Your Son at 11: Milestones

One second, your son’s rolling his eyes and telling you to stop embarrassing him. The next, he’s asking for you to tuck him into bed and read a book until he falls asleep.

Welcome to the joyful, confusing roller-coaster ride of 11. Your son’s begun a major physical and emotional growth spurt. Here’s what’s going on -- and how you can help him stay on track.

Language

By age 11, most boys have a pretty large vocabulary. They’re likely to use gestures and facial expressions -- like the eye roll -- to get their point across. They’ve also mastered different styles of language. For instance, your son might use a lot of slang and inside jokes when he talks to his friends, but more formal speech around his teacher.

How you can help:

  • Visit your local library. Not only does reading help your son learn more words, but allows him to become an independent thinker. If he balks at the idea, try audio books. You can also offer to read to him.
  • Keep talking. A lot of boys clam up around their parents at this age. Keep trying. Your son needs to practice voicing his thoughts and feelings. Try asking his opinion to get him engaged.
  • Know the signs of speech disorders. Leaving key words out when talking, taking over conversations and not getting riddles are just a few red flags. If you have concerns about your son’s speech, speak to your doctor.

Physical Development

Puberty is just around the corner. Or it might have already started. As a result, your son will likely be eating and sleeping more. He may complain of muscle cramps and growing pains. Some boys also start to get oily skin, “peach fuzz” on their upper lip, and a deeper voice.

Boys this age are often more aware of what their body looks like and how it compares to others. Eating disorders and problems with body image aren’t just for girls. Boys can get them, too, and they can begin at this age.

How you can help:

  • Keep healthy foods in your home. Eat together as a family as much as your schedule allows.
  • Find a sport your son loves. This will make it easy for him to get exercise each day. Boys this age are old enough to enjoy team sports, even though they’re still learning more complex skills.
  • Praise your son when he does something well. Don’t just comment on his looks.

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Social

11-year-old boys are starting to explore with independence. Don’t be hurt if your son wants to hang with his friends instead of you.

What makes this newfound freedom tricky is that most boys this age start to test limits and rules. They don’t think anything bad will happen to them and are only just starting to realize that their actions have consequences.

How you can help:

  • Build your child’s self-esteem. Peer pressure rears its head at this age. Kids who feel good about themselves are less likely to make bad choices.
  • Explain the dangers of smoking, alcohol and drug use. Talk about ways your son can turn them down. Make sure you set a good example and do the same.
  • Talk about sex. Look for “teachable moments” in TV shows, ads, or videos. Tell your son you want to make sure he knows the facts as well as your values about sex. (If talking about sex makes you nervous, it’s OK to admit that, too.)
  • Monitor online safety. Keep your family computer in a place where you can watch what your son’s doing online. Install parental control filters and make sure your son knows how these can help him.

Emotional

Your son likely has mixed feelings about growing up. Yes, he’s eager and ready for more responsibility. (That includes household chores.) On the other hand, he may feel insecure and doubt what he can achieve. Self-esteem can drop in many boys this age.

How you can help:

  • Give your son a chance to succeed. For instance, enroll him in an after-school art class if he has drawing talent. You can also give him a task you know he can complete, like mowing the lawn for the first time.
  • …And let him fail. Always bailing out your son will stunt his emotional growth. Give him a chance to figure out some problems on his own.
  • Find ways to deal with stress. Help your son cope by making sure he gets enough sleep and eats a healthy diet. Carve out time to be with him every day, even if he doesn’t feel like talking. If he does, talk through what’s making him upset and brainstorm ways to deal. If you think he’s depressed or anxious, talk to your family doctor.

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Academic

Your son will face a lot more challenges at school this year. The good news is that boys this age have more focus than when they were younger. They can pay attention for longer amounts of time. Memorizing facts will come more easily.

11-year-olds are also starting to be flexible thinkers. They ask more questions and are more likely to check their work.

How you can help:

  • Talk with your son’s teacher. Keep up with report cards and conferences so you know how he’s doing in school throughout the year. Bad grades may be a sign of a learning disability, attention disorder, or even depression.
  • Limit screen time. Whether video games, TV or social media, keep it under 2 hours each day.
  • Take him for an eye checkup. 11 is a common age for boys to need glasses.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 16, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Child Development: Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age.)”

Bright Futures/American Academy of Pediatrics: “Bright Futures Parent Handout Early Adolescent Visits.”

Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Parents and Teachers: Teen Growth Development, Years 11 to 14.”

Understood.org: “Developmental Milestones for Typical Fourth and Fifth Graders,” “Developmental Milestones for Typical Middle Schoolers,” “10 Ways to Improve Your Middle-Schooler’s Communication Skills,” “Understanding Your Child’s Trouble With Spoken Language.”

Advocates for Youth, “5th Grade: There’s No Place Like Home…For Sex Education,” “Growth and Development, Ages 9-12, What Parents Need to Know.”

US Department of Education, “Confidence: Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence.”

Government of Western Australia Department of Health: “Child and Adolescent Community Health/Early Detection Guidelines: How Children Develop, 11-12 year olds.”

D.A.R.E.: “How to Talk to Your Kids about Drugs.”

KidsHealth by Nemours: “Your Child’s Checkup: 11 Years,” “Childhood Stress.”

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