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4 to 10: Responding

NICHD Updated: May 24th 2019

4-10 years

Responding to your child in an appropriate manner

The story below will give you a better idea of what it means to respond to your child in an appropriate manner. As you read, think about these questions:


  • Is the parent in the story reacting or responding?
  • Is his response appropriate to the child's age?
  • Is his response appropriate to the situation?
  • How might you respond to your child in the same situation?
  Raj and Amira (Age 8)3  

What's the Story?

When Raj decided to be a stay-at-home dad, his daughter was three. He set up a routine for their days, so that Amira would always know what was going to happen and what was expected of her. When she started kindergarten, Raj changed the routine to fit in the school- related activities, such as doing homework and reading together. Now that Amira's eight, she's more interested in doing things with her schoolmates and neighbors, such as playing at her friends' houses or getting involved in a community sports team. But Raj will not let her take part in these activities because he wants to keep her on the same schedule.When Raj says "No" to Amira, she is disappointed and withdraws from him.

Raj Says:

Amira has to get back on our schedule. It's worked so well all this time. She has been up until 8:30 p.m. every night this week. Once we get back on track, things will be better.

What's the Point?

Raj is right about the need for solid routines and schedules, but he forgot about the need to be flexible. Younger children do very well with a steady schedule; it allows them to become relaxed in their worlds and learn what their worlds expect from them.

But, schedules also need to adapt to normal changes that occur as kids get older. Amira is just starting to build friendships, a key feature in normal social growth. By now, her regular bedtime should probably be 8:00 p.m., or 8:30 p.m., depending on how much sleep she needs. Supper_with_dad As Amira matures, she'll need to balance school, home, health, and her friends. Raj can help her create and maintain that balance, if he shows her what it means to be flexible.

When he started the schedule, Raj had Amira's best interests in mind. With some minor changes, Raj's schedule can co-exist with Amira's growth in a way that suits them both.


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