Learn Some Positive Parenting Tips
Your child is heading back to school or attending school for the first time. As she grows, her needs may change. Discover positive ways to help the development of your 3- to 5-year old, 6- to 8-year old, 9- to 11-year old, and adolescent.
Preschoolers (3–5 years old)
As your child grows into early childhood, his world will begin to open up. She will become more independent and begin to focus more on adults and children outside of the family. He will want to explore and ask about his surroundings even more.
Her interactions with family and those around her will help to shape her personality and individual ways of thinking and moving. During this stage your child will be able to ride a tricycle, use safety scissors, show awareness of gender identity, help to dress and undress himself, play with other children, recall part of a story, and sing a song.
Positive Parenting Tips
- Continue to read to your child. Nurture her love for books by taking her to the library or bookstore.
- Let your child help with simple chores.
- Encourage your child to play with other children. This helps him to learn the value of sharing and friendship.
- Help your child’s language by speaking to her in complete sentences and in “adult” language. Help her to use the correct words and phrases.
- Be clear and consistent when disciplining your child. Model the behavior that you expect from him.
Middle Childhood (6 – 8 years old)
Middle childhood brings many changes to a child’s life. By this time, children can dress themselves, catch a ball more easily with only their hands, and tie their shoes. Developing independence from family becomes more important now. Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop rapidly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports.
Positive Parenting Tips
- Show affection for your child. Recognize her accomplishments.
- Talk with your child about school, friends, and things she looks forward to in the future.
- Talk with your child about respecting others. Encourage him to help people in need.
- Help your child set her own achievable goals—she’ll learn to take pride in herself and rely less on approval or reward from others.
- Make clear rules and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV or when he has to go to bed. Be clear about what behavior is okay and what is not okay.
- Help your child learn patience by letting others go first or by finishing a task before going out to play. Encourage him to think about possible consequences before acting.
- Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, and going to events in your community.
- Get involved with your child’s school. Meet the teachers and staff to understand the learning goals and how you and the school can work together to help your child do well.
- Continue reading to your child. As your child learns to read, take turns reading to each other.
- Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make her feel badly about herself.
- Support your child in taking on new challenges. Encourage him to solve problems, such as a disagreement with another child, on his own.
Middle Childhood (9 – 11 years old)
Your child’s growing independence from the family and interest in friends might be obvious by now. Healthy friendships are very important to your child’s development, but peer pressure can become strong during this time. Children who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices for themselves. This is an important time for children to gain a sense of responsibility along with their growing independence. Also, physical changes of puberty might be showing by now, especially for girls. Another big change children need to prepare for during this time is starting middle or junior high school.
Positive Parenting Tips
You can help your child become independent, while building his or her sense of responsibility and self-confidence at the same time. Here are some suggestions:
- Spend time with your child. Talk with her about her friends, her accomplishments, and what challenges she will face.
- Be involved with your child’s school. Go to school events; meet your child’s teachers.
- Encourage your child to join school and community groups, such as a team sport, or to take advantage of volunteer opportunities.
- Help your child develop his own sense of right and wrong. Talk with him about risky things friends may pressure him to do, like smoking or dangerous physical dares.
- Help your child develop a sense of responsibility—involve your child in household tasks. Talk to your child about saving and spending money wisely.
- Meet the families of your child’s friends.
- Talk with your child about respecting others. Encourage your child to help people in need. Talk with him or her about what to do when others are not kind or are disrespectful.
- Help your child set his own goals. Encourage him to think about skills and abilities he would like to have and about how to develop them.
- Make clear rules and stick to them. Talk to your child about what you expect from her when no adults are supervising. If you provide reasons for rules, it will help your child to know what to do in those situations.
- Use discipline to guide and protect your child, instead of punishment to make him feel badly about himself.
- Talk with your child about the normal physical and emotional changes of puberty.
- Encourage your child to read every day. Talk with her about her homework.
- Be affectionate and honest with your child, and do things together as a family.
Early Adolescence (12 – 14 years old)
Early adolescence is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen. Girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start menstruating. They might be worried about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This will also be a time when your teenager might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs, and to have sex. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, and family problems.
Positive Parenting Tips
Trust is important for teenagers. Even as she develops independence, she will need to know she has your support. At the same time, she will need you to respect her need for privacy.
- Be honest and direct with your teenager when talking about sensitive subjects such as drugs, drinking, smoking, and sex.
- Encourage your teenager to get exercise. He or she might join a team or take up an individual sport. Helping with household tasks such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or washing the car also keeps your teen active.
- Meal time is very important for families. Eating together helps teenagers make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes healthy weight, and gives your family time to talk to each other.
- Meet and get to know your teenager’s friends.
- Show an interest in your teenager’s school life.
- Help your teenager make healthy choices while encouraging him to make his own decisions.
- Respect your teenager’s opinions and take into account her thoughts and feelings. It is important that she knows you are listening to her.
- Page last reviewed: August 27, 2007
- Page last updated: August 27, 2007
- Content source:
- Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs