Gauge by Their Age

Guiding children often comes with many decisions that impact how children grow and develop, and discipline strategies are one of the many decisions.

Depending on the child’s age and stage of development, the strategy will be different.  For toddlers and preschoolers, appropriate discipline may involve simply distracting children or giving them something different to do to redirect their attention away from misbehaviors. As children get older and can understand more complex reasoning and explanations, parents’ discipline approaches may be more adaptive as they rely more on reasoning to manage children’s behaviors.

The real goal of parental discipline is to teach children how to behave in desired ways. Rewards and punishments have long been used as a strategy. As children age, they begin to understand their parents’ rules and family values and begin to exhibit behaviors that align. The conversations parents have with their children about the rules and consequences can help children, especially if both parent and child are calm and regulated. The discussions that happen when emotions are high may have more harsh consequences than when discussed after emotions have calmed for both child and adult.

As teens, parents might find that removing a privilege is a fair consequence to bring about more desired behavior. Communication will again be a favored strategy so that the teen still feels connected to the parent even in the face of a consequence for undesired behavior. It is during this time of adolescence that the teen begins to assume the responsibilities that come with emerging adulthood and is rewarded with more privileges. Guiding preschoolers, school-agers, or teens means continual communication with one another and choosing discipline strategies that respect the age and stage of each individual.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Age Related Guidelines

As Donna and I pondered the topic this month, we wanted to make sure that we talked about the fact that many things die. Animals. People. Plants. Flowers. Bugs. Fish. All living things die. The most important thing when talking about the topic of death is to remember the child’s age. The age of the child is what guides your conversation. Here are a couple of age related guidelines directly from the article “Loss and Grief: Talking with Children”.

  • Infants. Children under a year old seem to have very little awareness of death, but do experience feelings of loss and separation. Infants might show similar signs of stress as an older child or adult who is coping with loss: crankiness, eating disturbance, altered sleep patterns, or intestinal disturbances.
  • Toddlers. Children between the ages of one and three generally view death as temporary. That’s why it’s very important to state simply and directly that the person has died and to explain what that means.
  • Young children. Children between the ages of three and six might believe their thoughts, feelings or actions can cause death. Feelings of responsibility and guilt can arise. It’s important to tell children what caused the death and be attuned to any sense of responsibility the child might convey.
  • Older children. School aged children begin to develop a more mature understanding of death, seeing it as both inevitable and irreversible.
  • Teenagers. Teenagers are going through many changes and life in general can be very challenging. During a time of loss and mourning, let your teenager know that you’re there for her/him. Be present while also allowing space and privacy. Respect your teenager’s feelings, listen well, and let them teach you about their grief and how you can help.

To view the whole article : Loss and Grief: Talking with Children

How have you talked with children about the loss of living things and people?  Share your conversations with your children about loss and death here.

Additional resource for talking with children about death are below:

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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At what age can your child stay home alone?

Many parents wonder when their child can stay home alone. While there is not a magical answer, there are many factors to consider when making this decision with your family.

First, remember that all children mature at different rates and have varying levels of skills and abilities that should be taken into consideration when making this decision.
Second, it is important for families to consider the amount of time the child will be home alone (i.e., one half hour or an entire day).
Third, it important to know how your child feels about being home alone and how your child will handle an emergency.
Answer these questions to assess your child’s readiness to stay home alone.

  1. Is your child mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being on his or her own?
  2. Do you and your child communicate well about feelings?
  3. Can your child manage simple tasks like making a snack and taking a phone message?
  4. Has your child indicated an interest and/or a willingness to stay home alone?
  5. Does your child generally observe rules that exist in your home?
  6. Does your child spontaneously tell you about daily events?
  7. Is your child physically able to unlock and lock the doors at your home?
  8. Can your child solve small problems without assistance?
  9. Does your child know when and how to seek outside help?
  10. Do you think your child is prepared to handle an accident or an emergency?
  11. Will your child follow your household rules when you are not home?

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, this may indicate your child is ready to stay alone.

Many parents find it helpful to allow their child to stay home alone in small increments to begin with, as a “testing period.” For instance, maybe a parent will go for a walk while their child is home for 20-30 minutes. This is a good opportunity to assess the event and to discuss how your child felt about staying home alone. As you and your child become more comfortable with your child staying home alone, it would be appropriate to gradually increase the amount of time your child is home alone.

Check back next week to learn about setting rules and teaching safety tips.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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