Obstinence, Crying, and Tantrums at 7? - Virginia Beach,VA

Updated on October 19, 2016
M.H. asks from Virginia Beach, VA
18 answers

My daughter will be 7 years old in a few weeks. She's generally a very good kid - she does well in school, plays well with others, and so on. But where the other kids her age seem to have gotten past the toddler-esque tantrum phase, she hasn't. I can still expect a daily (if not multiple times a day) meltdown over some aspect of the day that didn't go to her liking. On the bright side, these don't happen at school or at B&A care - they seem to only happen at home or when we're out together.

So, for example: last night we went to an event organized by the school. My daughter got to play with her friends, have snacks, and all that jazz. When it came time to leave, she started insisting we had to do one more thing - the thing that had the longest line. I told her we couldn't, we didn't have time to wait in that long line. So, the tears began. She cried all the way to the car, refused to buckle her seatbelt (I had to do it), cried all the way home, refused to get out of the car (I eventually had to carry her into the house against her will), then cried for another ten minutes or so until she finally calmed herself. I talked to her afterwards (there's no talking to her while she's upset, she just won't respond), told her that I loved her and explained why we had to go when we did. The rest of the night, she went along with whatever needed to be done without complaint.

The *next* morning (this morning): we got up, got dressed, had breakfast, and all the morning stuff without issue. We lined up in the hallway to walk across the street to B&A care, and when I opened the door, she declared it was too cold outside. I told her she would be fine - she was wearing a nice, thick coat and the walk across the street only takes a moment. She refused, and refused, and refused, until I barked the order to get moving. She did, but then the tears began. She cried on the walk to daycare, then refused to go inside. I ended up having to carry her inside (notice a theme?), where she stood and cried in the entryway. I tried to convince her to come inside, but she wasn't having it, so in the end I had to carry her into the school again and deposit a sobbing mess of a child for the daycare providers and leave (I was now 20 minutes late to work).

The whole time this is happening, I'm watching other kids her age doing the same things I'm asking her to do without issue. Other kids left the school event, all of them with no tears. Other kids got dropped off at daycare, again with no tears. What is going on with my daughter that she has to have a meltdown when faced with something she doesn't want to do?

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your help. I'll take all of this into consideration. A couple of quick notes - mainly things I left out in my earlier summary:

1. I should specify that I'm not always a single dad - my wife attends a college out of town and is gone Monday thru Friday. So, I'm only a single dad during the week :P

2. Also, while I agree with the general consensus that I should let the tantrum play out without giving her any special attention because of it, I'll merely mention that carrying her inside was *not* what she wanted in these cases. She was very, very upset that I picked her up and carried her and objected to that the strongest of all. In each of these cases, I said "You either walk inside like a big kid or I carry you. One, two three. OK, that's it, I'm carrying you inside." And she was *not happy* to have what she wanted overthrown like that.

3. And as a final defense, I'll mention that I have a five year old boy as well. He doesn't give me any of this sort of trouble. It's not that he never gets upset, but him and I handle it quickly and he presses on. I seem to only have this trouble with my daughter, for whatever reason.

Thanks again everyone!

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answers from Erie on

A lot of great advice here. I want to point out to you that she is having tantrums where it's safe - with you. I have a kid who had meltdowns like that, but only at home. He rarely acted up anywhere else. You feel safe to her, that's why she saves it for you :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I could have written this! My almost 7 year old used to be exactly the same way, and still is a lot of the time. My daughter has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. We do counseling twice a week with different counselors, as well as hippotherapy (horseback riding). I have learned to change the way we talk to her. All request are given in so

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answers from Washington DC on

well, the upside to this is that she's not doing it to anyone but her daddy, who is the one safe and reliable place for her in the world.
so good for you. clearly you're doing the single parent thing pretty well.
7 is indeed too old for tantrums, but it's still very young. assuming the absence of emotional or mental instability (and it doesn't sound as if this is case) i'd handle it the same way i would for a toddler. let her know when a transition is coming, and don't over-explain or plead or threaten (which it doesn't sound as if you're doing.)
she IS old enough for there to be more than immediate consequences, and this is something i'd at least try.
when she's calm and receptive, have a daddy-to-big-girl talk. 'amylou, you're not a baby any more and i think we need to address the tantrums and meltdowns you keep having. you're my wonderful girl and i think you're very capable of going for a day without all the drama. there needs to be a consequence for behaving badly. i'd like your input into what it could be.'
pause for discussion. interestingly many kids come up with far more severe punishments for themselves than their parents do. agree on something like no tv on the evening of the infraction, or even writing or drawing about the incident that made her upset (which can have therapeutic benefits.)
once you've hashed out a consequence for negative behavior, offer a positive one. if she goes for a full week without a full-on meltdown, you'll have a date for the carnival, or a grown-up tea room, or trail ride at a local stable.
and continue to handle the incidents calmly and most of all silently when they occur. stony silence, no feedback whatsoever.
i'm betting she grows out of this very soon.
good luck!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Good suggestions below. Sometimes kids hold it together when they are in public, and let loose on parents.

But she may also be doing this because she CAN. I totally understand that you don't have time to fool around in the morning because you have to get to work. But coming home from the program at school when she wouldn't get out of the car? If you have a garage and it's safe, I'd have left her in there and I'd have told her to come inside when she was ready. I'd have taken myself - her audience - away from the situation.

You say there's no talking to her when she's upset - I agree. Don't do it. The thing to do with a tantrum is ignore it. Now, you can't allow her to have a meltdown in certain places in public (church, a wedding, a funeral, the office), but you can remove her from the situation with as little fanfare as possible and absolutely not engage with her. I've left my kid in his carseat or booster, stood outside the car with a book or a crossword puzzle, within sight so he knew I was not abandoning him but far enough that he knew I wasn't listening to him either.

I agree with a code word (such as "Are you arguing with me?") that informs her that consequences are imminent. And then follow through. Losing privileges next weekend for an infraction today won't work at this age. But losing out on a story before bed (or a half hour of TV or whatever her pleasures are) because of a tantrum she threw an hour before DOES work.

She may also like having you carry her and fasten her seatbelt. She has some control over you that way. So make it unrewarding enough by ignoring her completely, and just do what is necessary to keep her safe. So, if she won't put her coat on in the morning, take her across the street with to B&A care with no coat. She'll live. She'll be cold but she will survive just fine.

We had a parents' workshop with a facilitator on just this topic. The expert advice was to adopt the attitude of "How unfortunate for you, my child." The child has to learn that decisions she makes can backfire. Example: Child refuses to put on gloves to go to recess even when teacher instructs. Rather than get into a battle, the teacher tells the child she will not be able to come back in to get gloves if she changes her mind. Of course, within 5 minutes, the child has cold hands. Teacher on recess duty says, "How unfortunate for you. MY hands are nice and warm because I put on my gloves." So child has to stay on playground with hands in pockets, not playing. Teacher does not give the child her gloves, does not send anyone in to get the gloves, does not engage in further conversation with child. Next day, child wears gloves.

Same goes for giving in to a tantrum in the store. I've checked out of a grocery store with only half of what's on my list, because my kid had a meltdown over not getting a candy bar. I don't get the candy bar, but I also don't buy the things my kid enjoyed that weren't essential. "How unfortunate for you. You had a tantrum in the store so I couldn't allow everyone else to listen to your screaming while I shopped for juice boxes and your favorite cereal." And later, "How unfortunate for you that I don't have time for X because I now have to go back to the store for what DAD AND I needed and I didn't have time to buy due to your tantrum." No endless lecture, just simple facts.

So, your child can go to daycare with or without a coat, but she can't opt to stand there and fuss, thereby controlling YOUR day. She can choose to fuss and cry with the providers (they're used to it) but she can't make you late to work. She can choose to sit in the garage bored to tears, but she can't make you stay there and carry her in the house.

It's okay for kids to be unhappy, angry, frustrated, and disappointed sometimes. They have to learn to calm down and get over it. We can't always make them happy, and experts think we shouldn't all the time.

And believe me, the other kids do similar things with their own parents. You just aren't seeing it.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

This isn't really all that unusual. Most of the time, as parents, we don't notice the challenging times other parents face. Try not to focus so much on the other kids that are having a good day. If you step back and try notice the other kids (when your focus is not on your own daughter), you will likely start to notice the many, many other times that it's someone else's child having a bad moment/day.

But there are things you can do to help.

If you can see it coming, try hard to let go of any emotion yourself. Don't try to convince her or talk her into it. Just be very matter-of-fact and cal. "Sweetie, it's time to leave." Have the expectation that she will comply. If she doesn't do it quickly, maybe take her by the hand and say, "We are leaving."

You said there's no point it trying to talk to her while she's upset. Sometimes there's no point in trying to talk to them at all ... you are the parent, and she is the child and sometimes she really does need to do it "because you said so."

I would try to take her by the hand and walk her in (or to the car or whatever) as much as possible. Picking her up and carrying her gives her power. You trying to talk her into it gives her power. You want to try and avoid power struggles. As much as possible, stay calm and remain very matter-of-fact. It's time to ...

She will learn faster and will respect you more if you stay calm and consistent.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

It doesn't sound that unusual. I notice my own child (1st grade) acting out, but others think she is mature and well behaved.

She saves it for your because: 1) you are safe 2) she can get away with it.

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answers from Portland on

Do you have any consequences for her? I mean it's one thing for a toddler to do this, carry on when they don't want to do something, but she's 7.

Personally - I'd have consequences. If she misbehaved and carried on when you told her it was time to from the event at school, I'd say (and carry through with it) that we won't be going to the next one. Or if that's too far away, I'd make her skip the very next fun thing you have planned.

Kids tend to get over scenes really fast if you have consequences.

If you explain or try to convince her why she needs to listen/mind you - you're creating a losing battle. Say "now" firmly, and then follow up with a consequence.

If she was like this all the time or with school or daycare, then I'd think she may have an emotional issue. But you say it's just with you. Kids like and need parents to be super firm but loving, with rules and consequences. It gives them stability and makes them feel secure. She likely is starting to feel out of control - given all this upset.

If you don't want to have consequences, then reward her in some way if she stops all the tantrums.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

Maybe it has to do with your wife attending college out of town. She probably misses mom.

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answers from Portland on

I was usually the one to pick up my granddaughter after school. When she refused to go with me, I kept walking. If she threw a tantrum and didn't follow, I stopped a couple of feet away from her and waited. I didn't say anything. I looked away from her and calmly stood. After the first let's go I didn't say anything. . When we cajole, argue or pay attention in any way, we're being controlled by the child. When we stand firm, we're telling our child we're in charge and expect her to to conform.. and that a tantrum will not affect us.

Consider your goal to get this done as quickly as possible. In these situations I have no time to talk her into complying. At the same time, I have time to wait her out. I also agree to not picking her up. Unlike a toddler who is unable to make choices on the sot., she's 7 with a more developed brain. She has to make a choice. Allowing her to do that gives her the right amount of power. When you pick her up she is rightfully angry. She is a big girl. Picking her up is saying you are the toddler you're acting like. Our goal is to help her to be more mature.

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answers from Santa Fe on

My son was like this at age 7. I would talk to him about how things would go...telling him before we did something what we were doing and how I expected him to behave. I would tell him if he does not do x then he is going to get y as a consequence. (For him it was losing time playing video games or not getting to do that activity next time...but whatever currency works for your kid is what you should use). I used the count to 3 method...he knew that when I got to 3 that he then had the consequence. He STILL would have the meltdowns. Every time. I don't think I would change what I did...I would still set expectations and give him consequences because that is important to learn. But he would repeat the behavior again and again and again. I know now it is just his personality....he has a very hard time with transitions, change, not being in control and he struggles with perfectionism and anxiety. For 4th and 5th grade we had him see a child psychiatrist every week. She worked very hard on teaching him that he is responsible for his own behavior, to recognize when he is getting upset, and how to properly deal with it. We did family therapy too. This and our son simply maturing is what helped. The therapist also taught me to let some things go. To praise the positive more. To make sure I spend bonding time with him doing something of his choice. To let him get natural consequences if he does not do something (this worked with homework). So...my advice isn't too much help to you. But know that some kids are just like this...they are more sensitive, more defiant, have more anxiety, and are more stubborn. It takes them longer than other kids to get themselves in control and to be mature enough to not have tantrums. Our son really matured as he got older and 6th grade was a wonderful year. This year his is in 7th and he's even more mature! He's pretty darn awesome actually! Hang in there. It's hard.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

The fact that she follows directions at school without a problem suggests to me that it's your parenting style (sorry). It sounds like she knows exactly how to manipulate you to get attention. Stop giving her attention for it.

For example, in the car situation - my kids each tried the temper tantrum in the car thing once. Only once, because when they refused to get out of the car at home, I just left them in the car and went into the house without them (not an option if you have to park your car blocks away, but hopefully that is not the case). Eventually, they came in on their own, because crying alone in the car didn't accomplish their goal of getting my attention. And in the house, my rule about crying is this: it's ok to cry when you are upset. But you don't get to interrupt everyone else's life, so if you are upset enough that you need to cry, that is totally fine, but you have to do it in your room. It's amazing how quickly a kid will stop crying if you tell them they have to go to their room to do it. It really is all about getting attention.

And those long heartfelt conversation after the tantrum to explain - again, you are rewarding her for having the tantrum with your attention. You need to stop. At age 7, if she wants an explanation, she can ask using her words - that is behavior that you reward with your attention, not tantruming.

You've let this go a long time, so it's not going to be easy to change it. I wish you luck.

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answers from Evansville on

Get the book 1,2,3 magic. It will totally cure this issue. It will give you the tools to handle the tantrums. Consistency in consequence will put an end to tantrums.

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answers from Dallas on

Look up James Dobson's books. I have the "Strong-Willed Child." There's some great advice about applying consistent discipline in a way that is non-abusive. Our kids have to have consequences or they continue to drive us crazy. Dobson's system includes praising children as much as we lecture them, so they solidly know they are loved, both by the way we praise them when they are right, and the way we are consistent when they misbehave. The application can be a little hard when one is already driven nuts, so good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I'm stunned by many of these responses. Dad, this is PERFECTLY NORMAL. Dr Ames says that 7 year olds get easily frustrated and cry a lot. It's perfectly normal. The problem is that we nowadays don't care much for "development," and instead like to think that parents have more power than they do. We actually don't. Check out Dr Ames's book on 7 year olds.

And trust me, your daughter's friends are similarly melting down, you just aren't seeing it --and you're more sensitive to your own situation.

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answers from Washington DC on

Any time you notice things going well, make a big deal about it and praise her and thank her for being well behaved and acting like a 7 yr old. And point out what a great time you guys both had with her when she behaved.

When things are calm, have a conversation with her about how she needs to act and let her know you won't put up with arguing any more. Find something she values, like screen time, etc. and let her know that she will not have that privilege for a set time if she misbehaves. Make it clear and simple and have her repeat it back to you so you know she understands. Let her know you will give her one reminder. THE SECOND you see her start to escalate , because you know there is no turning back, you make eye contact and say, "are you arguing with me?" This is her cue to calm down. If she ramps it up, you grab her hand and go, WITHOUT CONVERSATION, and her privilege is lost. And you need to follow through.

I would also make sure she is getting enough sleep. Everything is worse when a child is sleep deprived. Maybe she just needs a little more.

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answers from Muncie on

Please do not compare your daughter to other children. That is a no win situation. My daughter cried every day the first 8 years of her life. I try to give my children choices when I can. Kids like to be in control and constantly being told what to do is rough. My kids were both very sleep deprived when they were small even though they were in bed for enough hours. Come to find out they both had sleep apnea and needed their tonsils and adenoids out. I remember before the surgery my son had woke up from a nap and I heard him and looked to see it was him. His response to me was "What are YOU looking at?!". Whoa, it's like he hadn't slept a wink. So, ask your pediatrician to take a look at her and if you are still concerned ask for an ENT appointment. My daughter had huge tonsils that I could see but my pediatrician fought me on it and said he couldn't see a problem. One look from the ENT and my daughter had surgery the same week! BTW, snoring is a huge red flag for sleep apnea.

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answers from Chicago on

What helps with our son:

Acknowledge the validity of his feelings. Show empathy for those feelings. Pause. Big hug, and switch the subject to something happy which is coming up.

I know you're sorry you have to leave this wonderful party. I feel sorry every time I have to leave the gym cause all my friends are there. Pause. Let's say when we get home we make some hot chocolate.

I read this somewhere ( I don't recall where): Connect, compassion, collaboration.

It could be that you are very busy with two kids, and understandably so. She may miss her mom, and just need extra help from you.

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answers from Nashville on

Hey Single dad,
It sounds like your daughter needs some eq and communication coaching. Some kids pick up on these things on their own (like your son), some kids need a little more help building their communication toolbox for whatever reason.
To begin with, you should sit down with her when you are both in a good place, tell her that you love her and you want her to be happy, and that you know that she and you both would be so much happier if she found a better way to communicate her frustrations then these daily episodes. Get a conversation going and ask her what sets her off (just a guess, but her mom being away for the week is probably pretty hard on her) and what she thinks you can do to help keep her from getting to that place. So maybe if it does have something to do with her mom, she can have a quick five minute phone call with her and catch up with her, or maybe she is very tired when she gets home and needs a quick rest, before she needs to start any homework or chores. Just make sure you to both are able to get your point(s) across calmly, and that you agree on solutions that works for both of you. So maybe you agree with her that from now on, everyday, she can call her mom on the way home from school, that she will take 15 minutes to herself when she gets home to unwind and she agrees with you that instead of crying she will take five deep breaths when something doesn't go her way, and try to restate her point of view using her words not her tears. The more agreeable and productive the conversation is the more you will be driving home the underlying message that calm communication is the way to handle things not fits.
So after you have had this conversation and come to your agreements and she inevitably flys apart (which she will because she is seven and this meltdown thing is now firmly established in the habit center of her brain, so you will have to help her overcome it) you begin calmly reminding her of your agreement. So with the leaving the school event example, as soon as she began falling apart, calmly say: I know you don't want to leave, but remember our conversation? This is not an appropriate response, and I cannot reward your tantrums. You need to breath and use your words. DO NOT REWARD THE TANTRUM! Don't reward it by loosing your cool, and allowing her to have a negative impact on your behavior. Do not reward it by just letting it go cause you need to pick and choose your battles and whatever the current situation is, it isn't that big of a deal. Because she initiated a tantrum, even if it's just over which jacket she wants to wear, it's now a big deal: it needs to be made perfectly clear to her that tantrums do not work, every time they pop up. This is not meant to be punitive or you against her, it's you helping her to learn the very important skill sets of communication and self-control.
Secondarily it might be helpful for you to plan things out and agree on exit strategies in advance. For example: "you want to go to your school event, and I want you to be able to go and have fun too, but we can only stay until 7 o'clock and then we have to get home so I can finish up some work. Can you agree to that? Ok good I'll give you a fifteen minute warning before seven so you can say goodbye to your friends and whatnot."
Follow through on your side of the plan and at seven and if she begins falling apart, remind her of your agreement and tell her that you are counting on her to be able to hold up her end of the deal. If she persists than ask her "will you be walking out to the car yourself, or do you need me to help you?" Immediately follow through on your words. You need to establish with her that you mean what you say and say what you mean. If she doesn't answer you and continues down the melt down path say, "I guess you will be needing some help." Scoop her up and take her home. Once she is calm explain to her that if she makes a deal with you to leave at seven she has to hold up her end of things otherwise you guys won't be able to do things like that in the future. And then remind her of the conversation the next time you guys begin to plan something out. Generally, just the act of planning ahead, her knowing what to expect, and having that 15 minute reminder will cut out a lot of drama!
Hope this helps, and if you are interested in learning more about tantrums and how to deal with them, I actually have a whole course on Udemy called: How to Quickly Stop or Prevent Tantrums. If you use the coupon code MAMAPEDIA2016 you can get it for half off!

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