Can Someone Please Help Me with What to Do with My Extremely Defiant 7 Year Old?

Updated on August 24, 2015
C.T. asks from Parcel Return Service, DC
14 answers

My daughter is extremely defiant and disrespectful and refuses to follow directions. I have tried everything from taking privileges, to taking her favorite things to do, to time out, to putting her to bed earlier than her normal bed time, to writing assignments, and regretfully, spankings. All to no avail. I love my daughter to death, overall she is a very sweet girl, but lately I have no idea who she is. I have tried not yelling at her but talking to her trying to find out where her head is at but all I get is "I don't know" when I ask questions or she completely shuts down and then I get frustrated. someone please help me. I lover so much!

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answers from Wichita Falls on

If the attitude is different, look for what else has changed in her life. Has there been a diet change? Sleep patterns? Detergent? Friends? Enemies? School? Grades?

Definitely visit the pediatrician. A change in personality can be a symptom of a bunch of other issues (from allergies to bullying) and her doctor would be the best person to sort through it.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Some examples of specific events would be helpful. And I agree that if she is only like this with you, then it is something with the parenting aspect. If it is with everyone, then you may need to reach out to a professional if you can't figure out where this is coming from (changes in her life: divorce, a move, new school, some sort of trauma, loss of a pet, etc).

If it's just with you, maybe try 1-2-3 Magic. It's as much about teaching yourself not to overreact and to stay focused on the right thing as it is about teaching your kid to self-correct. It will help you become aware of how adults tend to run off at the mouth when we ask kids to do something or stop doing something... we don't give the instruction and then stop talking. We just keep going and going and going... and it is counter-productive.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It would be helpful if you could give some examples. You might want to check out "positive discipline," because it sound like you are doing a lot of punishing, which is counterproductive.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Please stop being punitive and try getting on her side. A very good place to start is Laura Markham's site

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

you love her, but you have not always made her a priority. I think you are vastly underestimating the damage done to this child. I really hope that all of you are in counseling. this is bigger than our layman's advice. I'm not saying that to be mean, but I really do think you have no idea what you've done to your child/ren. kids NEED stability. they NEED to be able to count on the one person in their life that should lay down their life for them. that's not a guilt trip. I'm just stating the facts. she doesn't have ANYONE in her life that she can consistently count on - from her point of view you don't have that solid foundation where she's willing to trust you. she's angry. of course she's defiant. and sorry mom, but as with all things with these little ones, it comes back to you. you created this situation with your behavior - she was a victim of it. you have to deal with it. and don't you dare take your frustration out on her. this is NOT her fault.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It's developmentally appropriate. If this is new behavior, then, it's a stage.

Everyone I know with a 7 year old has a few defiant stories. Sweet, kind girls hitting mom!

Just step up quality alone time and be consistent. But most importantly, now is the time to get her involved in her own behavior management. Positive parenting is great stuff. Check out Laura markham.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Well, without knowing more about what she does and when...Try How to Talk So Kids Will Listen. At 7, she can do things like write a list of solutions that you can go through together, receive natural consequences, etc.

I would not use spankings, in part because as a child I felt they were ineffective. I just learned how to avoid them or received momentary pain and didn't learn what I *should* do instead.

My DD is also 7 and has trouble listening. I think it might also be age with not listening. I go to DD, look her in the eye, and say, "DD, it's time to feed the cats." Or "DD, it's time to get dressed. You have 10 minutes." If she gets an obnoxious streak, I tell her that she isn't going to get what she wanted and ignore any resulting fussing. I've said, "Wow, that was rather snotty. Want to think about what you just said?"

I will warn you that 8 is like a mini dose of adolescence, so try to get a handle on some of this now - both her behavior and your reactions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Please read the book "Parenting with Love and Logic" by Cline and Fay.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We are experiencing this right now. But we also just started 2nd grade, new teachers, new studies, new discipline, some old and new friends. He's been more emotional than usual either angry or crying. I was at my wits end last night and he went to bed early I figured he was over tired from the first week of school but then again today. He was not listening to me this morning to get ready took over an hour to do as I asked. He has chore chart etc but still takes awhile to motivate. Today he was anti-social with a group of boys he has known from his Cub Scout troop they had a pool party he didn't even want to go and when we did he would not play with anyone. Then he was angry sad again mini tantrum today. I think he has trouble with change. He has had a pretty stable life so anytime there's a change ( new grade, class, new camp etc) he acts out because he's not knowing how to express what he is going through. Also could be the age and testing. I try to talk calmy to ask what's borheting him and he will blame everyone else for being mean. I try to walk way and not engage when he's upset but that only makes him more upset. Not sure. I have the conscious parent book may just try that again.


answers from Boston on

You may be trying way too many things for them to be effective. You may also be buying into it too much, giving her tons of attention (negative, but attention anyway) instead of walking away.

You may need to help in learning how to more clearly explain your expectations. If this is a sudden change in your daughter's behavior and she is doing it with everyone (teachers, sitters, relatives, neighbors, peers), then som work with a child psychologist may help determine the cause of her anger.

I think, at 7, you can't always find out "why" they are doing stuff. Usually they say "I don't know" and sometimes they lack the vocabulary and the mature depth of feeling to explain it all. It may not matter - what's important is that she stop doing it, that she stop getting the payoff for doing it.

I'd get a check-up with the pediatrician to be sure nothing is way off with blood work or hormones, and to discuss a referral to a therapist. There are also plenty of books that Mamapedia members recommend over and over - "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" is one, another is called "Love & Logic."


answers from Santa Fe on

I just want to say hang in there. My son was so defiant at this age. I swear I tried everything and read every book and worried for years. He is 11.5 now and he has just been so awesome and mature lately....a joy to be around. He isn't perfect, but he sure has improved from years and years of us dealing with stubborn behavior, defiance, anger, tears, and not listening. Just stay calm and hold your ground. Don't give in and let her get away with bad behavior. Don't take her bad behavior personally (I had a hard time with this). Remember to praise her when she is good and to try to find those positive times to enjoy. Some kids are just a lot harder than others. Hm...I just read some of the other answers. Stay CALM. Don't let yourself get emotional, angry and worked up. Don't hit or yell. Don't be punitive. Stay calm and don't take her behavior personally. You are helping her to grow into a positive adult and she will copy your behavior. Get into some therapy to talk about your problems if you feel like you are struggling.


answers from San Francisco on

How is she at school, and with other adults? If she does well with them but not you then you know it's a parenting issue and you should probably ask her pediatrician for a referral to a family therapist.



answers from Detroit on

Hi C.,

I didn't read all the responses so forgive me if I'm reiterating a previously expressed thought.

What jumps out at me like a huge red flag is the inconsistency with which you're addressing this. You can't just "try everything" and expect to get consistent results. Pick one approach, explain it to her in detail, and then when she misbehaves implement it the exact same way everytime. Explain to her that you told previously what would happen each and every time and stick to it like superglue.

Don't be punative and don't be emotional about it. At this age any attention is desired attention and getting a rise out of you is great fun. She's only 7.

and the book listed below Love and Logic is a LIFESAVER. Drove my mom crazy that we gave our DS choices from the beginning but now that he's 14, he knows his own mind and is builing a very independent identity.

You'll get through this and she'll thank you for it. :-) S.



answers from Portland on

All kids can be difficult. Usually with kids it's when there aren't rules our boundaries in the household - kids like those. It gives them comfort to know that they can't get out of control and that someone is in charge.

Spankings tend to make kids feel like things are out of control, so I wouldn't recommend that. Nothing makes mom seem more like she's lost it than if she hits her kid. Just my thought, but I know when I've wanted to ... I've been at my wits end. So better to have rules/consequences in place than to let it get that far. I get that you are frustrated.

What works for me and my kids was to not allow them to join in our family fun if they misbehaved. Nothing speaks to a kid more than to be left out. Not in a cruel way - but if mine were not sharing or were just being nasty to another sibling or weren't cooperating (and this is after you make sure they are well rested, well and well fed) - they were not invited to play whatever fun game I was playing with other kids.

If I had a child who was being disrespectful - well, they were separated until they could apologize and come and join us in a calm kind way.

Not as a time out really. If a child just needed a moment to collect themselves (I have one who frequently needed this) they were told to go to their room. They could read or play quietly - it wasn't punishment, and they could rejoin us when they were ready to be civilized :)

With screaming toddlers, I would just pick the baby up and move to another room and say "We don't really like hearing you yell so when you can use your quiet voice, you can come play with us". Stuff like that.

My mom did this with us, she did it as Kindergarten teacher for years, and it works. You have to be consistent.

Good luck :)

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