Young Children: Child Development (6-8 Years Old)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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What are tips for parents caring for a young child 6-8 years of age?

As a reflection of the asynchronous development of motor skills, some 6- to 8-year-old children gradually discover their athletic skills are not keeping up with their peers. The natural competitive nature of this age group and their awakening sense of imperfection and vulnerability are underscored on the athletic field. While many sport leagues attempt to limit this natural competitive instinct by avoiding keeping score or awarding trophies/medals to all players, many children are frustrated by these adult ploys to "make everyone a winner." Better for parents to recognize that their child may not be the best on the team. To the child, this may not seem fair. Emphasizing the purpose of participation in sports is for enjoyment will help a child establish a healthier attitude and provide an escape valve for such frustration.

Similar to the sports field, the family home may become a battleground among siblings trying to establish a pecking order. Parents often feel they are living in the midst of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. For most disputes, parents are most effective by establishing a policy of benign neglect unless significant physical or emotional harm is imminent. One successful strategy is to enforce a policy of loss of privilege/activity/computer-TV time for all combatants (regardless of "who started it" or "who's at fault") unless the involved children can successfully resolve the dilemma by themselves. While this may seem to be impossible at home, teachers often point out peer resolution of problems being successfully handled on a daily basis during school recess and lunch breaks.

By the third grade, many students loudly complain that "school isn't fun." Such a reaction is inherent in the more competitive atmosphere in the classroom where (by definition) everyone isn't always a winner. Commonly, academic evaluation changes from the more abstract (stars, colors, etc.) to traditional (A, B, C, etc.). As a reaction to this perceived unfair inequity, children of this age range start enjoying social bonding groups -- scouting, clubs, teams, and cliques. These groupings are commonly single gender since both boys and girls consider the opposite gender "yucky."

Perhaps one of the most frustrating parental experiences is the child's gradual realization that his parents aren't salient and omnipotent but rather human with their own foibles. The parental fall from Mt. Olympus must be counterbalanced by the continuous efforts of parents to be appropriate role models. Such efforts provide to their children successful strategies and coping mechanisms for the inherent frustrations of this age range. The transition from "doing it because I told you to" to "you should do it because you know it is the correct thing to do" is started during this time period.

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