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Child Development 101:
The Middle School Years
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs

Continuing Education (CE) credits can be earned for this presentation at

~    Review developmental tasks children accomplish at this stage
~    Examine how children’s thinking patterns are different than that of both toddlers and adolescents
~    Explore ways to assist children in enhancing their self esteem
~    Introduce Kholberg’s theory of moral development
Kholberg’s Theory of Moral Development
~    Level 1 РPre-conventional morality  0-9 years
~    No personal code of morality.
~    Moral code is shaped by the standards of adults and the benefits and consequences of compliance
~    Stage 1. Obedience and Punishment Avoidance
~    If a person is punished, they must have done wrong.
~    Centrated, egocentric, dichotomous thinking (Preoperational thought)
~    Stage 2. Individualism and Exchange.
~¬†¬† ¬†Recognize that there can be multiple ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ views.
~    Different individuals have different viewpoints. (Concrete operational thought)

Kholberg’s Theory of Moral Development
~    Level 2 РConventional morality (9+ years)
~    Internalized moral standards of valued adult role models.
~    Authority is internalized but not questioned
~    Reasoning is based on the norms of the peer group
~    Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships.
~    Desire to be seen as being a good person by others.
~    Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order.
~    Awareness of the wider rules of society
~    Judgments concern upholding the law and to avoiding guilt.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
~    Ages 7-11 Concrete Operational
~    Children are beginning to be able to evaluate things on more than one characteristic
~    Able to use inductive reasoning, drawing general conclusions from personal experiences and specific facts
~    Struggle with DEductive reasoning, or using a general principle to predict an event
~    Abstract and hypothetical thinking is not yet developed
~    Starting to be able to see (albeit not necessarily agree with) other people’s perspectives

~    Formal Operational
~    Abstract thinking and hypothesizing begin
~    Inductive reasoning: My experiences lead me to predict….
~    Deductive reasoning: Based on a general principle, I can expect/predict
~    The data against which hypotheses are based for 11-14 year olds is quite limited
~    School:
~    Algebra
~    Science labs

~    Formal Operational
~    The data against which hypotheses are based for 11-14 year olds is quite limited
~    Social
~    My experiences with this group lead me to expect ___ from anyone like them (Stereotyping activity)
~    General rules  (Rules list activity)
~    No good deed goes unpunished
~    Karma
~    Emotional reasoning and blaming


~¬†¬† ¬†Biological Needs ‚ÄďPreventing Vulnerabilities/Emotional Regulation
~    Sleep
~    Developing an effective, independent sleep routine
~    Nutrition
~    Building blocks for healthy body and brain
~    Mindfulness of eating for hunger and attending to nutritional cravings (dehydration, iron, calcium etc…)
~    Awareness of the impact of stimulants and sugar
~    Sunlight
~    Sets circadian rhythms
~    Vitamin D


~    Biological Needs
~    Medical care
~    Exercise
~    Stress relief
~¬†¬† ¬†Self-esteem ‚ÄúI did that‚ÄĚ
~    Raise serotonin levels
~    Develop healthy movement habits


~    Safety (External and Internal)
~    From physical harm
~    Reduce trauma from low grade-chronic stress
~    Re-parenting: Address brain changes caused by chronic stress or trauma (HPA-Axis / Adrenal Fatigue)
~    From emotional harm
~    Mindfulness
~    Distress tolerance
~    Interpersonal Effectiveness/Communication skills


~    Safety (External and Internal)
~    Explore attributions
~    Global vs. Specific
~    Internal vs. External
~    Stable vs. Changeable
~¬†¬† ¬†Introduce and explore the concept of locus of control (Scenario Activity‚ÄĒWhat can you control/change?)
~    Do self-esteem exercises
~    Continue the concept of Acceptance and Commitment
~    Accept what is and who you are
~    Commit your energies to becoming the best you that you can be (Group values activity)

~    Love, Belonging and Self-Esteem
~    Identity vs. Role Confusion (12-18 Years)
~    Search for a sense of self and personal identity, through exploration of personal values, beliefs and goals relating to many roles:
~    (Middle School) Interpersonal
~    Fidelity involves being able to accept others, even when there may be ideological differences.
~    Social Influences
~    Pubertal self-help Рre. physical changes
~    Social support Рprotection against turmoil
~    Identity formation Рmirror
~    Values clarification Рsounding board


~    Love, Belonging and Self-Esteem
~    Identity vs. Role Confusion (12-18 Years)
~    Failure to establish a sense of identity may cause the individual to be unsure about themselves or their place in society.
~    External validation
~    Fears of isolation, rejection, failure
~    Pressuring someone into an identity can result in
~¬†¬† ¬†Rebellion in the form of establishing a negative identity‚ÄĒor the opposite of what is expected.
~    Expected that he/she will follow in parental footsteps
~    Attempts to merge the expected identity with the preferred identity
~¬†¬† ¬†‚ÄúSuperwoman‚ÄĚ

TIPS‚ÄĒParenting and Reparenting
~    Become a student of your child (or your inner child)
~    Insist on respect and show respect (to yourself)
~    Be direct, but not too direct
~    Be available when he or she is ready
~¬†¬† ¬†Schedule (uggh—eye roll) bonding time
~    Ask why. Engage in role/value related discussions to model perspective taking, encourage openness (with yourself)
~    Pay attention to what your child (you) loves to do.
~    Identify what your child is (you are) good at, and create many chances to hone skills in this area.
~    Keep computers, laptops, televisions in common areas.
~    Model and engage children in DBT skills.
~    Mealtime mindfulness
~    Guide children through distress tolerance skills (ACCEPTS/Improve on the wall)
~    Discuss the concept of Radical Acceptance
~    Accepting that reality is what it is.
~    Accepting that the event or situation causing you pain has a cause.
~    Accepting life can be worth living even with painful events in it.
~    Schedule time for nondigital fun.

~    Talk about sexting. Explain the legal and emotional fallout from sexting to your kids.
~    Let them experience (accept responsibility for) real-life consequences.
~    Teach kids to make it right with others when they make mistakes.
~    Discipline BEHAVIORS, explore the rationale, forgive quickly. (including yourself)
~    Be careful when kids confess. Watch your reactions (pay attention to your internal critic) closely.

~    Middle school children are starting to explore identity
~    They are becoming more able to take other’s perspectives
~    They desire to be a good person in other’s eyes
~    Fears of isolation, rejection and failure are paramount.
~    The world/people are still relatively unpredictable
~    Their reasoning is still often faulty due to inexperience and lack of data
~    They often still fall into traps of overgeneralization/stereotyping and all-or-nothing thinking

Summary cont
~    Middle schoolers are better able to understand the concept or radical acceptance
~    Middle schoolers are growing as fast as toddlers.  Increased vulnerabilities include
~    Awkwardness/physical changes
~    Hormone fluctuations
~    Needing more sleep
~    Weight changes/insatiable hunger
Summary cont
~    Much of their reasoning is still often emotion focused.  Help them become more fact focused
~    Distress tolerance skills are also of paramount importance at this stage because middle school through high school is often characterized by high emotionality.
~    Adults who experienced setbacks during middle school years
~    May need to grieve a lost childhood
~    Can more easily develop the emotional and self-esteem skills they missed