Eleanor writes on many topics, including parenting, single parenting, party and activity ideas, and career and home life.
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: 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?
Answer: 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!
Question: My grandson who is 11 and going through puberty has become obsessed with sweets and chocolate. He takes them from the cupboard and even takes jelly. He hides all the papers and lies when approached. He has been checked for diabetes, so it's not that. Do you think it could be a physiological problem?
Answer: Both my sons do this now, although not particularly discreetly! I'm not a doctor and so couldn't speak from a medical perspective, but it seems to me that children, as they go into the adolescent years, do feel the need to snack very frequently. Ideally, they should be snacking on healthier foods and not sugary confectionery, but in reality many children veer towards this kind of snack if it is available. My boys look for it the moment they get home from school. Also, I remember taking food from our cupboards at home when I was only slightly older and secretly eating it in my bedroom - I say secretly not because I had an eating issue but because my mother wouldn't have liked it! I would sneak a whole packet of biscuits and I wasn't overweight, and neither are my children. My younger son sometimes hides papers, but only because he knows I would tell him it's not ok to eat excessive junk food. I would say it would be better to provide a snack that gives him energy for longer and makes him feel fuller than the sudden highs and lows of sugary snacks, and maybe that will help. A lot of growing occurs during puberty and thus a child requires more calories in general. But as I said, I'm not a medical expert so if you have concerns it may be worth consulting a doctor again.
rayyan on May 15, 2020:
thank you now i can walk on my own maybe once i get used to it
Jill on April 10, 2020:
Amazing thoughts and ideas to explore and perhaps gain more patience and conversation with my crazy 11 yr old. Best article I have seen.
Donna on June 28, 2019:
My son is 11 yrs old and I'm at the end of my rope ...he cussing me out hits me throws things at me I don't know what do to anymore he doesn't take me seriously at all.. he lies ,he manipulates people to get what he wants and when he gets it he's back at it again...I have a 10 ur old daughter that is scared of him and I don't like that at all...I just don't know what to do anymore
Gina on May 15, 2019:
Thank you. I’m am so relieved that I’m not alone.
Lydia on January 30, 2019:
My son is approaching 11years but he doesn't look like grown-up boy sometimes act like a young kid. He has a very poor concentration in class and even when doing his homework. He never concentrate and think propally on his homework. I use to and sometimes I feel like pernish him budly but when I think twice I feel like no I have to do something else rather than biting him. Sometimes am so frastrated and confused on him. When he work up in the morning I have to push him to hurry up. I don't know what to do to make him more active and consentrate on his work
mansee on November 22, 2018:
it is so good to read this article as I do not feel I am the only parent going through this horrible time where you lose that lovely,adorable child.I am not sure though that primary schools supports those children as rules in classroom is often broken and I so often get called by the teacher . It is very difficult not to lose your cool and not to shout.I am not looking forward to the teen years.
henny kheng on September 03, 2018:
Thank you so much for this article! I feel much better.
My 10 year old son is changing, full of rebell. We moved alot. This is his third school, he has to make new friends and also in a totally different culture background. And this school, allow kids to bring smartphone and Ipad (for private use). This situations made things worst. Wish me luck
Priya on July 29, 2018:
I'm a little worried about what he's learning in terms of women. The fact that you cannot for the life of you imagine what he has in common with another girl because he's into video games and sports is going to rub off on him, and he will look down on other women as not being physically or technologically capable. I'm worried some poor woman down the road is going to have to quit her job as a programmer because of his sexist attitudes towards her. Your description of how he regarded girls as "they were there only to tease, argue with, or keep away from" also worries me. In a world that gravely objectifies women, your son needs to understand that girls and women are not simply "there" for him to do what he wants with them.
Joe on June 27, 2018:
How do you explain disaster to an 11 year old kid?
swagata on June 15, 2018:
We stay in India my son is just 11 years old.I think he feels lonely at home when he stays at home in holidays.But i have my own work his dad also and my aged is always busy with god and spiritual books.So when we talk with my son and try to make him understand a perticular thing he was very arrogant.As if we cant converse any more.Have to stop.What ever he is doing he knows well and he will do.He has too much power -4 and -4.5. from childhood.He was born lefty but tought to write in his right hand from nursery school in bengal kolkata.When i realised it was already too late.So with studies he score well but for this score he makes me unnerve and i feel we must stop his education It is becoming very hectic.Above all i just want him to feel good not to feel lonely and behave properly with all.He is a nice boy who is very careful about aged person.and loves animal.We dont have any pet.Please help.
Eleanor's Words (author) from Far and Wide on May 12, 2018:
@Precious - It's lovely that you have a close bond with your son, but if him wanting to hug you all the time is a new thing I would think about whether he something has upset him or made him feel insecure recently? In my experience, the thing with older boys is that they often don't tell you what's going on inside their heads.
Eleanor's Words (author) from Far and Wide on May 12, 2018:
@ DaDomesticDivca - I think that the preteen years can be quite difficult - I remember a boy who was in my child's class who was very introverted when he was around that age, and socially he found school awkward, although he was extremely bright. By the time he reached 16, however, he was totally different - still very clever, but lots of friends and always out! From my experience, it seems that, as kids grow up and mature, whatever type of person you are it becomes easier to fit in. I'm sure your son will be fine - childhood is definitely an ever-changing learning curve!
DaDomesticDivca on May 10, 2018:
I'm going through alot of the same . And it includes anger and back talk now in school as well. He feels strange and wishes he had more friends. I've always told him that he has an old soul. He gravitate towards older music and is an introvert, but can have great talks with older people. He loves his Xbox. I just feel I'm looking him, and so scary and hurtful as a mom.
Precious on May 07, 2018:
Great article, thank you.
My 11 year old son is suddenly wanting me to give him hugs all the time. What could be going on?
Eleanor's Words (author) from Far and Wide on April 12, 2018:
@BoyMommy - I think we all feel like that from time to time, no matter what age our kids are! One thing I've definitely learnt as a parent is that the end of one phase just leads into another!
BoyMommy on April 11, 2018:
I was even beginning to think I am failing at this parenting thing but now I feel whole lot better. I just have to polish The Consequences skills
Eleanor's Words (author) from Far and Wide on March 26, 2018:
@julie jamieson - I'm glad it was useful to you - I agree, it can certainly be a challenging time and it is easy to feel as though you're alone but that's almost never the case! I always try to remind myself that most things are just a phase and will pass eventually (and then you have something different to worry about instead, but that's one of the pitfalls of parenting, unfortunately!)
julie jamieson on March 20, 2018:
Thanks so much for sharing - it was just what I needed to read as I was feeling very alone with this challenging behaviour and feeling it was just our house going through this
Zakia Shahzeb on February 18, 2018:
It was an extremely helpful article. There was so much to what i could relate to. Thank you.
Willem on February 07, 2018:
Hi. My 10 year old son has always had a special relationship with girls, he seems to act more natural around them and it's not flirting. When he had his party he invinted more girls and is regularly invited to girl get together. Recently he has been asking me for some uggs and turquoise nail varnish. I support his life but I need help.
Mega on January 25, 2018:
Thankyou for sharing and i reay love how you explaining all the problems with all the reality
Mary on December 15, 2017:
Thanks, your experiences with your 11 year old parallel my own. Was glad to read this, will take your info to heart and try to remember all that you have had to share. I love my boy too much, and truly want to make sure his future is bright.
Jennifer on December 14, 2017:
I’m dealing with all of the above! Not that I wish this on any parent but it’s nice to know it’s not just me.
Ani on December 10, 2017:
Great article and very reassuring. Since my son was in grade 1, we’ve had a no screen policy Monday through Thursday. It’s one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made and he never asks for it those days. He’s much happier and gets time on Friday after school and the weekend. Once in a while, he gets a treat and can play after homework on Thursday. It might be more difficult to implement at age 11 but it’s worth a try! You could start with no screens Monday through Wednesday. :)
Mama M on November 14, 2017:
Thank you, I agree about the video games. It keeps us from connecting and I don't want that to stop. I like how you limit your sons time each day. That is what I am doing with major resistance from my boy.
OH Mother on November 09, 2017:
Thank you for writing this. My son is going through all these phases especially about the girls. Playing sports has made him into a little chick magnet and his attitude is driving me and hubby crazy.
Grandmother on November 05, 2017:
Thank you very much! I thought this was just happen to our household.
Mother on October 05, 2017:
Thank you very much
workingmum on September 27, 2017:
I am so glad its not just me who doesnt agree with constant video gaming
my partners son is staying with us at the moment full time and all he does is lounge around in his bed playing either xbox or glued to his ipad or his iphone or his nintendo switch if its not one its the other or watches tv, Ive suggested cutting down to my partner but he seems to be anything for a quiet life :-(
My 17 year old does play more than I would like him too, although he does play football and he works full time but at 11 i was like yourself 1-2 access a day and they didnt really have the time as they were always out and about
Mankete on September 19, 2017:
Oh man thanks, this was so helpful :)
Anet Roper on September 07, 2017:
Thank you for this. I feel desperate at times. I just want my sweet boy back. He really knows how to 'hurt' me with his nasty backchat. I'm so happy to know now, that this is a 'normal' phase.
Coach on February 19, 2017:
If your early teen boys are addicted to videogames you have only to blame yourself, although it's probably one of the toughest challenges as a parent right now because of the accessibility in our current society.
It's up to you as a parent to keep him motivated for other things like music, playing with toys, drawing, playing outside...
Videogames are easy entertainment but also easy for the parents because they don't have to inspire their children anymore, leading to all the consequences we know about.
Try not to get angry when your boy doesn't do what he's told, just make sure he feels negative consequences, try to make it so that the next time he decides for himself he better listens because he wants to avoid the consequences.
marie on January 31, 2017:
Thanks for this... I needed it.
Kerryann on January 09, 2017:
I find it very hard to deal with sometimes how do u stay calm I find myself getting very angry and shouting at him for disrespecting me or not doing as he is told to do bit of feed back would be greatly appreciated kind regards kerryann
C on October 05, 2016:
Thanks for the read my 11yo is pretty much the same at the moment :-( the change is hard