Effective Discipline Techniques for 8-Year-Old Children

Behavior Management Strategies for Kids in Third Grade

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Age 8 is a time where many kids start to flourish. They demonstrate better critical thinking skills, improved problem-solving, and much better attention spans.

Many of them also crave a fair amount of independence. But, you might find that despite knowing the skills you've taught, your 8-year-old might forget to use them sometimes.

Whether they get swept up in teasing another child or repeatedly forget to feed the cat, there's a good chance many of their social, emotional, and behavioral skills will need some fine tuning.

Typical 8-Year-Old Behavior

There will likely be days when your child acts much more mature and other times when she regresses. But rest assured, that's normal for an 8-year-old.

While they want to separate themselves from the kindergarten kids, they can't yet keep up with the big kids. And that can be a struggle for them when they are working hard to learn new skills. 

Physical abilities also become very apparent at this age. Many 8-year-olds start to recognize talents in certain sports and some of them begin to stand out from the crowd. Kids who are less interested in sports may develop interests in music, art, or other hobbies. It's a great time to help your child explore various activities to test his interests.

It’s normal for 8-year-olds to be argumentative and to test the limits at times. They can be moody and may struggle to manage their frustration and anger when they don’t get what they want.

Your 8-year-old child may express an increased desire for privacy, to shower and get dressed with the door closed, for example. Eight-year-olds may also want to keep some thoughts private. Giving your child a journal to write in or draw in can help satisfy the need for a little privacy.

While it's important to respect your child's request for privacy, there are some matters—such as going online or conflicts with friends—that should be handled with your guidance.

Be Proactive About School-Related Issues

Age eight is the point at which many children start taking standardized tests at school, and expectations for homework, focus, and abstract thinking increase. Your child may have a tough time keeping up with the intellectual demands.

Be aware that some behavior problems may stem from a child's frustration over not understanding the work. Many kids would rather have their peers view them as the "class clown" rather than the kid who can't do the math.

While behavior problems that stem from learning issues should still be addressed with consequences, you also need to address the underlying problem. Help your child establish good habits that will help them be successful at school. Create a homework area, designate a homework time, and stay on top of your child's progress.

Minor concerns can be addressed through after school time with a teacher or tutor. More significant concerns may lead to a diagnosis of a mental health issue such as ADHD or learning disability such as dyslexia. Fortunately, there are educational options to help kids with a wide range of learning differences and styles. And this is a great time to identify those problems and get your child the help they need going forward.

Help Your Child Build Confidence

Eight-year-olds may veer between bouts of brassy over-confidence and uncertainty and doubt about their own skills. They may compare themselves to their peers by saying, “He is better at drawing than I am” or “She is a better soccer player," so it's important to teach your child that with practice and effort, she can improve her skills.

Encourage your child to keep working hard, even when frustrated, and point out improvements when you see them by saying things such as, "Remember at the beginning of the season when you couldn't throw the ball to first base? All that practice you put in shows!"

Be Authoritative

Research shows an authoritative approach to parenting leads to the most successful outcomes in children. Establish high expectations for your child but give plenty of support and warmth.

Validate feelings and show empathy, but establish clear rules and give consequences when those rules are broken. Those efforts can help you become a more authoritative parent, which is key to helping your child become a healthy, responsible adult.

Provide Positive Attention

Children depend on adults for reassurance and security. One of the best ways to give your 8-year-old a sense of security is by providing plenty of positive attention.

Set aside a few minutes each day to give your child your undivided attention. No matter how much they misbehaved, play a game, talk about your day, or play catch. By giving your child plenty of positive attention, you'll reduce attention seeking behaviors and your child will be more inclined to want to follow your rules when you maintain a healthy relationship.

Praise Good Behavior

Catch your child being good and provide specific, labeled praise. Rather than praising for a job well done, make sure to praise for effort.

So rather than saying, "You're so smart!" when your child gets an A on a test, say, "You worked so hard to improve your spelling this year. Your hard work is paying off." Praising effort builds character and will motivate your child to keep up the good work.

Create Reward Systems

Sometimes, kids need extra incentives to help them address problem behaviors. A reward system can be a wonderful motivator for 8-year-olds.

Identify behaviors you want to see more of, such as getting ready for school on time or getting homework done before dinner. Then, let your child earn privileges if the goals are met. Electronics time, an opportunity to stay up 15 minutes later, or a chance to play a special game is just a few privileges that may motivate your child to change behavior.

Token economy systems also work well at this age. They keep kids interested and often they grow quite invested in improving their behavior.

Make Chore Charts

Assign your child responsibilities and use a chore chart to remind them to do chores every day. Let them practice being independent by checking off responsibilities on their own.

Many eight-year-old children develop an interest in money. Providing a small allowance for certain chores can be a good way to begin teaching your child how to save and how to spend money wisely.

Use Grandma’s Rule of Discipline

Make it clear to your child that he has some control over when he earns privileges. So rather than saying, "You can't go outside until you clean your room," use Grandma's Rule of Discipline to frame it in a positive light.

Say, "You can go outside to play as soon as you clean your room." Then, your child will know making a good choice will allow him to have his privileges.

Create Behavior Management Contracts

Most 8-year-olds want more freedom, so it's important to outline how your child can show you that he or she can handle more freedom.

Create a behavior management contract that clearly outlines what your child will need to do to earn a later bedtime or more privileges. Then, encourage them to work on the goals so they can enjoy more responsibility.

Place Your Child in Time-Out

They’re not too old for a time-out at this age, but it should be used sparingly. It can be a great way to teach your child how to calm down when angry.

Place your child in time-out for 8 minutes. If they refuse to go to time-out or they don't serve the entire time-out, don't force it. Instead, take away a privilege for 24 hours.

Take Away Privileges

When your child breaks the rules, it's important to provide a negative consequence. The loss of a privilege is often effective.

Take away electronics, a special activity, or a favorite toy. Just make sure it's time sensitive. Losing a privilege for 24 hours is usually effective. If your child loses privileges for longer periods of time he may forget why he lost his privileges in the first place.

A Word From Verywell

Middle childhood is a critical period for kids. It's a great time to start giving your child a little more freedom and responsibility. When mistakes are made, it's your cue that better skills or more practice are needed.

It can be a challenging time for parents who may begin to see a hint of what may be in store during the teenage years, but it can also be filled with rapid growth, fun times, and plenty of opportunities to teach your child valuable life lessons.

Sources

  • Anthony, Michelle. The emotional lives of 8-10-year-olds. Scholastic Publishing. Web. 2017.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Middle childhood
  • Piko BF, Balázs MÁ. Authoritative parenting style and adolescent smoking and drinking. Addictive Behaviors. 2012;37(3):353-356.
  • Smetana JG. Current research on parenting styles, dimensions, and beliefs. Current Opinion in Psychology. 2017;15:19-25.
  • Thomson KC, Oberle E, Gadermann AM, Guhn M, Rowcliffe P, Schonert-Reichl KA. Measuring social-emotional development in middle childhood: The Middle Years Development Instrument. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. April 2017. 

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