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Developmentally Appropriate Behaviors for School-age Children

by Jennifer Zimmerman

Most of the time when parents talk about developmentally appropriate behavior, they are referring to young children's developmental milestones and achievements. However, school-age children have developmental milestones too, even if they aren't quite as dramatic as walking or toilet training. If you have a conversation with a 5 year old and then one with a 12 year old, you'll definitely see some differences. So what are developmentally appropriate behaviors for school age children?

American Academy of Pediatrics

Not only is there a rather large developmental gap between 5 and 12 years old, there can also be large differences between children of the same age. So the American Academy of Pediatrics does not provide a handy checklist of behaviors commonly seen at each level, but it does offer some suggestions about normal child behavior. The AAP reminds parents that intellectual development can lag behind social development, or vice versa, and that regressive behaviors, like baby talk, may be tolerated when children are going through a stressful time, like a move or the birth of a new sibling. Physical aggression, however, should never be accepted or tolerated with this age group.

Motor Behaviors

The AAP does help out in one other area -- motor behaviors. It suggests that children between 6 and 9 years old have the balance, hand-eye coordination, strength and speed to play sports that require basic motor skills, like soccer, swimming, baseball, tennis, gymnastics, skiing and martial arts. Sports that require strategizing, teamwork and complex visual skills, like football, basketball, hockey and volleyball, will be difficult for kids this age, unless they are modified. Children aged 10 to 12 years old are ready for those sports, however. Also, parents should keep in mind that growth spurts can temporarily affect balance and coordination during the school-age years.

Social and Emotional Behaviors

Social and emotional behaviors also evolve during the middle childhood years. While children are getting better at controlling angry outbursts and tolerating frustrations like waiting for what they want, their feelings are easily hurt and they still have a hard time dealing with failure, reports the North Carolina State University Extension. The university also emphasizes that school-age children often act nurturing with younger children but look up to older children. They value winning, being first and leading. Other behaviors in school age children include looking up to an adult besides their parents, testing their independence through back talk and rebellion and defining themselves by their appearance, possessions and activities.

Language Behaviors

The most commonly discussed intellectual behavior in this age group is reading. In the first few elementary years, children learn to read. After third grade, however, they start reading to learn new information. Their language development parallels this, according to the Medline Plus website. In early middle childhood, children typically speak in clear, five- to seven-word sentences and can follow three-step commands. By the end of middle childhood, though, they speak in complex sentences with proper grammar and can follow five-step commends. Children who have difficulty with expressing language or following commands are likely to talk back or clown around to avoid being teased about their difficulties, says Medline Plus.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

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