Although school‐age children spend more time away from home than they did as younger children, their most important relationships continue to be established at home. Children's family relationships normally include their parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family members.
Middle childhood is a transitional stage—a time when parents begin sharing power and decision making with their children. However, because children have limited experiences upon which to draw when dealing with adult situations and issues, parents must continue to establish rules and define boundaries. An example of sharing power may be parents allowing their children to negotiate the amount of allowances. An example of not sharing power may be parents determining with whom their children may or may not play.
Children experience an increase in responsibility during this middle‐childhood period. In addition to increased freedom, such as going unsupervised to a Saturday afternoon movie with their peers, children may be assigned additional household chores. These chores may include watching their younger siblings after school while their parents are at work. The majority of school‐age children appreciate and enjoy their parents' acceptance of their more adult‐like role in the family.
Discipline, while not necessarily synonymous with punishment, remains an issue in middle childhood. The question, which has been debated in social sciences circles for decades, becomes one of the role of discipline in teaching a child values, morals, integrity, and self‐control. Today, most authorities agree that punishment is probably of less value than positive reinforcement, or the rewarding of acceptable behaviors.
Most modern families require two incomes to make ends meet. Consequently, some children express negative feelings about being latchkey kids or children whose parents leave them alone while they work. Children may question why their parents choose to spend so little time with them or become resentful at not being greeted after school by one or both parents. Straightforward and honest communication between parents and children may alleviate any concerns or upsets that arise. Parents may remind their children that the quality of time is more important than the quantity of time they spend together. In turn, parents should make sure that they do actually spend quality time with their children.