7 Year Old Son Is Testing His Boundaries at Home and at School

Updated on April 01, 2010
C.P. asks from Key Colony Beach, FL
9 answers

I have this really cool kid that is smart, fun and interesting. The problem is that he seems to be testing every possible boundary right now. My husband and I disagree about how to deal with the situtation. I would really like a few other opinions, maybe from people who have had really awesome kids that from time to time just act like big jerks !!!!

My biggest frustration is that he is being very disrespectful, he thinks that he can debate us on everything. He also has an a very hard time following even the simplest instructions.

My husband thinks that we need to pick one behavioral thing at a time and deal with it consistantly. Make the rules simple and the consequences clear.

I don't totally disagree with my husband but I feel like if he understands respecting adults and not debating with them (at school too) everything someone asks him then we would not have half the problems that we are currently dealing with.

When he is helpful and polite we always give him praise, we spend a lot of time with him.

His teacher is also at her witts end.... she has recommended that he be tested for the gifted prgram at school because she thinks he might be bored, but she thinks that emotionally he is acting younger than the other kids in his grade and says that he needs to get a grip on his emotions. I get the feeling that when he doesn't like the work that he just decides to do his own thing. Again completley missing the point that he is not in charge or that he doesn't get an opinion on the daily process in class.

Help...I feel like either I have this little savant (haha) or I have a kid that completley thinks he is the center of the universe (yikes!)

There is also a part of me that feels like he is just growing up and is strtching his wings a little, I don't want to squash that... but i want to effectively guide him.

any suggestions????

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answers from Miami on

I had a similar problem when my son was that age! We did have him tested and found out that not only was he gifted (and bored!), he also has ADHD! Now the ADHD is treated and he is in a gifted program and doing very well most of the time. He is 13; finishing 7th grade. He still continues to challenge adults, because he is very intelligent and he knows it! This has gotten him into some situations and he's learning when to just be quiet and listen to what he's told to do....but it's been a gradual learning process.

We knew he was smart even in preschool; he could already read way ahead of his level but we didn't have him skip any grades because of his emotional/social immaturity. Looking back, that was a good decision! School is about learning but also about learning to interact with others and deal with social situations. I think in this area he has been the most challenged. Most of his teachers were willing to work with him individually until third grade...then he had a teacher who just expected him to sit still and do his work because at that age most of the other kids were able to do that! This is when we diagnosed the ADHD and treating it really helped. I know alot of people are reluctant to medicate their kids but even he notices the difference when he forgets to take his pill! The medication helped control his impulsiveness and distractability so that he could at least follow along in class (not be daydreaming or reading something else!). We still needed to understand that part of this was just his personality and we had to adjust, too. For example, his piano teacher actually quit because she would tell him how to play a song, then he would decide he's rather play it a different way because his way sounds better! We had the talk about respecting what your teachers tell you even if you think something else.....but eventually we gave up trying to force him into a mold when it came to extracurricular activities. It is enough to ask him to hold it together during school hours and then allow him lots of free time to be creative and explore on his own time.....within safe limits of course!

A consolation to both you and I is that while these kids are challenging to raise, they grow into the most successful adults! The key is to choose your battles and focus on the most important things. And having him tested is a great idea even if you don't want to treat with medication...at least you will know what you are dealing with and can educate yourself on how to best handle the situation. I can recommend a few good books if you write back to me. Hope my experience has helped you!!

K. G.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Sounds like my household! Only thing is that at school, my children are little angels. At home, forget it! NO halos or angel wings can be found at home. It's frustrating but the key is to be consistent. I give my daughters warnings for their behavior. For example, if my daughter interrupts me and my husband when we are talking, we issue a first warning. We say, "you are being rude to interrupt. This is your first warning." If she does it again, she gets a second warning. If she does it again, a consequence is enforced. The consequence can be anything: time out, no cartoons for a day, grounded for a day, etc. Most of the time it works. We are still learning as we go.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Juan on

I certainly agree that you should not think of your son as a 'jerk', he is a child. At this age, boys start setting the lines that will define their behavior for later years, so pay attention to what he is doing. Sit down with your son and talk; this will start him on the road to realize you are there to help him, not to hinder him. Explain to your son that he has to live with the rest of the community, and that his behavior is unacceptable. Setting clear consequences is a very good step, and even better is that you have not forgotten that he needs praise.
When your son misbehaves, take a moment to analize what is it that is inappropiate in what he did and explain it to him. Believe me, children do listen, specially if you suspect he is gifted.
I do agree with you husband that consistency has to be part of your discipline program; but you both as parents have to be on the same page, or your child will turn one against the other. You must start with discussing with your husband about this and presenting to your child a set of rules that you both (the parents) have agreed on, and that he (the child) has to follow, with clear and simple rules; and clear and simple prizes and punishments.
When you are asking him to follow rules, always ask your son to repeat them back to you, so you will make sure he understands what is being asked of him.
Above all this, love your child. You are doing a great job and all this are just developmental quirks.

Love, Jean

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Melbourne on

Hmm I remember reading your post and I could've sworn I replied, maybe not. I agree with the last post are you raising MY son? My son is 6, will be 7 in June. He's in the first grade and I've noticed in the last few months he's become rebellious, lazy, sassy, detached, etc. Nothing much has changed in our lives.
I don't really have a suggested answer to your/our problem. I'm trying to be consistent and allow him to grow up a little. However I find that I still have to 'remind' him to do his chores, h.w., etc.
Hopefully this is a phase. It's so good to know that other moms are going through this.



answers from Boca Raton on

OMG are you raising my son? Mine will also be 7 in June and he is in 1st grade in a gifted program. We have the same problem with him being very emotional and still acts younger than the other kids in his class.(he is the youngest in the class)

In the past month I have noticed that he knows everything...I mean everything. I find myself saying to him that some day he may know more than me but right now I still know more. LOL very mature of me right? It's frustrating but I think it is a phase...other moms I spoke to say the same thing is going on at the same age. And hopefully just like the terrible two's I hope he will grow past it.

I don't struggle with the disrespect as much, he pretty much knows that when I say enough it means close the mouth and walk away. This comes from many lonely days of sitting on his bed when he talked back to either of us. He's a little mouthier with his Dad because he knows he can get away with it if I'm not around, It's all about both of you sticking to your guns whatever you decide they are.

I hope this helps...even just to know you are not alone.



answers from Port St. Lucie on

My kids are younger than yours, but my neice, who lived with us for a while is 12. It sounds a lot like he's really smart and bored. Smart kids need choices and most intellectual people want to understand why they are doing what they are being asked to do.

A helpful thing would be to ask him to try something new (on the weekend with you)- when he wants to debate the merits of the task at hand, instead to write out the thoughts and questions in his mind (this is dumb, I already know this, why are we repeating everything, etc). (Then he will know what he's really thinking- this is more important than we think sometimes.)

You can then address what is really happening in a more direct way. THis also can foster emotional intelligence b/c it puts names with feelings and addresses them directly (rather than by acting out).

He may not be old enough for this, but you know him best. Follow your intuition. Rules and consequences are totally important, but having real conversation (when possible) will help him know you're serious about addressing his needs, even when he has trouble putting them into acceptable language.



answers from Los Angeles on

First off, please don't say that your child is a "jerk", or even acting like one. He is smart, fun and interesting, period.

Kids will be disrepectful, it is how they grow and understand their place in this world. They will push, they will fight they might even diagree with you, it is all their way of growing. It is up to you to show him and teach him how that can be done in a repsectful way.

Picking one thing to work on is like going to the grocery store for bread, then finishing that and going back for the peanut butter. Your son is a whole person, treat him as one.

You say he is hlepful, polite and give him lots of praise, what changes for him to go from this to what you don't approve of? Watch him, notice his triggers and then you can help him deal with them. Maybe it is something environmental (he gets bored) maybe it's the time of day (maybe he has low blood sugar) maybe it's when is "feels like it". Whatever his trigger, find it.

It's June, most teachers are at their wits end. I was one for 10 years, I know of what I speak. If she thinks he should be tested for the gifted program, get him tested NOW! Any extra educational attention a child can get in school is a boost.

You say he is missing the point that he is not in charge, I say he has proven to you and your husband that he is in charge. This behaviour is happening. You have not been in charge for as long as this behaviour has been going on. He took control when he started pushing your buttons and those of his teacher and other adults. If you want him to stop thinking he is in charge, he must stop that behaviours.

Most kids DO think they are the center of the universe, but on that note, so do a lot of adults.

So you want to guide him, that is wonderful. First things first, you are the parent, he is the child. You will set the boundaries, you will set the rules, you will set him on course to be successful.

I wish I could give you specific suggestions, but you have been very general in your comments. So suggestions are not appropriate. But if you wanted to write to me personally and share some spefic situations where you could use some suggestions, I would share my 27 years of child pyscholgy knowledge, my 10 years of classroom teaching and my 12 years of being a mom with you.

C., you are the mom. He is the child. Period.

B., B.A.;B.Ed.
Family Coach



answers from Miami on


I have 3 sons and going from experience you need to concentrate on the area of most concern and work on that and at the moment it sounds as if that is a respect issue. He definitely needs to learn boundaries and needs to learn who is in charge and until that is established you are going to be completely out of controll and he is going to be the one with all the control. Your husband is correct, even though he will be 7 soon his attention span is still very short and throwing too much at him at one time is only going to confuse him. Start with the areas of the utmost importance and the most concern and work your way down from there.

Good luck.

35 y/o SAHM of 3 boys 13, 5 and 3


answers from San Francisco on

I think with your son being an only child has had attention at his beck and call. So he now thinks that any attention is good whether it be bad/good.
If his teacher feels that he is gifted then perhaps put him up a grade, the only problem being she/he says he doesnt' act his age. Whatever he does wrong call him on it. I don't mean everything, every child has to have some fun whether we like it or not. He understands respect so reinforce it. If need be take something away that he truly loves to play with. He is at an age right now that he is testing. He is no doubt going through a growth spurt right now. Deal with him in a timely manner, let him know that what he is doing is not only hurting you but also his classmates. Let the teacher know what you are doing at home so that he/she can follow through with what you are doing to rectify this situation. I do believe he will grow out of it, part of it being a growth change but he has to learn to respect his parents and others. Good luck!!

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