Would you be surprised to see a 7 year old throwing tantrums in a public place? The answer is probably yes, unless your child is one of them.
Whilst far less common than toddler tantrums, tantrums in older children can happen and can be distressing for parents of children to witness and experience.
The good news is that there are lots of effective ways to support your child’s emotional development, reducing the frequency of or eliminating their tantrums.
We’ve devised 7 easy ways to manage temper tantrums in your 7 year old. They will arm both you and them with practical and sustainable skills which will lead to a calmer family life:
Why Can’t Seven Year-Olds Control Their Emotions?
Seven year-olds haven’t yet learned how to manage huge emotions such as frustration or jealousy. They may not yet have certain key skills such as the ability to explain how they’re feeling in words, or the ability to spot the emotion as it rises and take action to prevent it escalating.
What Causes Tantrums in Seven Year-Olds?
When tantrums tantrums occur in seven year-olds, they are never pleasant but they always happen for a reason. Frequent seven year old tantrums can be seen as a red flag that your child may be having a tough time with certain things, such as behaviour, learning, friendships or managing strong feelings.
Most children have occasional tantrum behaviours. In fact, no matter what age, most children act out, show opposition or defiance or have meltdowns. This behaviour is normal and often a sign of positive character traits such as assertiveness and standing up for what they believe in.
Identifying the triggers for frequent tantrums can sometimes be obvious. For example, starting homework, leaving a video game to sit up for supper, being told it’s bedtime. Sometimes however, tantrums can seem to happen for no reason at all.
Transition and Stress: Common Causes of 7 Year-Old Anger Issues
Is your seven year-old under stress? One reason your child can’t yet manage big emotions might be that they actually have bigger emotions than other kids their age. Why might this be the case? Two reasons.
Firstly, they may be very sensitive. They may feel emotions more deeply than others. This is not a bad thing at all, but your child needs extra support to build emotion management skills.
The second reason why your seven year-old has more anger or bigger emotions than others could be that they have more stress than others. By stress, I mean any triggers or events which their brain experiences as stress.
Has your child experienced any of these (or similar) changes lately?
- Moving house.
- Having a new baby sibling.
- Parental ill health.
- Moving school.
- Parental separation or divorce.
If your answer is yes to one or more, then your child may be under a high level of stress. When stressed, your child will be on high alert for danger, because their brain feels under threat. Their body will have more stress chemicals floating around, keeping them alert for danger, such as cortisol. They will find it harder to relax, sleep and enjoy life. They are more likely to have prolonged, severe tantrums.
In time, the brain can adjust to changes. Stress levels will reduce, as will the length and severity of the tantrums. For more information about helping your child with stress, read our article: How Stressed is Your Child?
Is it Normal For a Seven Year-Old to Have Anger Issues?
All children get angry, but regular and severe tantrums (more than once a week) in a seven year-old wouldn’t be considered normal.
As children’s language skills develop and their ability to regulate their emotions improve, they are usually able to think more rationally and express stronger emotions in a more appropriate way.
They may lash out with frustration or defiance if they are asked to do something they don’t particularly want to do, or if they don’t get their own way. By the age of 7 however, they have usually learnt basic self-regulation skills that will help them process scenarios and behave in an acceptable way.
Seven year-old anger issues may be a sign of an underlying condition (such as autism or ADHD) or heightened nervous system sensitivity owing to past traumatic experiences.
Can a Seven Year-Old Have a Mood Disorder?
Yes, it is possible (and fairly common) for seven year-olds to have a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression.
This can often be an underlying reason for emotional meltdowns and temper tantrums in seven year-olds.
If your seven year-old has anger issues, always look at the possible underlying reasons. You may need to seek help from a professional in order to understand them fully and create a supportive action plan.
Why Is My 7 Year Old So Angry? Case Study: Xander
Xander is a seven year-old boy who has become angry and aggressive at home recently. He has screaming tantrums every morning before school and every evening before bed. His mum Kerry has begun to tiptoe around him, wanting to avoid triggering Xander acting out or losing control of his emotions.
Xander and Kerry have stopped going to nice places, like the play park, because he often has an uncontrollable tantrum when it’s time to go home.
From a happy-go-lucky six year-old, Kerry can’t understand why she suddenly has such an angry 7 year-old.
Kerry took Xander to see a child psychologist to understand the causes of his tantrums.
Through the assessment process Kerry realised that Xander was experiencing anxiety and low mood. Kerry had recently separated from Xander’s father, and Xander had found this hard. He felt low, worrying that his father didn’t love him any more. What’s more, he was extremely anxious that Kerry would “leave him” as well. For this reason, he became highly emotional and anxious when separated from her at bedtime and school time.
The psychologist and Kerry developed a treatment plan to reduce Xander’s emotional outbursts and help him with his anxiety and low mood.
At the centre of the treatment plan was increased nurture, to help Xander feel more safe and secure.
Now that Kerry understood Xander’s temper tantrums better, she could help him contain the angry outbursts. For example, she learned to sit with him and hold him tight when she spotted his emotions escalating.
After a few weeks Xander felt safer and more secure. He began sleeping more soundly. Both the frequency and intensity of his temper tantrums reduced.
Is There a Difference Between Seven Year Old Emotional Meltdown and a Tantrum?
There is a subtle difference between tantrums and meltdowns in seven year-olds.
The words tantrum and meltdown are often used interchangeably, even by professionals.
The word meltdown is often (but not always) associated with autistic children. It is used when the brain is completely overloaded by their environment or demands, and they lose control of their emotions. It does not always involve anger.
In contrast a temper tantrum involves extreme anger and frustration. It is often associated with wilful behaviour, whereas a meltdown is considered something out of a child’s control. However I would argue that in most temper tantrums the child has fully lost control.
Seven year old meltdowns may look almost identical to seven year-old tantrums!
You can read more about meltdowns in our article on how to prevent meltdowns in children.
TAKE THE QUIZ!
TAKE THE QUIZ!
When Should I Be Concerned About My 7 Year-Old’s Tantrums?
You should only be concerned if your seven year-old’s tantrums are significantly affecting family life or your child’s life.
For example, if the tantrums mean you can’t go out as a family, or your child can’t cope with play dates.
Young children will push and test boundaries. They will experience a range of emotions. This is a normal part of child development.
However, 7 year old tantrums or aggressive behaviour may be an indicator that your child is dealing with underlying issues that may impact their mental health.
- ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This article on attention difficulties will help you figure out whether ADHD could be a factor for your child.
- Autism spectrum disorder (often referred to as ASD).
- Low mood or depression.
- An anxiety disorder. Anger and anxiety are so closely linked. You can read about this in depth in our article: When Your Anxious Child Looks Like An Angry Child.
- ODD – oppositional defiant disorder. Please note that many professionals do not like this diagnostic term. Arguably, it is merely a description of a pattern of challenging behaviour. It does not look at the underlying reasons for the behaviour.
- A learning difficulty such as dyslexia causing increased stress for the brain.
- Past childhood trauma.
If your child is having frequent 7 year old tantrums, behavioural problems or strong emotions that you are worried about, it may be wise to seek professional help.
Your doctor or healthcare provider can help you to determine whether a referral for an assessment by a mental health professional is appropriate.
In the UK, this could be a referral to NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). You can also find a qualified private mental health professional such as a Clinical Psychologist to make an assessment.
This article will help you identify what type of professional you need, and how to find them.
Why Is My 7 Year Old So Angry All of a Sudden?
There could be a number of reasons for this sudden change. Observe your child and keep a diary to try to establish what could be going on.
Your child may be going through experiences or changes that produces big emotions which they can’t yet manage alone. This could include hormonal changes, big changes at school, changes at home, or new friendship challenges.
How Do I Deal With My 7 Year Old’s Temper Tantrums?
Firstly, take time to spot common triggers for your seven year old’s temper tantrums such as:
- Getting ready to go to school.
- Sitting down to do homework.
- Being asked to stop what they’re doing.
- Not being given permission to go somewhere they want to.
- Losing a game.
From here, think about what you can do together to take any stress out of these scenarios. Prevention is one of your most powerful tools.
For example, work on a morning routine to manage getting ready for school. This might include:-
- Preparation the night before.
- Setting aside appropriate time needed for practical tasks such as brushing teeth, breakfast.
- Having a timeline that ensures you and your child can be ready on time – charts and post-it notes can help with this.
Seven Year-Old Tantrums When Told No
If your child has regular tantrums when told no, it could be a sign that they are an independent and strong-minded little person who knows their own mind.
However, by age seven, children should be starting to understand boundaries and recognise when “no means no”.
You may need some support from a professional such as a child psychologist, to help your child develop emotion regulation skills.
You may also benefit from some parenting support to implement clear rules and boundaries.
It’s also possible that if your seven year old is having regular tantrums when they are told no, it is a sign of
What To Do About Seven Year-Old Tantrums at Bedtime
You’re not alone if you regularly have to face managing a seven year old’s tantrums at bedtime. To prevent or minimise bedtime tantrums you should:
- Have a consistent “pre bedtime runway” in the hour before bed, focusing on calming and winding down your child’s senses, enabling their brain to release the “sleepy hormone”, melatonin.
- Keep the same bedtime every night, even at weekends.
- Help your child make the transition from waking to sleepiness by giving them lots of nurture. Stories, cuddles, a head massage… whatever makes them feel safe and comfortable.
Why do these strategies work?
Bedtime can be an anxious time for seven year-olds. It’s a common age for fears to be heightened, including fear of the dark and fear of being alone.
They may be managing separation anxiety, and they may have deep worries which come to the surface in the quiet of night time.
For these reasons, seven year-olds need a great deal of nurture to settle and get off to a peaceful night’s sleep.
Tantrums may be a sign that they are struggling with any (or all) of the issues I have described.
Seven Year Olds Hitting Parents
It’s never okay for your child to hit you, even in the midst of an emotional outburst. A seven year-old hitting their parent is common as a one-off. However, if it is happening regularly, you may need some support from a child psychologist or family therapist.
Typically developing seven year-olds will, by now, know right from wrong. However, in the heat of the moment they may lash out, and then show remorse later on.
Make sure your seven year-old is very clear that hitting you is wrong. You can use the traffic lights technique to reinforce that hitting is a “red behaviour” and will not be accepted.
Do remember, however, that seven year-olds’ brains still have such a long way to go in terms of their development.
Their “thinking brain” is not yet well connected with the “emotional brain” and they need a lot of help to manage emotion.
It’s important to be in the lookout for signs that your child’s emotions are starting to spiral, and take swift action to prevent an emotional outburst.
Follow the seven steps I have outlined below. When your seven year-old is hitting you, it’s especially important to focus on strategy number four: Develop Clear Family Rules and Boundaries.
Cognitive and Emotional Development: The Link With Seven Year-Old Anger Outbursts
Your child is growing up and their brain is growing at a pace too.
At 7, your child’s cognitive and learning will be on a pretty fast trajectory, so too will their emotional development.
However, these two areas of development don’t always happen in parallel.
As you can imagine, this difference in levels of development can contribute to anger issues in seven year-olds.
In my counselling therapy clinic I often see children who have good verbal and communication skills, but don’t yet understand their emotions. This can often leave them feeling scared or anxious about how they feel or behave.
Conversely, I also see kids who are pretty sophisticated in their understanding of emotions but who don’t yet have the learned vocabulary to describe them.
These incongruences can sometimes lead to frustration, anger, withdrawal or cries for help in the form of meltdowns or tantrums.
7 Easy Ways to Manage Temper Tantrums in Your 7 Year Old
The first step in reducing outbursts is to understand what the common triggers are and think about how you can minimise the likelihood of an outburst.
I have devised 7 ways to manage temper tantrums in your 7 year old.
Whilst not an exhaustive list, these are strong foundational tips and techniques that will strengthen the connection and understanding between you and your stressed or angry seven year-old.
I completely understand that if your seven year-old is throwing tantrums or having meltdowns regularly, you probably feel stressed and overwhelmed yourself.
So remember to be kind to yourself.
Choose one or two of these strategies to work on at a time.
Focus on putting them in place consistently before moving on to the next one.
1) Work on Lifestyle: Reduce Stress, Prioritise Sleep & Focus on a Varied Diet
When your child is tired, hungry or overwhelmed, their resilience is lowered and it takes more effort and energy for them to manage stressful situations.
Help them by prioritising good sleep hygiene routines and make sure to encourage your child to eat a regular and varied diet. There is a strong connection between eating a wide variety of nutrients and your child’s ability to manage emotions. Read more in this article about food and children’s behaviour.
Sensitive children can be triggered by requests and instructions so, be sure to avoid overwhelm by making too many demands. Think about making one request or giving one instruction at a time. This will give them time to process and act.
Our article called Child Mental Health: The Lifestyle Connection will guide you in exactly what to do, to create a healthy lifestyle for your child.
For more information on emotion regulation, read our blog post on emotional regulation activities for children.
2) Give Them a Safe Space
Does your child have a safe place your child can retreat to if they are feeling overwhelmed, over-stimulated, upset or angry?
When I conduct counselling assessments, I always ask children where their ‘safe place’ is. This is somewhere they can go to feel calm, soothed, relaxed and comfortable (their bedroom, a den, a tent in the garden).
If your child is having a hard time with negative feelings or high emotions leading to throwing tantrums, a comfort corner can help them regulate their emotions and regain a calm state.
It’s amazing how much impact a calming environment can have upon our internal state.
3) Increase the Level of Nurture
When a seven year-old can’t control their emotions, it can feel very scary for them.
Although we might also need clear boundaries and discipline strategies, nurture needs to be at the core of our response.
We need to show empathy and understanding at what our child is going through.
We need to do whatever it takes to make them feel more safe and contained. That might mean holding them tight, stroking them, talking softly to them. It’s going to be different for every child.
For you as a parent, I understand how difficult it might feel to show nurture and empathy when your seven year-old is in the middle of a screaming tantrum. We are only human and sometimes our response will be less than ideal.
But as much as you can, try to put your own emotions aside and prioritise what your child needs, in the moment.
4) Develop Clear Family Rules and Boundaries
Children typically respond well to consistent, clear messaging about rules and boundaries. Work out what works best for your family and let your child know what will happen if they break rules and boundaries.
Try to ignore minor misbehaviour and praise positive behaviour. Too much negative feedback will impact your connection with your child.
Some negative behaviours might be annoying or unwanted but you need to focus your energy on supporting your child to manage the more extreme behaviours such as hurting others or damaging property.
If you have older kids, have a discussion with them about what positive behaviours you would like to see them model for their younger siblings, especially if tantrums are a behaviour issue.
5) Use Discipline Wisely
If your child is having a difficult time (perhaps at school, or with friendship issues), they may perceive that even negative attention is better than no attention at all.
This is your cue to listen and tune in to what’s going on for them but try not to make a big deal of your child’s tantrums.
If your child’s behaviour is really challenging or aggressive and presents a safety issue, it’s vital to develop a consistent approach such as the traffic lights technique, explained in this article.
Never resort to physical punishment.
If you feel you cannot safely manage your child’s behaviour, you must not be ashamed to seek help. You are not alone. Your family doctor or your child’s teacher may be able to signpost you to services which can help you.
6) Pre-Plan Your “In The Moment” Strategies
The next time your child has a tantrum, try to remember the following rules:
o Make sure you don’t end up shouting louder than your child as this will only serve to sustain or escalate their tantrum. Read our 5 Quick Tips For Staying Calm With Your Child.
o The first step is to remain calm, softening your tone. Try to continue in this way even if you think your child won’t be able to hear you.
o Once your child is having a tantrum, the temptation is strong to go straight into ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ mode. It’s in our parenting DNA! In the long run, if your 7-year-old child is rescued each time they have a meltdown, they won’t learn how to address, regulate and ameliorate their own behaviour. For example, if they want an ice-cream and get an ice cream through throwing a tantrum, they are not learning to manage key emotions such as disappointment.
In the long run, if your 7-year-old child is rescued each time they have a meltdown, they won’t learn how to address, regulate and ameliorate their own behaviour.
For example, if they want an ice-cream and get an ice cream through throwing a tantrum, they are not learning to manage key emotions such as disappointment.
o The best way to give your child instructions to stop their tantrum behaviour is to keep your language simple. Don’t complicate things. Be prepared for a mixed response, depending on where they are in the tantrum cycle .
o Wait. If your child is emotional, allow them to express themselves, don’t suppress the emotion. Emotions need to come out and be felt. Stay close to them so they can feel safe and supported.
o Remain firm but nurturing. It can be frustrating not knowing when the tantrum will stop. You may feel tempted to give in to their demands or start bargaining a resolve with them. However, they have lost control of rational thinking and they need someone to contain and “hold” the emotion for them. Be strong, fair and firm and wait until the emotions have peaked and come down.
7) Take Swift Action to Prevent Your Seven Year-Old’s Tantrum Escalating
Over time you can spot triggers and patterns and take swift action to prevent a tantrum or meltdown in your seven year-old.
This is particularly effective if you use a diary or journal to monitor the outbursts.
Try to identify common red flags that indicate your child may be heading for a meltdown. Then, when you start to see early signs of a tantrum, take immediate action.
Early signs will be individual to your child. They might include squirming or restlessness, whining, or physical symptoms such as going red in the face. Here are some tips for de-escalating a potential tantrum:
- Be directive and assertive. Hold your boundary in a way your child can be clear about. For example, “We are not getting an ice cream today. We will get one next time. For now we are going to get a drink and take it home with us.”
- Distract them. Start an activity or fun discussion. Don’t be over-reliant on distraction however. At this age, children need to learn to feel and experience the emotion too.
- Remove your child from the environment. If you sense that the environment is starting to trigger your child, swiftly remove them. For example, in a crowded shop or a noisy activity centre.
- Hug them if they will allow you to. Touch and pressure will often help to ground a child and help them feel cal and safe.
As you can see, there is no “one size fits all” for seven year-old anger issues. At 7 years old, your child is in an active developmental phase, so give them and you the space to learn from their experiences. As they understand themselves better, the tantrums typically come to an end.
Remember, power struggles with your child or not being able to prevent or stop a tantrum, doesn’t make you a bad parent. It can be tiring and stressful for you.
Take a moment to breathe and centre yourself.
Never compare yourself to other parents.
Never compare your child to other children. Your family’s circumstances are unique.
Follow the 7 steps I have described in dealing with 7 year-old tantrums, and slowly but surely you will start to see a more balanced child. Some families will need the help of a professional such as a clinical psychologist to regain that balance.
Hayley Vaughan Smith is a Person Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and Counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.
Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and has worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care since 2019. Being a mum to 3 girls is hard work and rewarding in equal measure and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy. Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.
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