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Middle Childhood Parenting Introduction

Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)

This document is about parenting elementary-school-aged children. It provides information and advice on caring for children during their middle-childhood years, between ages 8 and 11 years, approximately. It is part of our larger series on Child Development and Parenting. In this series, we have divided childhood into four broad periods: Infancy, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, and Adolescence. We have created separate articles concerning parenting and child development for each of these periods, based on the idea that effective parenting technique follows from an appreciation of children's development; what they are capable of and what they continue to struggle with at specific moments in their lives.

We encourage you to read through our Middle Childhood Child Development Theory center if you have not already done so. That document discusses important physical, cognitive, emotional, social and moral developmental milestones and achievements that most children are likely ...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What are the nutritional requirements in the middle childhood years?

  • Children require a balanced and healthy diet in order to fuel the amazing physical growth and bodily change occurring during Middle Childhood.
  • The trick for parents at this stage is to manage to foster children's independent healthy eating choices without over-stepping and over-controlling children's food selections, possibly setting the stage for children's later unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Parents should provide children with a menu that includes foods from all of the basic food groups, offering mostly nutrient-dense foods and minimizing "junk foods" that are low in nutrient value and high in sugar, fat, and salt.
  • Children need to learn how to make healthy food selections and to control how much they eat when parents are not present to do these things for them.
  • Children should be included in family grocery shopping and cooking chores so as to teach them by example how to read food nutrition labels, how to measure portions, how to follow recipes and how to prepare foods using healthier cooking methods, including grilling, steaming and baking.
  • On average, 8-year-olds require between 1400 and 1600 calories every day. Between the ages of 9 and 12, girls need approximately 1600 to 2000 calories each day. In contrast, boys between the ages of 9 and 12 need approximately 1800-2200 calories per day.
  • Children over the age of two should be eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, calcium-rich dairy products, and some oils every day.
  • Children also need to drink plenty of water each day. Approximately 64 ounces are required each day in order to keep their bodies well hydrated.
  • Beyond just providing the fuel and nutrients for growing up healthy, eating can also be an activity that promotes social development and family bonding.

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How important is sleep in middle childhood?

  • Well rested children are better able to focus attention and learn during classes or extracurricular activities.
  • They are also more likely to be in a better mood than are poorly rested peers, and more likely to follow rules at home and school.
  • In general, children in middle childhood require about 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • A well-planned bedtime routine, enforced by parents and through repetition, enables school-aged kids time to prepare themselves mentally and physically for sleep.
  • The goal of the bedtime routine is to gradually transition children from activities to sleep.
  • Night-time routines are still a perfect opportunity for parents and children to spend one-on-one or whole-family "quality time" with one another.
  • Some children will still have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep throughout the night, and several different strategies can be used to address children's insomnia.

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What hygiene habits are important during middle childhood?

  • "Personal hygiene" refers to people's personal health-promoting habits, such as hand washing, tooth brushing, and covering one's nose when sneezing.
  • Parents should be teaching children to brush their teeth at least twice a day and to floss between their teeth at least once a day.
  • After dental hygiene, thorough and careful hand-washing is perhaps the second most important personal hygiene habits children need to practice in middle childhood.
  • Children should be educated about the nature of germs, including bacteria and viruses that cause illness, and how these invisible but very real germs can contagiously spread through the air when people cough or sneeze.
  • Children should be encouraged to bath themselves regularly so as to remove dirt, oils, sweat and the like from their hair and bodies.
  • Hair care is another important aspect of keeping one's self clean and healthy-looking.
  • Parents should model and teach young children to change their clothes every day, especially making sure to change their socks and underwear which may accumulate odor more than outer clothing.
  • As children near puberty, they may also need to start using a daily underarm deodorant or antiperspirant to prevent body odor from becoming a problem during the day.
  • As children enter puberty, they may begin to develop acne, otherwise known as pimples or zits.
  • Girls entering puberty need to learn how to care for feminine hygiene needs, including proper and safe methods for using and disposing of tampons and sanitary pads.
  • Parents should take care to balance children's expressed desire for particular high status clothing items against family resources.
  • Allowing children to have a say, if not the deciding vote, in determining their individual hairstyles is important.

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What health and medical information is important during middle childhood?

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What child safety issues are important in middle childhood?

  • Even though children are now past the age and size where they require a car seat or booster seat, they still need to ride in the back seat of the car until they are at least 12 years old.
  • Prescription medications and household cleaners offer another example of a common danger school-aged children need to be protected from.
  • Middle-childhood aged children continue to benefit from regular reminders regarding traffic and road safety, particularly when they may be walking or biking about unsupervised.
  • Parents should instruct and remind children to never follow or go someplace with a stranger, even when that stranger claims to know or be acting on instructions from known caregivers.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should not be left home alone before the age of 12. Parents need to communicate, and children need to show that they understand, any house rules for how they should act when home alone.
  • When using bikes or scooters, children should wear helmets and appropriate elbow and knee pads in order to protect them from falls or other impacts which could damage their bones, joints or brains.
  • Constant, vigilant adult supervision of children while they are swimming near a pool is essential.
  • Parents need to consider children's safety when purchasing a new pet or maintaining a veteran pet. When selecting pets for homes with school-aged children, dogs and cats seem to be the best pets as playmates and pals.
  • One final area of home safety that needs to be considered by parents of (American) school-aged children is the appropriate storage and use of guns.

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What educational information is important to known during middle childhood?

  • A variety of factors should be considered when selecting a school including the school's mission and philosophy of teaching, student-teacher ratio, academic expectations, the culture and diversity of the students and staff, average student performance on external rating criteria (such as standardized test scores) and the safety of the school environment are all important considerations.
  • No matter which school is selected, parents need to make sure to complete all of the required steps necessary to successfully enroll their children.
  • Once children are enrolled in a school, it is important that parents do what they can to form a close working relationship with the teachers, administrators and other staff associated with that school and generally to become involved in their children's school life as much as possible.
  • It's important then that parents pay attention to children's homework assignments, prompting children to complete them and, as much as possible, providing children with the resources they need to successfully complete the work.
  • From time to time, more often for some children than for others, children may be disciplined at school. To gain the most objective understanding of what has occurred, parents will need to listen to both the school's version of events and the child's as well and try to put together from these multiple sources what actually happened.
  • Parents should also develop a plan for how they will handle school closings (scheduled and unscheduled), and days when children are too sick to attend school.

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What discipline and guidance should parents offer during middle childhood?

  • Calm, direct, and honest communication remains the basic foundation for positive discipline and guidance of children in middle childhood.
  • Parents can use the communication technique known as reflection to guide children's conversations about their friendships, pointing out for inspection the positive aspects of healthy friendships and the negative aspects that accompany unhealthy or hurtful friendships.
  • As school-aged children spend more time with friends and classmates away from the direct supervision of adults, they start needing to choose how they will behave (as opposed to simply complying with how caregivers want them to behave).
  • Though teaching children to think critically for themselves is the ultimate goal, many children will not be in a position to make the right decisions on their own at first, and thus it is practical to also offer children clearly verbalized expectations for how they need to behave and a description of the consequences that will occur if they make wrong choices.
  • Time outs continue to be a powerful and effective means of motivating children's compliance through about age 11 or 12.
  • Because grounding involves a prolonged isolation, it should be used very sparingly, and then only in sensible proportion to the magnitude of misbehavior.
  • Giving children age-appropriate chores is an important way to increase their self-esteem, pride, responsibility, and independence.
  • Parents can help children to become more sophisticated and thoughtful about money by introducing them to important money-related concepts such as the importance of saving or banking money, distinguishing between needs and wants, learning budgeting skills, and learning to pay bills responsibly.
  • School-aged children also need and benefit from loving nurturance expressed by parents and caregivers.
  • Middle-childhood aged children need to have some area within their homes that is their own private space and which they can expect to control.

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What tough topics will parents and children have to deal with during middle childhood?

  • For the first time, children in middle-childhood have to cope with some or all of the following experiences that leave them feeling vulnerable and force them to understand that they are not entirely in control of their lives when it counts the most.
  • In an important sense, these difficult experiences assist children with their maturation process.
  • It is through the experience of successfully coping with such challenging crises that children learn about themselves, gain coping experience, and revise their self-esteem and self-efficacy expectations.
  • However, children do need the love and support of their parents and caregivers as they struggle with these life crises in order to understand how to cope and to come to terms with the meaning of these events.
  • These issues may include:

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News Articles

  • Nearly 5 Million American Kids Are Obese, New Study Finds

    About 4.8 million American kids aged 10 to 17 -- just over 15% -- were obese in 2017-2018, according to a new report. More...

  • Pressuring Kids to Diet Can Backfire, Damaging Long-Term Health

    Parents want the best for their children. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Exercise. But sometimes pressuring your teen to diet or lose weight may end up harming them, a new study suggests. More...

  • Giving Your Child a Time-Out Won't Cause Long-Term Damage: Study

    Time-outs don't increase kids' risk of emotional or behavioral problems, according to a new study that researchers say dispels misleading information. More...

  • Less 'Screen Time,' More Sleep = Better-Behaved Kids

    School kids who get to bed early rather than staring at their devices at night may be better equipped to control their behavior, a new study suggests. More...

  • Can Playing a Sport Foster Better-Adjusted Kids?

    Kids who had participated in athletic programs between ages 6 and 10 had less emotional distress, anxiety and shyness by age 12. They were also less likely to suffer from social withdrawal, researchers found. More...

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      Coming from a broken home or suffering abuse can traumatize a child, but new research suggests team sports might be just the medicine these kids need. More...

    • Teasing Kids About Weight Linked to More Weight Gain

      New research illustrates a heartbreaking, vicious cycle: Teasing kids about their weight not only bruises their self-esteem, it also appears to trigger more weight gain. More...

    • Who's Most Likely to Miss School Due to Eczema?

      Hispanic and black children are more likely to miss school than white children due to the chronic skin condition eczema, a new study finds. More...

    • Where's the Best Place for Your Child's Sports Physical Exam?

      Student athletes usually need a sports physical. And the best place for that exam is at their primary care doctor's office, according to updated guidelines from leading U.S. medical experts. More...

    • Health Tip: Safe Crafting for Kids

      Though arts and crafts are fun activities for children, safety precautions should still be followed, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. More...

    • Some Boys Are Having Sex Before 13

      Talking to your children about sex can be awkward, but new research suggests that parents need to have those conversations much earlier than they do. More...

    • Health Tip: Positive Parenting in Mid-Childhood

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    • Are Kids' Ball Pits Jumping With Germs?

      If the cacophony of children screaming and throwing tiny plastic balls everywhere hasn't prompted you to forgo ball pits, a new study may just send you scurrying for the door. More...

    • How to Help Your Kids Achieve a Healthy Weight

      Obesity can lead to physical, social and emotional struggles for kids, so parents need to help their children maintain a healthy weight, experts say. More...

    • Cost Puts Sports, Art Programs Out of Reach for Many Families

      After-school activities help develop social skills and talent, but a new report finds that many kids are priced out of participating. More...

    • How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Cyberbullying

      No type of bullying is acceptable, but cyberbullying can be harder for parents to spot because it takes place via cellphone, computer or tablet, often through social media. More...

    • How to Help When Your Child is Struggling in School

      Studies show that the earlier a child's school struggles are addressed, the better the outcome will be. So it's important for parents to tackle problems early on rather than ignore them or hope children will grow out of them. More...

    • Adding Breakfast to Classrooms May Have a Health Downside

      Some schools offer breakfast in the classroom to ensure that hungry children start the day with a full stomach so they're ready to learn. But this may have an unintended consequence -- it may raise the risk of childhood obesity. More...

    • Health Tip: Avoid Burns From Playground Equipment

      Materials used in modern playgrounds, often plastics and rubber, can get very hot in the summer sun and are capable of burning a child's skin, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. More...

    • Helping Kids Develop Good Study Habits

      While one in five kids may have a learning disability that requires one-on-one intervention, others may simply need to develop good study habits to improve their grades. More...

    • The Skinny on Schools' Efforts to Promote Healthy Eating

      Schools that promote healthy eating may reduce kids' risk of obesity, new research finds. More...

    • A Smooth Move Makes for a Happier Child

      Moving from one community to another can be difficult for everyone in the family, especially if leaving friends and relatives behind. But the problems can be magnified for kids who have to switch middle or high schools. More...

    • Making Your Child Apologize May Backfire

      Forcing children to apologize before they're ready may do more harm than good, researchers say. More...

    • Good Sleep Helps Kids Become Slimmer, Healthier Teens: Study

      Regular bedtimes and adequate sleep during childhood may contribute toward a healthy weight in the teen years, a new study finds. More...

    • Health Tip: Lessen Growing Pains

      Growing pains occur as kids exercise more and their muscles try to keep up. Ironically, these pains aren't directly caused by the process of growing, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. More...

    • Are Kids' Playgrounds Really Safe?

      According to U.S. health officials, more than 200,000 children aged 14 or under are treated each year in emergency departments for playground-related injuries, about 10 percent of which involve "TBIs" -- or traumatic brain injuries. More...

    • Make Those School Lunches More Nutritious

      Brown-bag lunches give you control over what you eat and what your children eat, but studies show that these to-go meals need to be healthier. More...

    • Health Tip: Create a Reading-Friendly Home

      If you fill your home with plenty of reading material and read often to your kids, you are more likely to raise children with an enthusiasm for reading, the Nemours Foundation says. More...

    • Could Soaps, Shampoos Be Pushing Girls Into Early Puberty?

      Exposure to chemicals found in a wide array of personal care products has been linked to early puberty among girls, a new investigation warns. More...

    • Middle School Football Players Show Changes in Key Brain Area

      There's more evidence that football may be changing the brains of adolescent players, and not in a good way. More...

    • Brain Changes Seen in MRIs of Young Football Players

      High-impact hits may affect the brain development of children and teens after just one season of football, preliminary research suggests. More...

    • For Kids' Sports, Diversification Is Best

      If your kid is highly skilled at hockey but wants to try basketball, new research suggests you shouldn't worry about whether that might cost your child a college scholarship. More...

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