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Do I Have Your Attention?: On What Kids Think in Elementary School

This is why kids and teenagers need adults who will discover their world. They need adults who understand and respond accordingly to the crisis of every phase.
What Kids Think in Elementary School

Every phase has unique cultural changes. But you can’t discover everything you need to know about the culture of childhood and adolescence in a book. By the time a book is printed, culture has changed, and you must start over on figuring out what kids think and why.

The only way for you to learn some of what you need to know is to go to their movies, read their books, watch their TV shows, follow their favorite celebrities, and listen to their music. But most importantly, you need to show up where they show up. From time to time, you might even find yourself at an elementary talent show, a middle school football game, or a high school play.

Think of it as research.  

There are other changes in a kid’s world that are much more predictable than cultural change. Every phase has its own predictable crisis. These crises help shape our identity because they give us an opportunity to navigate new challenges. 

In the elementary years, a child develops skills and competencies that equip the child’s future. The way a kid resolves the “Do I have” questions of these phases provides the child with critical knowledge and resources. It shapes their perception of personal ability, comparative value, and resilience. Through these phases, kids shift from wanting to be seen by adults to wanting to be seen by adults and peers. The best way to resolve a kid’s relational questions is to engage the kid’s interests.  

Consider What Kids Think

Practically speaking, here’s how to examine what our elementary schoolers are asking themselves.


In kindergarten and first grade, a child craves adult attention and approval. When adults demonstrate an interest in a kid’s progress, the kid improves abilities. Consider all the ways you could show genuine care and interest in your kindergarten and first graders’ lives to help build their abilities.


Second and third graders want to know how their abilities compare with peers. When adults praise a kid’s persistence and efforts, the kid broadens competence. Reinforce your second and third graders’ abilities to build competence.


In fourth and fifth grade, a kid begins to prioritize friends in a new way. When adults make introductions and include peers, kids develop friendships. This is one crucial way kids build confidence and connections, and they need your help getting started.

This is why children need adults who will discover their world. They need adults who understand and respond accordingly to the crisis of every phase. 

When you understand the crisis of every phase, you respond with relationships that meet a kid’s most basic needs; and you give kids a healthy foundation for future relationships. Relationships bring clarity. Relationships create a safe place to resolve who we are. When kids see themselves the way a loving adult sees them, it changes how they see themselves.

This content was contributed by Phase. Discover all the resources available for your elementary schooler in the Phase store.

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