, we mentioned our perceptive kids are noticing that, and that our less perceptive kids might need some help noticing and interpreting. But also along that high distractibility or high perceptiveness, when you pair that particularly with a higher sensitive temperament, those kids can be very protective of their things, of their stuff. And so that's mine. So helping our kids, whether that's their particular temperament or not, learning appropriate ways to share, right, that might be your high approach, high adaptability kid that wants to just like, oh, I like that, and they want to go get it. It might help to teach them things like, you know, if that's somebody else's you might need to ask before we take it. Or to give your child that is more protective of their things, in our house, it's like, okay, you're allowed to have a few things that are really special to you that you're not ready to share. And so sometimes that's preparing like, okay, your cousins are coming over, if you don't want them to play with this toy or this special animal, you need to put it somewhere that, you know, it won't be out for everybody. And so those skills that with their temperament, how that impacts the way they play with other kids, or interact with other kids, but helping them learn to share and navigate that.

Lori Korthals:

It does. And we might have this expectation that at this age, they should be over that, so to speak, lack of ability to share, but because of their temperament that might be still hanging around at this age, right? So the expectation is this, but the reality is that their temperament is still telling them, you know, but that's super special. And I actually don't want them playing with this. I actually don't want to share this. I actually don't want them in my room, thank you. You know, so that idea of that goodness of fit. How can we as a parent come to understand their temperament and what's happening with it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think, you know, as an adult, there are things that I'm like, I don't want to share. I even think of this TV show that was what food, it was like, I don't share fries! I don't share fries! But even as adults, we have things we're not ready to share but helping our kids learn to navigate that, and then a few more, one of which is to help our kids get through the transitions. And I heard a phrase the other day. So this comes with adaptability, but other traits as well related to these transitions and changes and unexpected. But one about momentum versus motivation. My friend talked to me about that. I love that. And so sometimes we're like get motivated, get going. And sometimes we just need a little momentum and that's the case for our kids too. Sometimes our less adaptable kids, it can feel hard to get started. And so sometimes it's a matter of helping them navigate transitions of, we can help with just this one part and help them get started. And then maybe they can get rolling. So that's just another tip for the school age kids and their temperament.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. And finally, from Mary's book, Raising Your Spirited Child, the idea that we need to celebrate success. We need to celebrate the temperament that they were gifted with. We need to celebrate the small successes that happen when they add an app to their factory settings, right? We need to celebrate with them that they recognized that even though their intensity level felt like they wanted to lash out, they took a great big breath, and they used their words. And celebrating their temperament helps them build that confidence, build that self esteem, build that sense of belonging. And that gives them the confidence then to continue to go out and again, they're working on mastery at this age. And so thinking about how can I navigate successfully and feel good about all those things?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we want to celebrate all those pieces along the way. We do. All right. And then our final segment that we like to bring in, we like to bring in one of our teammates here. And we call this our Stop. Breathe. Talk. space, which is our flagship parenting strategy. You know, we typically bring in our producer, but today, you might recognize this face from last season, our content creator and writer, Barb Dunn Swanson. And so she's gonna join us and ask a little question kind of off the cuff.

Lori Korthals:

She is. I feel like I need to say, Barb, what are you thinking?

Mackenzie Johnson:

We said it all of season six. It's only right.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Yes, that is so good. I have just enjoyed the conversation because I want to build upon that celebration that you just talked about. We are going to celebrate two different groups. We've got to celebrate these parents who intentionally honor their child's temperament. No matter where your child individually falls on those temperament spectrums, they're all temperamental gifts. And so just because someone is potentially low adaptability, that's not a negative. That's not. Or if they are a low approaching, or if they're high mood. And as you talked, Mackenzie, you said, I can maybe be called silly at times. That's not a negative. And so we want to make sure we reframe how we think about who our children are in their temperament, right? And then celebrate those classroom teachers who, in fact, have a classroom full of individuals who have all different kinds of temperament, all of them. And so then how do they manage to help each of those kids enter a group and or accept someone new into the group? You know, it's one thing to try to enter a group? Well, then it's a whole another thing to have someone enter your group when you kind of want it kind of closed, right? Yes. Oh, my goodness. The other thing I want to say that's really, really important is exactly what you were talking about, Lori. The essential elements of positive youth development. Kids all want to belong, no matter how they get there. Yes, no matter who helps them, whether it's a parent helps them navigate who they are in terms of their temperament, who they are as a member of the family, they want to belong. And so any way that we as adults in the life of a child can help them belong successfully, that's gonna be so important. Helping them enter a group, helping them find their way, find their voice, help them develop the flexibility that's needed to be part of a classroom. And teachers do that every single day, help those kids do that. Right. Yeah. And then the other one is the mastery. That's the other part of positive youth development. Kids want to be successful. And one of the ways they get that success is by being in a classroom full of other kids who have those boundaries that you mentioned.

Mackenzie Johnson:

My favorite word.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Yeah, Because those boundaries are a protective factor. And those boundaries help those kids learn that we don't all look alike. And we don't all think and learn alike. So there's room for all of us in this classroom. And that's why I'm celebrating classroom teachers. Yes, because it's those classroom teachers who build the environment, because the home environment is different than the school environment. And then those parents welcome those children back home at the end of a long school day. And you talked about it, some of them have to rest and recover from being in that classroom all day long with all kinds of different kids who have different temperament traits than they have. And it's a fine dance, isn't it, between environment and between individual classmates and between what our parents, how they help us and how our classroom teachers help us. So yeah, those are the things I'm thinking about it. I think I've said enough, I won't even come up with a question. I just want to celebrate this great conversation and the nice collaboration between temperament, our individualism, and yet how they fit nicely with that school aged child.

Lori Korthals:

They do, they do. Yes. Oh, thanks, Barb.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There's so much to celebrate in our school aged kids and us as parents and teachers.

Lori Korthals:

There is, yes, yes. All right. Thank you.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

You're welcome.

Lori Korthals:

So we've been able to share today about the idea of the middle school aged child, the elementary school aged child, that child from six to 11. And how does their development, those milestones that happen during that age span, what happens alongside temperament when we put those two together? And what does temperament enhance? Where do we need to help our child learn? How do we give them the skills and opportunities to take what they got at the factory setting, right? And add some apps so that they have opportunities to belong and build confidence. And at the same time, again, that bi-directional parenting we are learning from them, they're learning from us. And how can we create a better fit? That goodness of fit that Thomas and Chess talk about with that child of this age? Did I forget anything?

Mackenzie Johnson:

The only thing I can't even think to add is I mean, we could say it every episode of the traits that we were like, oh, thank goodness, I had a toddler who was blank. And they're like, but now I have a child who is blank. Right? Yes. And so how we see and you know, it's one of the huge reasons we talked about, it's not good or bad. And even like, between you and your co parent, your co-parents like,oOh, thank goodness, we have a child who is blank and I'm like, oh, it's hard for me. It's hard for me and that bi-directionality, but yeah, different at every age. And so it's interesting to see our kids' temperament come out and how it's going to come out to play in middle childhood, and how we'll hopefully see them begin to kind of increase their mastery as they move through middle childhood, you know, getting a little older, you know, those 10 and 11 year olds, and what they're navigating looks different.

Lori Korthals:

And I hope that you maybe caught a little bit of this on the way but they're getting to this age where you can talk with them about their temperament and you can share with them some of the insights you're learning about temperament and, you know, interpret for them what it is these feelings mean and interpret for them how they can use those feelings and, you know, move into different social circles.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, yeah, and you know, that goes with that confidence too, of using positive language to describe the temperament of like, you know, you like to check it out before you dive in. What a beneficial trait? Or, you know, you get so excited and you're so willing to try new things, and helping them see the positive and the strengths that they have, with, like Barb said, with the gift of their temperament.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast and we want to invite you to subscribe to our podcast. Go ahead and you know, give us some stars. That helps us pop up to the top of the list when people throw parenting in their search engines and so feel free to subscribe so that you know every time we drop a new episode.

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.