Your 9-Year-Old Isn't Crazy: How to Parent Your Way Through This Tough Transition

Mom Moment 10

kids on bridgeMy son has been going through some changes this fall -- and no, I don't mean puberty. He's almost nine years old now, and lately he's been having these intense emotional outbursts. As in, he's working on a project or playing a video game, makes a little mistake, and suddenly He Hates His Life! Everything Is Bad! This Is the Worst Day Ever! This Is the Worst Year! He Hates Growing Up! HE HATES EVERYTHING!

And on the other extreme -- he's obsessed with stuffed animals. He's cuddly but clingy. He even regresses sometimes, talking in a baby voice. What the hell! I thought it was just my kid and some of the changes our family is going through. But then I told a friend of mine and she said her son was going through the exact same stage. That's right -- it's just a super-fun developmental stage! Here's how you and your child can survive (and thrive) the nine-year-old changes.

Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded Waldorf education, says nine-going-on-ten is the point where a child transitions out of sweet, dreamlike early childhood. He described it as a physical and consciousness transformation -- or you could call it a kid's existential crisis. Suddenly children are aware of themselves as individuals, separate from the world -- and this can be disturbing. Child psychologist Jean Piaget called it the "period of industry" when a child begins to identify more with groups outside the family unit, a push-pull between independence and a need for parental guidance and security.

1. Don't try to fix every negative emotion. I think especially for attachment-style parents we're used to being able to quickly soothe our children. But at this point it's important for children to feel their feelings, even if they're frightening or upsetting. Just make sure they know you're there if they need you.

2. Help them understand that there's nothing wrong with them -- it's a stage. They're changing -- and growth is normal. Read up and make sure you understand what's going on, too.

3. Encourage your child to create and to spend time outdoors. Get out and explore the natural world. Find opportunities to build forts, work on farms. Encourage your child to build things and to express themselves creatively.

4. Encourage your child to explore logic. This time of new self-awareness is a time for your child to think about why and how we know what we know.

5. Waldorf education encourages certain stories to support nine-year-olds in transition, including the stories in the Old Testament and mythology, stories about transformation and transition. Here's a possible reading list for nine-year-olds.

I really like how Rahima Baldwin Dancy describes the nine-year-old change, if you want to learn more.

Have you noticed major changes in your kids at eight, nine, or ten?


Image via Michael Newton/Flickr

elementary school, independence, tweens


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SKDMo... SKDMom1020

Oh my gosh! I'm glad I'm not the only one. My 11 year starting doing that a couple of years ago. I think he is beginning to get a little better now , finally!

dixie... dixiechick2

My 8 year old does the same thing, glad to know he's not the only one. My 11 year is out of this stage and the teenage attitude stage.

dixie... dixiechick2

My 8 year old does the same thing, glad to know he's not the only one. My 11 year is out of this stage and the teenage attitude stage.

craft... craftycatVT

Ok, now I feel better about my 8 yr old daughter's outburst last night. I guess I accidentally mixed up some Perler beads that had been set aside for a project and you'd have thought her life was ruined by the way she cried and screamed!

dirti... dirtiekittie

oh thank the stars. my 9 year old has always been a somewhat sensitive kid, but lately it seems like every little thing gets her emotions going! fortunately we can talk through most of it and get her to calm down and think rationally, but it scares me to think this is a precursor to the teen years. oh the grey hairs i have coming. lol

butte... butterflyfreak

My daughter is only 5 at the moment so I have a few years before I have to deal with this stage. But we have already started telling her that it's ok to have bad feelings, ie being sad or mad, it's what you do with those feelings that matter. I don't want her to ever feel like her feelings are not valid and/or that she has to be happy all the time to be "normal." Hopefully, by the time this stage rolls around, she'll have a firm grasp on what she's feeling and have some constructive ways to express those emotions. But, if she turns into a screaming maniac in a few years, hey, I've been warned!

Chelsea Boon

I remember this stage so well. Along with that, I went from an A student to a C student.

nonmember avatar Christy

Good post--I especially like suggestions 3 and 4! But, I think the author is referring to one of Erik Erickson's stages of psychosocial developmental (Industry vs Inferiority) rather than one of Jean Piaget's developmental stages.

Sandy Miller

I am glad to hear all of this.  My 9 yo boy is doing the same thing.  I was blaming his ADHD and an older sister.  He just loses it sometimes and then is fine 5 minutes later.  Ah mood swings.

Manda Dawn

This is my daughter to a T. During a confrontation a couple of weeks ago she claimed she wishes she was 2 again. Then during another she said she wasn't ready to grow up. She has been attached to her stuffed animals, taking sometimes two to school and was broken hearted once when she couldn't take her beloved otter somewhere. She just turned 9 in July so I hope this phase doesn't last long.

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