‘I HATE you!
‘This is so rubbish. I’m soooo bored.’
‘Just leave me ALONE!’
If you heard all the above, accompanied by door slamming and foot stamping, you’d assume you were in the presence of a teenager wouldn’t you?
When everything you say is met by a smart comeback, an eye roll or a grimace, you’d grit your teeth and remind yourself that this is typical teenage behaviour.
So imagine my surprise when my previously sweet tempered and pleasant daughter began acting just like a teenager as she approached the age of seven.
I thought she’d been possessed. Honestly, I couldn’t understand what had happened to her. She’s always been slightly feisty but her behaviour over the past few months has really ramped up a gear.
And the tantrums… She really knows how to ‘voice’ her displeasure when things aren’t going her way. This often involves violence towards her unsuspecting younger brother too.
I constantly have the feeling of trying my best but never being able to win. I’m forever having to hold my temper because she knows exactly which buttons to push and she’s pressing them many times throughout each day.
It’s emotionally exhausting.
To be honest this behaviour has been beginning to get me down. Everything has become a battle and family life has been suffering a bit. Ok a lot. Wine consumption in our house is at an all-time high (even my husband joins me for a glass in the evenings and he doesn’t even like the stuff).
Enter Dr. Google. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find that this behaviour is ‘normal’. It is a thing. It even has a name.
‘The Stroppy Sevens’.
(My son is firmly implanted in the Terrible Twos but I think most people know how that goes. Let’s just say that I’d take the Terrible Twos over the Stroppy Sevens any day – with a cherry on top.)
I started asking my friends if they had encountered the same sort of challenges when their children turned seven. As it happens, many of them had.
What’s it all about?
My first question, after feeling the relief of discovering I wasn’t alone in this, was, ‘Why the hell is it happening?’
I came across psychologist Jean Piaget‘s Four Stages of Development Theory. According to Piaget, children go through four important stages of cognitive development. These stages happen at ages 0-2, 2-7, 7-11 and then adolescence to adulthood. It is when the child is about to progress from one stage to the next that challenging behaviour occurs. These transitional periods, when the brain is gearing up for the next cognitive stage but isn’t quite there yet, can explain all the behaviour I’ve come to associate with the Terrible Twos and now the Stroppy Sevens.
Apparently it can last for up to a year (oh goody).
In all seriousness though, being able to understand why my daughter is behaving the way she is and knowing that it’s perfectly normal has made dealing with the challenging moments (and there are many of them) much easier.
So once I knew why my little angel seemed to be possessed by the spirit of a disgruntled teenager, my next question had to be…
What’s the best way to manage the challenging behaviour?
How do I get through this without yelling all day and constantly feeling like I’m on the verge of losing my shit? And more importantly, how can I support my daughter through this stage?
I turned to the internet and found some great advice:
- Have a good routine in place
Older children need routines as much as they did when they were babies and toddlers. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.
We recently sat down and wrote a family routine, which I have stuck up on the kitchen wall. My decision to cut down on the kids’ TV time was met with cries of, ‘Why do you HATE me??!!’ I’ve stuck to my guns because, you know, you kind of have to once you’ve made these decisions.
- Stick to boundaries
You certainly need some firm boundaries in place to make it through this stage unscathed. So just stick to boundaries, ignore the behaviour and you’ll hopefully get your darling back sooner or later.
Consistency is key, I believe.
- Encourage positive friendships
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that with the burst in hormones at seven children also take a leap of independence. It’s an age where friendships take over as the bigger influence in a child’s life. Encouraging positive friendships can help with this. It’s also about giving a little more freedom and opportunities to be more independent so you don’t feel they’re constantly banging against that parental wall.
Whereas my daughter used to be happy going to the park or soft play with me, she now only wants to go if she can take a friend. I try to make sure she sees her friends out of school as much as possible.
- Offer rewards instead of punishments
I tend to always jump in with, ‘If you don’t stop doing that, you’re going to lose this’. For ‘this’ insert TV, a favourite toy a planned treat. A very wise friend of mine recently suggested I offer a reward instead, to make the whole experience more positive for my daughter.
So I changed my tactics to, ‘if you do that, you can have this’ and we also drew up a reward chart. Reward charts were something I associated with younger children but it turns out they work equally well at this age too.
All of the above advice really does seem to help when my daughter is having one of her, erm, ‘turns’.
Basically, you need a bucket load of patience and understanding, the tips above and a fridge full of wine to make it through to the other side. I’ve never wanted to believe the words, ‘It’s just a phase’ as much as I do right now. Here’s hoping….
Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.