Solving Behavior Problems in Senior Primary (age 8-11)

The focus of teaching in this age group (post-baptism) is how to obey the commandments — how to apply the scriptures in their lives. The Savior taught the importance of obeying and teaching the commandments when he said, “Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). You have been given a sacred trust to help the children learn how to keep their baptismal covenants and give service. As each girl prepares to become a young woman and each boy prepares to become a young man and receive the priesthood, you can be an important influence in their lives.

Source: Primary 4, Helps for the Teacher, v

The Eight-Year Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Is becoming more coordinated. Wiggles and squirms. Has nervous habits. Plays organized games that require physical skill. Has a good attention span. Wants to be included.Use activities that require coordination and allow the child to use his or her energy. Be patient with clumsiness, unpleasant habits, and squirming. Alternate quiet and active periods. Praise good behavior.
Wants to know the reasons for things. Is anxious to share his or her knowledge. Thinks he or she knows much, but is beginning to recognize that others may know even more. Is judgmental. Has heroes. Enjoys writing, reading, and pretending.Use games, stories, pictures, and problem-solving activities to encourage learning. Use reading, writing, and role playing. Help the child set realistic goals. Encourage the child to be more concerned about his or her own behavior than that of others. Provide the child with appropriate heroes such as Church leaders and other good members of the Church.
Enjoys group play with simple rules. Prefers to be with own gender in group play. Is more cooperative and less insistent on having his or her own way. Wants to have a best friend. Has a strong need for independence, but also relies on adults for guidance and security.Provide opportunities for group interaction, cooperation, and sharing. Supervise activities closely. Recognize that his or her friendships can be intense. Help the child become part of the group if he or she does not have close friends. Praise the child for positive behavior. Let the child work with other children and with you to make class rules and other decisions. Allow him or her to work independently.
Is usually affectionate, helpful, cheerful, outgoing, and curious, but can also be rude, selfish, bossy, and demanding. Is sensitive to criticism. Criticizes self and others. Is sometimes giggly and silly. Experiences guilt and shame.Help the child recognize and deal constructively with negative emotions. Show interest and enthusiasm. Praise and build self-confidence; do not criticize or compare the child with other children. Recognize the child’s efforts and accomplishments. Let the child enjoy humor when appropriate, and be patient with giggling. Teach him or her that others make mistakes.
Is receptive to gospel teachings, but may have questions about them. Is proud of Church membership. Likes living gospel principles. Learns the gospel through concrete examples and participation.Express personal faith and testimony often. Help the child appreciate his or her Church membership and the responsibilities it brings. Challenge the child to live gospel principles. Share personal experiences, scriptures, and stories. Use activities in which the child can participate.

The Nine-Year Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Enjoys team games. Has good body control. Is interested in developing strength, skill, and speed. Likes more complicated crafts and handwork.Provide a variety of activities, including team games, to sustain interest and help the child develop skills.
Is able to remain interested in subjects or activities for a longer period of time. Seeks facts; does not enjoy much fantasy. Likes memorization. Has definite interests and curiosity. Likes reading, writing, and keeping records. Is interested in the community and other cultures and peoples. Enjoys learning about the past and the present. Likes to collect things.Give specific information and facts rather than fantasy. Do not give all the answers; allow the child time to think about and discuss answers. Encourage him or her to memorize quotations and scriptures. Respect individual differences when making assignments and giving responsibilities. Provide opportunities for reading, writing, and record keeping. Encourage him or her to keep a journal. Teach about other people and cultures and about history.
Enjoys being with groups of people of the same gender. Likes group adventures and cooperative play, but also likes competition. Tests authority and exercises independence. Spends much time with friends.Recognize the child’s need for peer acceptance. Establish and maintain reasonable limits, but allow for independence. Teach the child how to be gracious, even when the child feels that he or she has not ‘won.’ Encourage friendships, and help the child make friends.
Has some behavior problems, especially if he or she is not accepted by others. Is becoming very independent, dependable, and trustworthy. Is concerned about being fair, and argues over fairness. Is better able to accept his or her own failures and mistakes and take responsibility for personal actions. Is sometimes silly.Let the child know that you accept him or her, even when you do not approve of certain behavior. Provide opportunities for the child to show independence and dependability. Do not ridicule the child for wrongdoing.
Is well aware of right and wrong. Wants to do right, but sometimes rebels. Is influenced by others’ testimonies. Is ready to be taught more complex gospel principles.Express your love and support for the child often. Frequently share your testimony and testimonies of the prophets. Teach gospel principles that are more advanced.

The Ten or Eleven Year Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
May be experiencing rapid growth. Enjoys sports that require strength, speed, and skill. Has periods of playing, pushing, wrestling, poking, and giggling. Is restless, active, and impatient. May differ from peers in physical size and coordination. Does not like to be treated like a child. Is concerned about physical appearance.Recognize that he or she is growing and maturing. Do not force interaction with the opposite sex. Provide opportunities for him or her to participate in physical activities that provide outlets for his or her energy. Give little attention to minor misbehavior. Teach fairness and the value of participating in activities. Show interest in his or her life. Value individual differences.
Enjoys abstract concepts and ideas. Makes conclusions based on prior learning. Likes to be challenged in mental tasks. Is decisive and reasonable. Enjoys memorization. Likes to set goals. Thinks more logically. Enjoys learning. Has a good attention span. Understands more precisely the meanings of words, and can define abstract terms. Has humor that may seem ridiculous to adults.Stimulate thinking by using questions, scripture stories, scripture memorization, problem-solving activities, and discussions. Allow him or her to make decisions and set goals. Use new words, and allow him or her to define and explain their meanings. Use visuals, stories, and games.
Is social and competitive. Possesses strong loyalty to groups. Has much positive and negative interaction with peers. Has friendships that are more complex and intense. Relies on best friends. Values peers’ opinions and standards more highly than those of adults. Is sometimes critical of adults’ judgments and of others’ feelings. Likes to tease or play roughly. Is sometimes rude and uncooperative, and at other times is friendly and cooperative.Respond to the need to belong to groups and be influenced by them. Provide activities that allow interaction with peers. Encourage group planning and group work. Teach him or her to be sensitive to those who are not accepted by others. Give responsibilities and assignments, and help ensure follow-through. Encourage service projects such as tending children, sharing talents, and sharing the gospel with others. Use examples and lessons to teach sensitivity and kindness. Praise courtesy, unselfishness, loyalty, and friendliness.
Is critical of self and resentful of others’ criticism. May feel that everything he or she does is wrong, especially if criticized. Has worries and fears about school and friends. Is very sensitive, especially about self. Has doubts and insecurities. Is sometimes touchy and irritable, and is very conscious of being treated fairly. Is able to be polite, serious, honest, and sincere. Desires to be independent and have responsibilities.Do not compare him or her to others. Encourage him or her, and praise accomplishments. Show confidence in him or her as an individual. Reinforce positive behavior, and try to ignore negative acts of small consequence. Allow for independence and expression of personal feelings. Try to understand his or her worries and what makes him or her unhappy.
Has a strong moral sense and conscience. Is interested in self-improvement. Does not like to admit when he or she has behaved badly. Is ready to learn more about the doctrines of the gospel.Teach specific moral concepts and values. Emphasize that true happiness and self-improvement come from keeping the commandments. Encourage him or her to commit to living gospel principles. Help him or her understand and prepare for future responsibilities and blessings. Do not ridicule him or her for wrongdoing, especially in front of friends. Teach the gospel in its fulness with scripture stories and stories from the lives of latter-day prophets. Encourage him or her to bear testimony.

Source: Teaching, No Greater Call, C: Teaching Different Age-Groups, 2: Age Characteristics of Children, p. 110

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