Is it normal for a 7-year-old to have tantrums
It’s perfectly normal for individuals, both children and adults, to have occasional tantrums.
However, when a 7-year-old child exhibits regular, uncontrollable outbursts, it may suggest an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.
Research has established that the critical period for developing emotional regulation is from birth to five years of age.1 More than half of children outgrow tantrums before they reach the age of five.2
If a 7-year-old child frequently responds with intense tantrums when told no, it could be a sign of difficulties with emotional regulation.
However, don’t immediately conclude that they may have a disorder, like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Children may lack emotional regulation skills for a variety of reasons.
Causes of temper tantrums in 7 year olds
Lack of co-regulation
Co-regulation is a collaborative process in which parents actively support their children emotionally through empathetic interactions, coaching, and modeling appropriate emotional responses.
Although children possess some basic self-regulation skills at birth, more advanced skills develop through empathetic social and emotional interactions with their nurturing caregivers3.
Those who don’t receive external regulation support through co-regulation may struggle to develop self-regulating capabilities.
Children who witness frequent fighting between their parents may not have adequate regulatory skills to cope with such tense situations.
Witnessing intense family conflicts can lead to heightened stress for them.
They may have overwhelming feelings. They feel scared or confused by the arguments and have difficulty processing their emotions.
In addition, children may internalize the conflict they witness as their fault, resulting in anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems6.
Children with neurodivergent conditions, such as autism spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may encounter more challenges in learning how to control negative emotions.
The challenges can stem from unique cognitive processing styles, communication barriers, and sensory sensitivities often associated with neurodiversity5.
Childhood trauma can often result in children not receiving external assistance to regulate their emotions.
Not only do they lack guidance in learning regulatory skills, but their nervous system is also overactive due to traumatic stress. As a result, traumatized children struggle to regain self-control when upset4.
Life-threatening events are not the only stressors that can cause childhood trauma.
Chronic repetitive distress, such as bullying, harsh discipline, or witnessing domestic violence, can also lead to toxic stress. This form of stress can significantly impair a child’s ability to self-regulate.
Through past experiences and interactions, some children may have inadvertently learned that expressing their needs through tantrums can yield the desired response. Tantrum becomes a learned behavior.
Learned behavior often develops through interactions with their caregivers.
Children typically do not devise premeditated strategies to manipulate their parents or act with malice. Instead, their actions are more likely a conditioned response developed over time.
How To Deal With 7-Year-Old Tantrums
Co-regulation is a process in which the adult facilitates the child’s learning to understand, express, and modulate their emotions through support, coaching, and modeling in warm, responsive interactions.
You can co-regulate with your dysregulated child using the following steps.
Acknowledge and name their feelings
Teach them how to recognize and use emotional vocabulary to talk about their strong feelings.
“You are very upset right now.”
“I can see you are very angry.”
Describe and validate how they feel
Being able to describe how you feel is an important step in emotional self-regulation. They also learn communication skills.
“It must feel like I don’t care about you; the entire family doesn’t care about you, right?
“It must feel as if your sister didn’t want to share this with you.”
Accept their emotions
That means being attuned and staying with them during these difficult moments even though they don’t calm down right away.
Calming an aroused nervous system is not flipping a switch. It’s a process that takes time and help, your help.
However, telling them or making them stop won’t help.
To you, the most important thing is“how to stop it.” But to your child, their focus is their intense feelings.
So, help your child with stress by being calm and providing emotional support. Witness their strong emotions, the most important thing in their mind at that moment.
If you are irritated or angry, their anger will intensify. This then becomes co-dysregulation.
Patiently be there
Although their crying and screaming may be bothersome and distressing, consider the immense pain or anger they must be going through to express themselves in such a way.
Try to understand the depth of their suffering and show your child empathy, even if it may be challenging for you.
Having a supportive adult to witness and accept their anger can help them regulate, although it may take some time7.
Letting your child cry doesn’t make you a bad parent. Being a parent who focuses on your child’s emotional intelligence makes you an exceptional one.
Do not give in
Do not reinforce tantrum occurrences by giving in. Not even once.
While you can acknowledge and attune to what they really want, do not change your original decision.
2. Inductive Discipline
Punishment tends to elicit temper outbursts in children.
But anyone, not just 7-year-olds, can get upset if they are punished whenever the other party doesn’t get their way.
That’s right, while we think they throw tantrums when they don’t get their way, they feel we hurt them when we don’t get our way.
Having an unequal relationship and being unable to protect yourself from harm makes it hard to help an aroused brain calm down.
So, don’t use punishment to teach.
If you have been using punitive discipline strategies and are still reading this article, you know the authoritarian approach is not an effective strategy.
Teaching children to reason and think critically so they can tell right from wrong is a much better way to discipline children.
Studies have shown that inductive discipline, or reasoning to discipline, tends to reduce common child behavior problems8.
Using inductive reasoning is preventative. During tantrums, reasoning usually doesn’t work.
Don’t reason with a child mid-tantrum.
Parents’ beliefs about children’s emotions play a crucial role in shaping the emotional development of their children.
Here are some new mindsets to adopt for better child development 9.
Emotional regulation is the goal; stopping the tantrum is not
Your perception of your child’s intentions can influence your emotions and responses.
Parents who believe children use emotions to manipulate others may be less empathetic and have more dismissive reactions to their child’s feelings.
It is not uncommon for parents to feel that their child is being manipulative, which can be frustrating. However, it is important to focus on your ultimate goal.
Whether you perceive your child’s behavior as manipulative or not, the most important objective is to support your child in alleviating their distress and learning to self-regulate.
Help your child process emotions. Research indicates that children cannot achieve healthy emotional regulation independently; they require co-regulation from a supportive figure like you.
Accept negative emotions
Negative emotions, in themselves, are not the root cause of your child’s distress or tantrums. Instead, these emotions are an outward expression of their internal state.
Therefore, attempting to stop a tantrum directly rarely works.
By acknowledging and accepting your child’s negative feelings, you can create a supportive environment that allows them to process and understand these emotions.
Ultimately, this approach will result in better emotional regulation and stronger parent-child relationships.
It won’t work overnight
New emotion management skills require time and consistent practice to learn.
Tantrums won’t stop instantly, and your child won’t develop emotional self-control overnight.
Having experienced frustration during your child’s angry outbursts, you understand the difficulty of managing negative emotions in stressful situations.
Imagine that for your angry child who has a less mature brain and significantly more stress at this tough time.
Support your child patiently, and they will flourish and grow emotionally.
4. Teach Emotion Coping Skills
Empower your child with tools to understand and manage their stronger emotions.
Have a conversation about feelings and teach them emotion management skills when they are calm.
Here are some effective tools.
- Take a deep breath
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Understand their tantrum triggers in daily life
- Notice powerful emotions
- Problem-solving skills
- Reappraise issues
Also See: Argumentative Child
5. Parental Self-Care
A calmer parent creates a calmer family life.
It is important to take care of your own mental health.
Put on your own oxygen mask first.
Also See: How To Deal With 6 Year Old Tantrums
6. Seek Professional help
If your child still has violent tantrums or shows aggressive behavior at this age, seek professional help from a child psychologist or a psychiatrist.
They can identify underlying medical issues or disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder.
- Therapy options include live video, voice chat, and messaging
- Diverse tools include yoga, journaling, worksheets, and activity plans
- Parenting For Brain visitors get 20% off the first month
- Convenient online therapy with quick client-counselor matching
- Chat with your therapist or have live video sessions
- Parenting For Brain visitors get 25% off
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- 2.Österman K, Björkqvist K. A Cross-Sectional Study of Onset, Cessation, Frequency, and Duration of Children’s Temper Tantrums in a Nonclinical Sample. Psychol Rep. Published online April 2010:448-454. doi:10.2466/pr0.106.2.448-454
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