As a middle school counselor, I know what it’s like to work with teenagers. I’m even pretty comfortable with toddlers. But parenting a 7-year-old? That’s new territory for me.
My oldest is 7 years old, and this year I’ve seen qualities in her that have made my raise my eyebrows. The trickiest part is determining what is actually her, and what things is she picking up from school and other places.
My husband and I try to keep her pretty sheltered (by some people’s definitions). We don’t let her watch too much t.v. and when she does, we are monitoring what shows she is watching. She definitely is NOT free to peruse YouTube on her own (i.e. the whole momo challenge and all the other dangers out there).
Parenting a 7-year-old means:
They ask A LOT of questions
What time are we going to eat? Our food is taking so long to get ready! I can’t wait for field day! Are we taking swimming lessons AGAIN this summer? Why doesn’t my sister have to do that? Why does the baby always cry when you leave the room?
They begin to question your authority
Sometimes when I tell my to do something, so asks me why she has to do it or why her sister doesn’t have to do it. I use to see red immediately, but I realized that some of her questioning is genuine. She is trying to learn the world around her.
When I was a kid, it was a cardinal sin to ask your parents questions about most anything when they told you to do something.
Trust me, there are times to say because I told you so, but I’ve changed my thinking and started explaining more.
They want every toy they see
Kids in this generation are marketed to 24/7. Not only do they have access to t.v., but the internet shows kids their age reviewing toys.
And cartoons and use to only be on at certain times. Thanks to Netflix, Hulu & YouTube, you can see what you want, anytime you want.
You can’t escape it!
They begin to notice inconsistencies in what you tell them
If I’m unsure about our plans, I don’t tell her. I don’t want to disappoint her, or be reminded 10,000 times.
They can read (they get all up in your business)
You know what I mean. All up in the blue tooth when it rings in the van. Trying to figure out who is on the phone when it rings.
So here are a few tips to deal with their new “talents”:
Set firm boundaries
Your kids still want to be included in things–even if they are adult matters. When my husband and I are having conversations about bills, school, etc, my daughter frequently tries to interject and ask questions. She even tries to read my text messages when they come in.
We remind her that when mommy and daddy are talking, she has to wait her turn, and that every conversation isn’t about her or for her.
Taking different opportunities to engage in conversations with her helps to set those boundaries for her.
Have key parenting phrases to combat predictable behavior
When we go to Target or Walmart, my kids get the gimmies. Meaning they want every toy they see. To combat what we will face, I often remind my kids to be grateful for what they have.
Sometimes I ask my daughter, “What does mommy say when you are always asking for toys?”
When she repeats it back to me, I know that she is internalizing it more than me simply repeating myself over and over.
Get creative with discipline
Every child learns differently. Get to know your child and what works most effectively for them. Instead of always sending them to time out, try sending their toys to time out.
In lieu of a spanking for every indiscretion, try taking away a privilege.
Being creative with discipline keeps your kids on their toes, and ensures that the punishment fits the behavior you are trying to address.
We don’t always have to gether as parents–trust me, I sure don’t. Sometimes I make mistakes. I yell too much. I punish the wrong child.
I have bad times. Apologizing models for your children how to handle when you are wrong. Sometimes our kids see us as superhuman, and a simple apology brings it down to earth for them.
And it humbles you.
Monitor their activity online
I cannot say this one enough. Parents got a little scare with the momo challenge and all the kids YouTube stuff. A few years ago I took an Internet safety class. For some reason, we’ve become really trusting of the Internet because the word “kids” or “children’s” is out there. There are sick people in the world who want to lure children in and are waiting for parents who are not monitoring their children’s activity.
Make sure that you take time to talk your 7-year-old about what to do if they see something inappropriate online. You don’t want them to hide it from you because they are embarrassed. Having these conversations keeps the lines of communications open early so that you can transition smoothly into pre-teen and teenage years.
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