‘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, which conveniently started over the summer holidays, 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.)
With the aim of seeing if other parents experienced the Stroppy Sevens, I asked some fellow bloggers if they had faced it too. The answer was a resounding, ‘YES!!’
According to Jaymee from The Mum Diaries, ‘My 7 year old is a mini Kevin! He screams, shouts stomps and is such a grump! I really hope he comes out of it soon!’
I too can relate to the Kevin and Perryness of this stage. I could also have written word-for-word what Alice from Living With Jude has to say on the subject, ‘Our daughter swings from lovely to literally Satan himself. Her favourite sentences are “can you just listen to me, for once in your life?” “You know it isn’t all about you, mum.” “You’re not the boss of me!” Oh the joys…’
The joys indeed. Still it feels better when you know you’re not alone.
Sarah from Twins Make Five summed up the Stroppy Sevens nicely when she said,
‘Seven seemed like such a game changing age for my daughter. It was like she was being pulled from wanting to be a kid and wanting to be grown up and cool. I could literally see her battling which way to go. So many things that she’d loved were suddenly branded babyish and boring. My daughter is generally very well behaved but there was definitely an increase in eye rolling and stomping off in annoyance! It felt like a tiny taste of the teenage years.’
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?
My blogger friends also had some fantastic advice about this.
- Have a good routine in place
Older children need routines as much as they did when they were babies and toddlers.
According to Beth from Twinderelmo, ‘My son has been so much better since being back at school. He is much better with routine and having other authority figures that he actually listens to.’
I agree completely, my daughter has also been better since being back at school. Her routine over the summer was quite non-existent and I wonder if this didn’t help matters.
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.
As Angela from The Life of Spicers said, ‘My nine year old went through horrendous behaviour at seven. My wine consumption also went up. Just stuck to boundaries, ignore the behaviour and you’ll get your darling back sooner or later.
So we both need to know what the boundaries are and what happens if she crosses them. Consistency is key, I believe.
- Encourage positive friendships
Emily from A Slummy Mummy said, ‘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. My daughter is ten, I’ve found that encouraging positive friendships has helped us get over 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.’
I have also noticed that friendships are becoming more important at this age. 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.
Emma from The Mini Mes And Me echoed my friend’s sentiments when she said,’ When the Mini Mes were younger and misbehaving I would generally ignore them and when they didn’t receive any attention from their actions they would get bored and stop. I’d also really praise them when they did something well so they soon realised what was expected of them’.
So lots of praise and rewards seems to be the way forwards.
All of the above advice really does seem to help when my daughter is having one of her, erm, ‘turns’.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Charlotte from Charlottedellie, ‘This stage is something that happens a lot to young children at seven. What you will find is they have got to the stage that they are aware of life a little more now and are starting to test the water to see what they can get away with. Stick to your guns when they are having a strop. In time they will grow out of this and realise they can’t always get what they want. It won’t happen overnight but it works.’
Basically, I 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.
If you too are living with a stroppy seven year old, I hope this post helps you a bit. If not there’s always chocolate.
Aimee Foster is the co-founder of mum friendship website, Mum Amie, where she also blogs about parenting, baby loss and well-being. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.