Book Recommendation: Your Eight-Year-Old


One of my professional responsibilities has been to help parents sort out which of their child’s behaviors are “typical”, i.e., often occurring in the development of neurotypical kids, and which are more atypical.  To be honest, this isn’t a conversation I ever seek out, but it does come up fairly often when parents attribute very typical things as “disordered” or “autistic” and then I step in with some developmental information that generally provides a sense of relief to worried parents.

It has been very helpful in my own parenting to have this background and training in child development, especially because I generally know when to be concerned and when to relax about difficult stages.  Lord knows I don’t always get it right, but it has been useful at times.

However.  Baxter has hit a stage recently that is unfamiliar to me.  I have not written about it here because he is now at an age where I feel that I need to protect his privacy more; suffice it to say that challenges like occasional untruths, minor rebellion and secrecy have emerged over here and while I assumed it was normal, I really didn’t have as much to base that on as I normally do.  I was intrigued to hear from his teacher that these themes had been emerging in most of her mid-year third-grade conferences last month, and so I decided I needed to learn more about what these 8- and 9-year old kids are dealing with and what it all means.

A search on and an inquiry to our friends Alex and Anna (parents extraordinaire who had previously mentioned a set of developmental books they rely on) turned up the same book series.  I immediately purchased the books that pertained to my kids: “Your Eight-Year-Old: Lively and Outgoing” and “Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful” by Louse Bates Ames, Ph.D. of the Gesell Institute of Human Development.  I have not picked up the Four-Year-Old book yet but just finished the Eight-Year-Old one.

I love the positive tone of the title and cover of all of these slim paperbacks, and in general they are very upbeat about development at each age.  Happily, though, as the back cover states, the one I read about Baxter’s age group also includes: “Aggressiveness in eight-year olds, sensitivity to criticism, talkativeness, behavior problems in school, reading skills, quarreling with parents, stories from real life, and books for Eights and the parents of Eights” and it helped me to put in perspective what I’m seeing.

As I read the book, which I have to tell you is in many ways very “old school” (I’m not sure when this one was originally published but the Four-Year-Old book was copyrighted in 1976 and the Eight-Year-Old version has that same 70s feeling), the core developmental information was very useful and Baxter leapt off the page a great many times.

But beyond those general developmental changes, I found tons of references to 8-year-olds loving board games in this book; as I thought about it, I realized that when we are on vacation or hanging out with people at our house, Baxter does enjoy board games and we have such a great time with them.  It feels like a bit of a loss that we have not made enough time in our day to really sit down and play them together.  I have been concerned lately (especially since getting the Wii, although this was an issue before that, too) about how isolated Baxter can be.  He is perfectly happy to be lost in a book on the couch for hours or playing an intense game on the Wii and, frankly, we miss him.  But I was at a loss – what do you do when they don’t want to “play” anymore, especially when you have a younger child who only wants to play all day?

Yesterday he had the day off from school, and so while Lyle was in preschool, Baxter and I had a wonderful time playing Scrabble and UNO together.  After watching Lyle and his little friend across the hall dump our Scrabble game upside down later in the afternoon, I decided that we needed a designated place for games, up off the floor and protected from small hands.  So yesterday evening I set up our old card table by the front window in the living room, threw a nice cloth over it, and we pulled in a couple of extra dining room chairs and voila!  we had a  game table.  Flying high from our afternoon together, Baxter and I also managed to get in some UNO time before bed last night and even briefly before he left for school today.  He has been engaged, bright-eyed, and having a blast.  He especially loved my trash-talking, particularly when I referred to him as “pure evil” last night when he cackled as I took more and more cards in UNO.  He must have repeated that phrase, laughing, 5 more times.  In fact, after our game time last night he was really upset that I had to make dinner; he followed me into the kitchen and said, “Mommy, can you put on some crazy music so that I can dance?”  I put on some hip hop and realized that what he wanted was to dance with me.  I could only boogie so much with him while stuffing chicken breasts, but he was seeking me out for more interaction, rather than flopping onto the couch with Harry Potter.  By god, I think we’re on to something here.  Thank you, Dr. Louise Bates Ames!

This morning we woke up to the sound of the boys having a great time together.  I couldn’t figure out what they were doing or where they even were in the house.  When I came out to look for them at 7am, I discovered them at the new table by the window, playing UNO together, Baxter trying desperately (and, ultimately, unsuccessfully) to teach Lyle the rules so that he could play it with him.

Apparently, I’ll need to consult the “Your Four-Year-Old” book on how to deal with that one.  And then I’ll go back online to order “Your Five-Year-Old” and “Your Nine-Year-Old” because a little warning could be really nice.

8 responses to “Book Recommendation: Your Eight-Year-Old

  1. Parents extraordinaire?! Goodness. Considering the source, that comes as high praise indeed. I should point out that it is actually Anna who has read these books although I feel more and more like I need to read it myself instead of living vicariously through her synopses. We are one week into four years old and it looks challenging to say the least.

    You may be amused to learn that the subtitle of the Three Year Old book is “Friend or Enemy.” That may actually have been the most positive title that they could have come up with for it.

    Also, from what I have seen, read these for the developmental stuff. It can sometimes be enough to learn that some behavior is age appropriate (like when our 15 month old starting throwing everything and we learned that he had indeed entered the “Casting Stage”). Avoid some of the other stuff like the discipline advice although the letters from 1970’s British parents can be quite amusing.

  2. What a lovely post, Jordan. And, since we’re in the middle of seven, thanks for the heads up about eight!

  3. I am reassured to know that the books later in the series continue to be helpful, despite the “old school” discipline advice, which should be *freely* disregarded. And hey, right back atcha, Jordan .

  4. I snatched up a few of those at the library book sale a while back and just last night was flipping through the 1yo book! I swear it’s just like when they were babies–you get them figured out and they change on you!

  5. rockpapsciss

    Get Baxter some Skip Bo off of Both boys will love it if Uno is popular. Very addictive even for the adults involved.

    Well, at least your eight did not involve a black eye yet! Jordan you and several of your fellow blogher cohorts got to me. I finally breakdown and started to blog. I just started this week. But I am already on a firm roll and introducing tomorrow . . . (can you hear my drum roll?)

    Wonderful Wanderlust Wednesday!

    How does one followup Random Tuesday? With Wonderful Wanderlust Wednesday of course!

    The rules are simple: dream big about where you want your mind, body or spirit to travel to next, yo. You can travel by genie bottle, magic carpet, cloud, cable car, boat, plane, train or a really cute automobile. In these tough economic times you might as well do some day dreaming!
    So maybe you’ll join. Gosh I hope it really warms up tom. bummer cold start to the week

  6. rockpapsciss

    as requested:
    only 4 posts in

  7. Hmmm, may have to check out the Two Year Old book. Mine is giving me a run for my money!

  8. Thanks for reminding me about this book series. I bought the 3 year-old one a while back and it was right on. I’ll have to repurchase for dealing with Niko!

    Somewhat related, I’ve been having a lot of parents asking me lately if they should wait a year before sending their 5 year-old to kindergarten. This is a pretty tricky call, especially with the students I work with, being that their impairments usually fall on the mild to moderate end. Any insights here?

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