However, eight is also a time when the child begins to do a great deal of analyzing and evaluating, finding fault in himself and others--especially Mohter. How do parents help an eight-year-old through this up-and-down age? What should parents expect in their relationships with the child and how can life in the family be made easier? What will the child's relationship with friends and siblings be like? In the successful tradition of the Gesell institute series, Your Eight-Year-Old is a well-researched, highly accessible guide.
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About the Author
Carol Chase Haber is a school psychologist in the Hamilton County, Ohio, school system and is a trained and qualified Gesell Examiner. She is the coauthor of several books, including He Hit Me First, Your Seven-Year-Old, Your Eight-Year-Old, and Your Nine-Year-Old.
Read an Excerpt
OF THE AGE
The typical Eight-year-old can be described as outgoing, lively, and evaluative. Unlike the child at Seven, he does not withdraw when the going gets tough. On the contrary, he remains right out in front, meeting every challenge that life throws his way.
With his typically outgoing, expansive nature, an Eight-year-old is much more responsive to his environment than at Seven. With his high energy level, he seems willing to tackle almost anything, even the new and difficult. He is expanding emotionally, growing out of his earlier shyness, and relating to other people more easily than he used to. He even approaches strangers with some confidence.
Eight’s liveliness, or speed, is obvious to almost any adult. He darts around the house or yard, seemingly unaware of physical obstacles in his path. His entire body seems ready for action. He works fast, plays fast (loves running games), talks fast, even eats fast. When necessary he can shift very rapidly from one activity to the next, and wastes little time in looking back.
Though at times his expansiveness and speed lead to carelessness, these usually don’t cause the Eight-year-old too much difficulty. However, his evaluativeness certainly does. It makes him all too aware of his own failures. Eight tends to be hard on himself for his mistakes. His evaluativeness also makes him all too aware when other people do not respond as he would like them to. Eight is extremely sensitive to perceived criticism of others. On the other hand, this evaluativeness sometimes helps him make sound judgments as to what he can or cannot accomplish, when he is or isn’t going to be successful. This helps to curb his headlong rush into things and can sometimes prevent him from undertaking the totally impossible.
Intellectually, as in other ways, Eight is becoming more expansive. He can express amazement and curiosity. He is growing aware of the impersonal forces of nature. He can distinguish fundamental similarities and differences when comparing a baseball and an orange, an airplane and a kite, wood and glass. The origin and growth of plants from seeds begins to intrigue him. He takes a deepening interest in the life processes of animals. He is even beginning to believe that all men are mortal and that even he will one day die. But at this relatively positive age, this knowledge does not depress him as it might have done earlier.
How Eight loves to talk! He comes home from school just “bursting” with news: “You never saw anything like it!” “Oh, it was awful!” In fact, everything tends to be dramatized: “Hey, what’s the matter with me!” “This has got me crazy!” “I always get the easy ones wrong.”
Personal space is expanding for the Eight-year-old. He can now return home alone by bus from a somewhat distant point. His walking area within his own neighborhood is so wide that it is sometimes hard to locate him. He loves to take trips to new cities, visit museums, zoos, and other places of interest. Eight’s spatial world is expanding even further through an interest in geography. He has a fairly clear notion of points of the compass and different parts of his community in relation to each other.
The child at Seven tended to stick close to home. Eight explores new territory. He sees beyond the boundaries of his neighborhood. He likes to order from a mail-order catalog, loves to look things up in the encyclopedia.
Eight is in general healthier and less fatiguable than he was at Seven, more fond of rough-and-tumble play and boisterous games. His tempo is rapid when he talks, reads, writes, or practices the piano. He wolfs down food, sitting on the edge of his chair, ready to bolt outdoors without pulling up his socks or tucking in his shirt. Eight-year-old boys may add a little bravado to their slap-dash demeanor to emphasize their masculine toughness.
The Seven-year-old was in many ways, with his anxieties and dark suspicions, still very much a child. Eight seems to be moving toward adulthood. He is definitely growing up; he even looks more mature than he did at Seven. Subtle changes in Eight’s body now hint at the body he is going to have when he gets older. He is much better coordinated when it comes to sports.
Relationships are extremely important at this age—the child’s relationships with Mother and Father, with friends. At Six the child was busy building up practical working relationships with others. Now the girl or boy is building up emotional and attitudinal relationships. How he feels about others and how they feel about him is important.
The typical Eight-year-old tends to listen closely when adults talk among themselves. He watches their facial expressions; he hopes they may say something favorable about him, but he recognizes the gap between the world of the adult and his own world, and adjusts accordingly.
Eight is curious about and interested in human relationships, particularly those of the adults close to him. In fact, he can be described as downright nosy. Girls explore family problems and relationships through the medium of paper dolls. Like chessmen on a chessboard, the paper dolls symbolize agents and situations. Father, mother, bride, bridegroom, daughter, son, baby, visitor—all are represented by these dolls, which can be so freely manipulated with dramatic commentary. Sometimes the dialogue suggests more insight than the Eight-year-old can actually claim: “My husband would not be unfaithful to me!” said one dramatic Eight to her friend. “He has been already,” the friend replied smugly.
Eight is increasingly aware of himself as a person, is interested in what makes him tick. As one mother of an Eight-year-old remarked, “Even his gestures are like him.” Now the child is conscious of his own appearance, his own personal qualities. He may be torn between the desire to grow up and the wish to remain as he is. And in his dramatic way he exaggerates his problems and dilemmas.
Eight’s performance is often only mediocre, and his notion of other people’s standards is extremely high. This discrepancy leads to tears and temporary unhappiness, at times; or Eight may boast and alibi to make up for what he can do and what he would like to do. His feelings are easily hurt, and the child of this age tends to be extremely sensitive to criticism. He is quick to recognize his all-too-frequent failures and will groan: “I never get anything right!” “I always do things wrong!”
While Eight is hard on himself, he is also hard on others. He can be quarrelsome and aggressive toward people, particularly Mother. To excuse his attacks on others, he often convinces himself that he himself is being attacked.
Eight’s sensitivity is also revealed in his need for praise for what he’s done. “This is crummy, isn’t it?” he may ask, hoping to be assured that it’s great. He is, however, rather discriminating, so that the praise he seeks must be at least partially plausible.
When things go very wrong for Eights, they do get truly angry. Some show their anger at least partly in jest. Thus they may tense up their faces in exasperation, project their lower jaws, and draw back and flex their arms at the elbow as they clench their fists. This dramatic pose is sure to produce laughter from other children at school.
Eight is becoming more responsible in regard to time. His increased speed in action makes him less vulnerable to the demands of time. He can now be expected to arrive at school at the proper hour. However, some Eights do not tell time as well as they did earlier; Eights are often careless with their watches and may lose, break, or misplace them. Though he may tell time less well, Eight is aware of punctuality. He keeps himself posted by asking others what time it is. If he knows he is going to arrive home late, he may even be responsible enough to telephone.