The Age of Nine

The Age of Nine

Do you remember the childhood game tug-of-war, where both opponents tug hard on a rope, pulling away from each other in an attempt to tug their opponent over to their side, across the line, and if they succeed, they win? Yes. You remember. It was a fun game to play as a child … not so fun to play against your 9-year old when it involves a battle of wits. You versus child pulling, tugging, constant friction … it is exhausting!

The age of nine is an age of remarkable growth. It is the age where kids hit significant milestones in both cognitive development and motor skills, as well as emotional and social development. It’s brilliant to witness! Every day I feel so proud watching my son take on the many responsibilities in his school work, belongings, and in himself; and expand upon his horizons. His self-awareness is blossoming as is his awareness of the world around him – the environment, our society, and the plight of others. For example, he recently went through all his possessions, and lovingly filled a big box of toys and books so that he may donate it forward to children displaced from the war in Ukraine. It is heartwarming. And, it is not something he would have done 6 months ago. So, it’s hard not to be proud of my child. He is kind, compassionate, sensitive, observant, funny, and head-strong.

But – OH – is he ever head-strong! And this is where the challenge comes in. His streak of stubbornness and sheer defiance is exhausting and frustrating. It is a constant battle of wits – a game of tug-of-war. I recognize that he is developing and changing. I recognize that this is all a part of growing up. He is in the beginning stages of pre-adolescence. But – WOW! It is also the beginning of many white hairs on my head!! It is hard to gage his moods – one moment happy, the next absolutely miserable – from his contagious laughter and bright stories, to his dirty looks and tempers – it is enough to make my husband and I go insane! 

How does one parent? How does one cope? With lot’s of wine!!! No, I’m just kidding. But, it is incredibly challenging, and sometimes a small glass of wine is warranted at the end of a difficult day. I feel like I’m treading on a fragile glass floor all day long. I’m trying my damnedest not to yell and holler at my very tumultuous child, and instead remain calm, kind, and patient. However, sometimes it’s just a great big fail, and I find myself yelling at him. It’s not often, but regardless I never feel great after yelling. So, I work hard at remaining calm and firm with my expectations. I establish clear boundaries and choices. Both my husband and I work on this together in partnership. We explain the reward(s) should our head-strong child choose to comply, and we outline the consequence(s) should he choose not to listen to us. We make our daily expectations very clear; and, we remain practical with our consequences. We never establish consequences that we cannot realistically follow-through on. That is key! Our 9-year old is keenly observant, as are most kids. If we back down from a clearly-outlined consequence, then he will lose trust and respect in us. He will begin to question our authority as well as our conviction. This is something we wish to avoid.

Another tactic we like to use is praise. We praise him when he listens and makes good choices. If the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and it’s been a day riddled with struggle and defiance, we follow-through with the consequences – and – we always talk it out with him after emotions have deescalated. We explain why the consequence occurred, and we ask what he could have done differently to achieve a different outcome. We make him think, and talk it through.

It’s never easy. But, I need to teach my child these important life-lessons. He needs to understand that choices made will always have a consequence – either good or not-so-good – and he needs to know how to adapt his behaviour, decisions, and attitudes to continue to grow and find success in his everyday life. It’s all a part of parenting. 

The age of nine has it’s challenges, like every other age, and learning to adapt and parent through these significant milestones is never easy. But, neither is growing up. I’m learning how to parent through this new phase, just as my child is learning how to navigate through his own very personal changes. I think we are both hoping that the game of tug-of-war can be tossed to the sidelines soon. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, feel free to send some sound advice my way … and perhaps a bottle of wine or two!

The Age of Nine. Published by Crystal Joy Hall

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