My Experiences Parenting an 11-Year-Old Boy and What You Should Expect
If you are reading this article, then you are probably the parent of an 11-year-old boy. Perhaps you feel you have hit unchartered waters, and you are looking for advice on certain aspects of parenting. Maybe you feel like your angelic son is changing, and you are not quite sure how to handle the change. Or, maybe, you simply want to know whether your own experiences are "normal."
Of course, there is really no such thing as "normal." Every child is different and has his own distinct personality. One child might react with an angry outburst when things don't go his way, whereas another child might retreat into himself and deal with his problems internally.
As a parent to my own 11-year-old boy, I know firsthand that turning 11 is a period of considerable change. Once your boy reaches this age, he is no longer a young child to contend with but a pre-teen. He is not quite a teenager (although he might well think he is!) but a boy who is growing up and venturing into his own life, seeking his own independence.
In the United Kingdom, 11 is the age when most children leave behind the cocoon that is junior school and prepare for secondary school. Secondary school marks the beginning of a child stepping out into the world where he will find his own independence and acquire responsibilities. At secondary school, there is little molly-coddling or parental involvement.
- Many children who begin this journey into secondary school become increasingly conscious of what is "cool" and what is most certainly not.
- Although this is not a value we want to instill in our children, the truth is that children are often treated by their peers according to how they dress, how they behave, and the types of things they are into.
- As we grow towards adulthood, we may grow in confidence and abandon these rather shallow theories, but children of 11 are not usually mature enough to accomplish this. 11 year olds don't usually want to be different. They strive to fit in by wearing the latest fashions, embracing popular culture (such as music, tv programmes, and video games), and doing what their friends do.
The Influence of Their Peer Group
I've noticed from my own observations that around this age, there is a definite shift away from being wholly influenced by parents and instead being heavily influenced by peer groups.
My son constantly dismisses my opinions and guidance because his friends have a different perspective. He would often say, "No, it is true because so-and-so said so," or "Everyone does it." Much of the information is questionable, to say the least.
While 11 year olds may still listen to their parents and take their advice, I have discovered that it is harder to break through the barrier that is their peer group.
They Will Strive for Independence
Depending on where an 11-year-old boy lives, he is likely walking to school alone. We live in a safe area, and the walk to school is short and mostly along roads with relatively little traffic, so my own son began walking to school at age nine and a half.
They Will Ask for More Independence
I remember when my son was seven and decided he was old enough to walk to the local shop alone. He went on and on about it and was utterly convinced that he was ready for it. In the end, I said he could, and he instantly he retracted. He didn't have the confidence to go alone after all, despite all the talk. In fact, it was quite a long time before he actually went through with it.
When Should You Give Him His Freedom?
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to deciding when to allow your child to go places alone. It depends very much on the area the child lives in, the roads they will have to cross, and the general safety level. Assuming that you live in a relatively safe area, I think that 11 year olds do need to be given a little more independence.
My Own Experience
- My son walks to and from school alone, can walk to his friends' houses in the local vicinity, and also goes to the local park with friends.
- With that said, 11 year olds should be given an exact time for curfew. This teaches them that trust comes with proving that they can stick to the rules.
- If they can't stick to the rules, then perhaps the privilege should be taken away because what you don't want is a teen, two years down the line, of whose whereabouts you have no idea.
Don't Forget to Talk to Them!
Boys don't always talk a lot; the older they get, the less they have to say (especially to their parents). Girls are far more likely to babble on about friends and school than boys are, so it is important to make the effort to converse with your 11-year-old son so that you gain insight into his life and the things that happen when you are not there.
The Modern World Discourages Direct Communication
Even when all family members are at home, proper conversations can be a bit of a rarity in many households. Our modern world, with all of its gadgets and media entertainment, can very often lead to each family member going off and doing their own thing, especially when bedrooms contain TV sets and games consoles.
Children's bedrooms are often a private retreat, containing enough entertainment to make joining family downstairs seem uninspiring. I know that my 11-year-old son likes nothing better than to come home from school and hide in his room with his Xbox until I insist he comes down. This is all very well, but I definitely believe this has led to less communication within many modern families.
Set Aside Time for Family Activities and Conversations
- Today, everyone leads a separate existence, even within the same household, so it is more important than ever to make sure you take the time to talk to your children and ensure you have an idea of what is going on in their lives.
- Keeping up communication is important for all children. As your child becomes older, you should make a conscious effort not to let it slip.
- Older children are more independent than younger children, and they do not rely on you as much for physical needs. Therefore, the interaction that comes from having to deal with a younger child's every requirement diminishes as they get older.
- Although 11 year olds might be able to accomplish a lot of things for themselves, they are not so mature when it comes to emotional issues. Older children still need to feel secure, loved, and important in their parent's eyes in order for them to grow into confident, well-balanced individuals.
Talking With My Son
I find that my son talks the most to me and reveals more personal information, such as things that happen at school, when we are walking together without his younger brother present.
These occasions are not particularly common because his younger brother is a preschool child of three. When his brother is there, much of my attention is taken up watching out for him and dealing with his needs. It is only when he is not there, and I have my 11 year old all to myself, that I notice how different the walk is.
Why It's Important to Communicate
- I definitely feel that it is important to communicate with 11 year olds about issues such as friendships, school problems, funny moments they have with their mates, and events that they are excited or worried about.
- Knowing your child well creates a bond so that as they head off into the world of the teenager, they will hopefully feel more inclined to talk to you and offer you a little window into their world.
- I haven't yet reached that stage myself, so, in part, this is just a theory. It does, however, make a lot of sense.
- Equally, even though your 11 year old might want to spend a lot more time with his mates than with you, it is still very important to do things together as a family on a regular basis. After all, as the saying goes: "Families that play together, stay together."
Their Relationship With Girls Will Change
Since my son has turned 11, I have suddenly noticed a big difference regarding his behaviour towards girls. For most of his childhood thus far, girls have been his enemy. They were there only to tease, argue with, or keep away from.
Not all boys are the same. I know a few who have been friends with girls since the early years, and those with sisters might feel differently. However, my son was an avid hater of girls until he turned 11. Suddenly, girls have changed from being an alien species to fight with or avoid like the plague to friends who are even deemed suitable to socialise with outside of school.
- My son even began walking to school with a girl from his class. Was this a girlfriend? I tentatively approached the subject and found out that she was not. I even dared to ask what they talked about because I couldn't for the life of me imagine what they had in common. My son, after all, is an Xbox enthusiast who likes chatting about computer games and football. I never found out what they talked about because I was glared at and asked, in very suspicious terms, why I wanted to know.
- This is a very strange, new concept to me. Suddenly girls are not the enemy, and, for the first time, I can see the beginnings of boy/girl relationships.
- At the moment, it's all innocent — talking, hanging out, and just having fun.
- Sometimes boys at school have "girlfriends," but it's really nothing more than a statement. I'm sure all that will come later, but there's not much to worry about right now.
How to Deal With Their Attitude
Many parents of 11-year-old boys, myself included, remark at times on their son's bad attitude. Although they can be loving, polite, funny, and pleasant to be around, boys of this age are often prone to back-chatting, sarcasm, and generally acting a little big for their boots. I see this as their way of pushing the boundaries.
Arguments I Have With My Son
- The majority of the disputes I have with my son are over things that he wants to do, or has done, that he has been told he is not allowed to do.
- An argument that starts up time and time again in our house involves my son's desire to own video games that are unsuitable for his age group. In fact, he does play some games that are geared towards teens, but he seems to think that games deemed suitable for those over 18 are the only cool things to have.
- When I say no, he protests, labels me a terrible parent, and generally becomes rather horrible company to be around.
- My son acts on impulse and often does apologise later, but it is still an attitude that is not acceptable. His protests are mainly based on the fact that "everyone else has them." And, he is not lying. A lot of children are allowed these games but not all are — not even half.
- The rest of the time, his bad attitude surfaces when he has been asked to do something and has decided he isn't going to. Often, it is homework, which causes a major personality transplant. He thinks it is a waste of his life.
- Other times, it is being asked to help out with a chore. Any chore that takes longer than five minutes will result in a stroppy tantrum. Sometimes I think my son would make an excellent politician based on how skilled he is in the art of arguing.
- 11 year olds do deserve to be listened to, but they still have to understand that there are certain things they have to adhere to. That is just how life is in all areas and not just at home.
- If my son gives me a lot of rude backchat or his behaviour is unacceptable and he doesn't take the hint after a warning, then the consequence is usually the withdrawal of something he enjoys.
- Often, it is his Xbox that gets banned for a certain number of days. I find that this works well because it certainly makes him think twice about the way he talks to people.
- Children of this age should be respectful, and if you don't nip unacceptable behaviour in the bud, then the problems are sure to get worse later on and will be harder to rectify.
Their Attitude When They Are With Friends
Boys of 11 often exhibit certain behaviour when they are with their friends. Sometimes this can come across as a bit arrogant or rude. Boys like to appear cool and show off in front of their peers. Of course, this behaviour is not really cool at all, but you have to remember that 11-year-old boys are often rather lacking in maturity.
Many boys don't like to be seen as soft in front of their mates, so they go overboard in proving that they are not. Often, they will revert back to their amicable selves once their friends are out of the equation, and they no longer feel the need to act "big." However, disrespect should still be addressed.
Their Obsession With Video Games
Almost every 11-year-old boy I know is obsessed with computers and video games to varying degrees. As I said before, my own son is addicted to his Xbox. I'm pretty sure he would spend all day on it if he was allowed. His friends are exactly the same, and, when they come to our house, it is pretty much all they want to do aside from the odd kick about with a ball.
This is a characteristic that I really don't like. My son is only allowed to play the Xbox for around an hour and a half after school, but, even then, I have to virtually drag him off it. When his friends are around, they often sneak it back on when I am not paying attention.
What Is the Problem With Video Games?
- My main contention is that children who become obsessed often lose the ability and motivation to find interest in other things.
- Video games are ready-made entertainment, and the child is basically indulging in someone else's creation while investing nothing of himself. He is not using his own imagination and creativity or learning a new skill. He is simply shutting off from reality and retreating into a world that doesn't really exist.
- This is fine in moderation, but I know that when my son is told to come off a game, his thoughts are still taken up by it. He often can't think of anything else to do because everything else is boring to him. He often complains that it isn't fair and that so-and-so from school can play games 24 hours a day. However, in the end, he does find something else to do, and we are all happy.
- I tell him of my own childhood when we didn't have video games at all. He is horrified by the idea and concludes that I must have had a horribly boring childhood. I think the opposite is true and feel that many kids of today's young generation are missing out on the true magic of being a child.
- Some of my son's friends are allowed to spend obscene amounts of time numbing their brains in front of screens, but I still insist on limiting the time.
- One day I won't be able to intervene, and it will be his choice. By that time, I hope he will have grown out of it as other interests arise. For now, I still have some input into what he does.
Parenting an 11-year-old boy is a journey along the path of change and growing up. Those childhood days spent playing with toys are all but over, and your 11 year old is probably moving more towards the pursuits of teens.
He might develop more of an interest in music and in hanging out with friends rather than playing. He will also have a growing desire for independence, but 11-year-old boys still need parents to talk with, laugh with, and to bond with during family times.
They might be growing up, but, at heart, they are still children. For example, my son wouldn't be seen dead playing with toys in front of his friends, but, recently, I caught both him and his best mate indulging in some Play-Doh left on the table by his three-year-old brother. This was clearly OK though because they just happened upon it!
Growing up is a slow process, and we should be thankful for that.
Questions & Answers
My son is very good and gentle. But now he is eleven, and has begun to tell lies and skip his study time. He also skips his homework. How can I make him understand the value of education so that he again take an interest in his studies?
I think children often change their outward behavior at this age. Of course, that doesn't mean he is not still the same caring boy underneath that he always was. When I recently attended my ten-year-old son's school parent's consultation, I was surprised that the feedback was entirely different from every other consultation I had attended for him. My son had been messing about much more in class with his friends, although he is still meeting his targets and doing well from an academic view. Previously to that, he had always had a lot of friends but been very conscious of behaving properly during lessons.
The teacher, however, said that children of this age are becoming much more conscious of how they appear in front of their peers.
In my limited experience, children are often not very enthusiastic about homework! Seeing the value in education is something that he will probably come to view when he is older; however, to an eleven-year-old, the future probably seems very far away! I can tell you that my eldest son, who is now about to turn eighteen, become much more severe about from the age of 15/16 if that is any consolation! Before that, he was frustratingly laid back about it all!
Perhaps you could encourage him by offering him small rewards if he makes a good effort with his homework? I agree it can be a very trying time - good luck!