This Blob is the stage that I personally consider to be the easiest on young parents. In this Blob the left brain (rational logical part) of the child develops. The child starts to see reason and logic and to understand right from wrong. Morality develops, by taking in to consideration the conclusion from both brain halves. Children start seeing the view points of others more clearly and have an increased attention span. And still, at least in the first half of the Blob, parents are “The Best” and “The All-Knowing”.
This is the elementary schooling part of life, where children learn by watching and through supervision. Their fine motoric skills, such as tying shoe laces, develop further. They learn to balance, to catch and to throw. They learn cognitive skills, like maths, writing and reading. Vocabulary increases immensely and the long-term knowledge base grows.
Children develop a sense of responsibility and learn about consequences (“if I don’t do my homework, I will not perform well in tests.”). They learn how to follow rules and when to bend them. They develop individual ways of tackling challenges, in an environment which requires a fine balance between support and guidance versus independent problem solving. Those children who receive frequent encouragement and praise get a strong belief in their competence. Those who encounter over-criticism and are not encouraged get a feeling of inadequacy and inferiority.
Over time the children become more and more independent. Their social circle increases beyond family and family friends. In contrast to the last stage, children now find their own friends, usually within the neighborhood and school. Having friends becomes more and more important emotionally. The children start comparing themselves with others and may experience peer pressure or bullying. Still the dependence on family is strong and most after school activities must be organised by the family.
Physically, baby teeth are lost and gender specific physical changes start appearing towards the end of the phase. In physical maturation, boys are on average 2 yrs behind girls. The children, especially girls, become aware of their body and sometimes eating disorders may develop.
Mentally, children learn to understand and deal with emotions. Their personality develops by taking a critical view all the information that they have collected, by connecting them and making conclusions. They start distinguishing between reality and fantasy, thus giving Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy a hard time existing. They may look more critically towards their parent’s views and might look for role models outside of the family. They still have somewhat idealistic ideas and dreams about the future (want to be pilot, astronaut…).
A phenomena that one can see often and is also increasingly accepted today is the growing number of children who live with divorced parents, either with the mother or father, or in shared custody. According to the OECD family database data collected in 2015 shows that, on average 83% of the children still do live together with both parents, though with strong variations across countries. For example, in the United States, it is only 69%, as compared to Finland where it is 96%. On average across the OECD, almost 10% of children live in “reconstituted” households, while nearly 15% live in sole-parent households (the majority of these with the mother). In Sweden, language has even been adapted to welcome this trend, calling the step-parents or step-sisters/brothers “bonus-mama/papa” or “bonus-sister/brother”, thus giving the development a positive touch.
Technology, such as access to smart phones, tablets and on demand videos is taking an ever more prominent role in the lives of today’s children. Children use technology for a majority of their play, which in turn has a negative impact on their creativity and imaginations, and at the same time inhibits optimal sensory and motor development. Today’s children are thus exceedingly passive and sedentary, having major sensory over-stimulation, which is showing negative impact on the attaining of traditional skills typical of this Blob. They also often have unlimited access to content not suitable for their age, such as porn or violence, making it more and more challenging for parents to control this channel. On the other hand, there are also positive impacts of technology usage. According to Nicholas Carr, an American author who has published books on technology, business and culture, in contrast to reading, an activity that encourages our brains to be focused and imaginative, the use of internet is strengthening our children’s ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently. According to Jim Taylor, a professor at a university in San Francisco, in an article in Psychology Today, video games are improving visual-spatial capabilities, increasing attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to have control on the amount passive technology time that a child gets and to offer it sufficient movement, touch, human connection, and exposure to nature to be able to develop essential skills appropriate for its age.
To sum up, as in the previous stage, children in this Blob need to be given the independence to develop and learn from their mistakes, and at the same time have the guidance and emotional security of knowing that they have a loving family to fall back on whenever they need it.
Click here for Blob 3: Adolescent
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
Person Versus Process Praise and Criticism: Implications for Contingent Self-Worth and Coping
Scientific America: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids
A Positive Sense of Self by Gina Stepp
Physical Development: What’s Normal? What’s Not? at HalthyChildren.org
Living arrangements of children from the OECD Family Database
The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child from the Huffington Post
The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains by Nicholas Carr