How to Deal With Temper Tantrums in My 7 Year Old

Are you concerned about your 7-year-old throwing tantrums or having meltdowns?

We enter parenthood expecting tantrum behaviors in the toddler years because we’ve been warned about the “terrible twos.” Knowing this makes it a little easier when your two-year-old has a toddler tantrum after a long day.

Even more, our culture expects young children to display negative behaviors at times. However, when older children lose it in the middle of the grocery store, it’s no longer culturally acceptable.

When your child’s behavior becomes out of control in a public place, you likely want to curl up into a ball and hide.

Of course, you can’t do that, but at the moment, you don’t know what to do. You know that if you use some authoritarian approach, it’s gonna end up like all the other power struggles in the past.

7 year old throwing tantrums- image of a 7 year old boy lying on the floor with hands over his ears screaming

So, what in the world are you supposed to do with an older child who’s losing it as part of their daily life?!

Friend, I get it 100%. I’ve been there and am here to help.

Today, we’re talking about the best way to support your 7-year-old (or any older child) who’s throwing tantrums.

Specifically, we’ll discuss how to encourage positive behavior the next time they experience strong emotions.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a nominal fee from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support. See my disclosure policy for more info.

Why Do Kids Throw Tantrums?

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, throwing tantrums is a normal part of child development. They say that between the ages of 1-3 years old, you should expect toddler temper tantrums.

Young children do not have the language skills to articulate negative feelings healthily and effectively. Rather, before preschool age, kids often express those strong feelings in the form of frequent tantrums.

Now, fortunately for some, the good news is that many children outgrow temper tantrums by 4 years of age.

Unfortunately, as you and I both know, that’s not always the case.

What’s the Difference Between a Tantrum and a Meltdown?

First things first.

What exactly do we mean by tantrum?

Are all behavioral problems considered tantrums?

And, what’s the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown? Is one better than the other?

Ok. Let’s clarify a bit here.

Control or Out of Control

According to Child Mind Institute, neither term (tantrum nor meltdown) is an official clinical term. However, they make the distinction between the two as follows.

  • Tantrum:
    • Milder outbursts, in which the child maintains some control over their behavior.
  • Meltdown:
    • A child loses control to the point that the behavior subsides after the child completely wears out. includes the role of sensory overwhelm in meltdowns. Further, they emphasize removing sensory input as an effective strategy to diffuse meltdowns.

Specifically, levels the playing field between children and adults by acknowledging that both children and adults have tantrums and meltdowns.

In the end, it’s important to clarify language when it comes to children’s behavior. By doing so, we’re better able to equip our children with effective tools that will lead to better days.

Why Is My 7-Year-Old Throwing Tantrums?

Let’s face it.

We want our children to develop good behavior habits. However, when your daily routine includes dodging an older child’s poor or aggressive behavior, you’ve got to do something.

But what?

Sadly, most of us have been conditioned to believe that all behavior is willful disobedience.

However, it’s a good idea to examine that mindset because nothing could be further from the truth.

There are a number of reasons why older kids have emotional outbursts.

And that means with a little digging, we can help them get to the root issues behind hard behaviors. And then, we can help them.

The Power of Our Response

Dr. Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and mom of three, says this in her book, Good Inside,

“We all mess up… at every age we have difficult moments when we behave in ways that are less than ideal. But, our early years are especially powerful… Our bodies are beginning to wire how we think about and respond to difficult moments based on how our parents think about and respond to us in our difficult moments.”

What does this tell us as parents?

How we respond to our children’s behavioral issues become part of their internal dialogue in the long run.

Quick Tip: The Power of Our Parenting Language

The messages our kids receive are the ones they take with them into adulthood.

According to Dr. William Dodson, ADHD children receive 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 10 years old compared to neurotypical peers.

Behaviorism Can Hurt Your Child

The late Dr. Karyn Purvis wrote in her book, The Connected Child,

Most of our parents relied on fear-based discipline. As children, we feared punishment… Raised on fear, we now rely on fear with our own children.

This fear-based approach to raising and educating children is rooted in the behaviorism theory of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner.

Behaviorism is based on a system of controlling a child’s behaviors by means of rewards, punishments, consequences, and the like.

According to Very Well Mind, the behaviorism approach,

gives no consideration to internal thoughts or feelings.

Not surprisingly, when outward compliance is prioritized over the internal experiences of the child, we set them up for a lifetime of mental health challenges.

Let’s look at the stats.

Learn More in Behind the Behavior Book!

white parenting book for special needs adoptive moms on white table with coffee mug and greenery lying next to it

Mental Health in the US

According to the NIH, close to 20% of US adults have a mental health diagnosis. Note that these are only the people who sought out support.

Just imagine the sheer number of people who are walking around undiagnosed! Think about the rates of the following.

  • divorce,
  • alcoholism,
  • drug addiction,
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • OCD,
  • etc…

The point is the traditional approach of behavior modification has not led to a mentally or emotionally healthy population.

According to the same NIH data, 49.5% of US adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder!

As dismal as these statistics are, I want to encourage you. If your 7-year-old is throwing tantrums, there’s much you can do to change the narrative for your child.

Quick Parenting Tip: Behaviorism Has to Go

In this quick video, hear my heart on why we need to change our parenting approach.

Causes of Temper Tantrums

Children develop in different ways and at different times which means it’s important to understand the why behind your child’s tantrums.

Older kids react with explosive behaviors for some of the same reasons that preschoolers do. Some reasons older children have challenging behavior include the following.

While the above causes could be behind your child’s tantrums, it’s important to know that you have a lot of power. Specifically, you can support your child’s behavior in the long term in the following ways.

9 Ways to End Tantrums & Improve Self-Regulation

Self-regulation refers to the ability to monitor our internal state in order to control our reactions. In other words, strong self-regulation skills allow us to override big emotions in order to make an appropriate response.

Today, we’ll explore seven self-regulation skills to help put an end to your child’s tantrums. This is in no way a quick fix, but, it’s a recipe for long-term success.

  1. Emotional Regulation,
  2. Create an Emotionally Intelligent Family Culture,
  3. Safety,
  4. Co-Regulation,
  5. Collaboration,
  6. Be Curious,
  7. Seek professional help
  8. You’re the Boss
  9. Seek Support for You

The best strategy to help your child with hard behaviors is to give them tools. Specifically, provide your child with tools to help them make a different choice next time.

Here are 9 simple self-regulation skills and tools for your child.

A Note on Social Norms

Within the norms of our culture, self-regulation may include the caveat that responses be in line with socially acceptable ways of behavior.

However, these social norms are not always appropriate for the individual child.

For example, in some classrooms, kids are often told to use their inside voice. This is code for quiet.

However, all kids are different and we need to caution against labeling behaviors as good and bad. Sadly, many neurodivergent children are shamed by the use of behavioral charts based on such arbitrary norms.

I’m a louder person and when I lead children, a loud voice is framed as a passionate and excited one.

1. Prioritize Emotional Regulation

The first step for both you and your child is to prioritize emotional regulation. This means that you need to intentionally teach your child to tune into their internal world.

Specifically, to tune into their:

  • thoughts,
  • feelings,
  • physical bodily sensations associated with the two

As discussed previously, kids need language to express their internal worlds. Too many adults have never learned this skill and are suffering from it.

In my book, parenting devotional series, and online course, I refer to this as Emotional Vocabulary.

Here’s the deal.

When we were younger and had a meltdown or tantrum, we were told to:

Use your words.

The problem is that we were not given the emotional vocabulary to “use our words.” It’s essential to give your child the self-regulation tool of language. Let me give you an example of this.

I’m Frustrated

I’ll never forget the first time my 4-year-old son came to me with these exact words.

“I feel frustrated!”

From the age of 18 months, angry outbursts and destructive behavior were the norm. He hit, kicked, bit, scratched, and screamed.

Intense feelings crept up when he was denied anything. And those feelings were too powerful for him or me to control.

However, that day, was the first time he did the right thing. After introducing emotional vocabulary into our family culture, my boy finally “used his words.”

And that was a HUGE win!

Now, I’d like to tell you that one self-regulation tool was all he needed. That after that day, he graduated with a Ph.D. in Anger Management, and family life was peaceful from then on.

But, that’s not how it works. To serve my son and family well, I had to radically shift my perspective on the brain and behavior.

And that meant I had to have the long game in mind for my boy.

Positive Childhood Experiences & Adult Health

One way to shift your mindset around your child’s tantrums is to think about your long-term goal for that child.

Our kids will spend 75-80% of their lives as adults.

Research shows that Positive Childhood Experiences (PCE) greatly impact adult mental and relational health. PCEs buffer against childhood hardships (ACES).

Such PCEs include:

  1. Nurturing family members
  2. Family cohesion & belonging
  3. Agency, mastery
  4. Collaborative problem solving
  5. Co-regulation, balancing family needs
  6. Self-efficacy (Belief in one’s ability to execute a task and succeed)
  7. Positive family outlook
  8. Routines & rituals
  9. A belief that life has meaning

These are the types of goals I keep in mind when navigating difficult behaviors in my children.

Ultimately, this leads me to view my interactions through the lens of Relationship first.

2. Create an Emotionally Intelligent Family Culture

Another key way for you to help your child develop their self-regulation skills is this. Create an emotionally intelligent family culture.

How do you create an emotionally intelligent family culture? Glad you asked. Here are three simple ways to start this process.

  1. Read Social-Emotional Books
  2. Use Visual Emotional Support Tools
  3. Model Your Mental Processes Aloud

1. Read Social-Emotional Books

Social-Emotional books are books that teach children about their feelings, thoughts, and social interactions. They’re a great tool to help your child develop emotional intelligence.

Check out this list of feelings books and choose one to start the conversation about feelings.

For example, the first feelings book I read to my son was Michael Gordon’s book, When I Am Angry.

  • The bright and engaging illustrations captured his attention.
  • He could relate to the main character, a boy named Josh.
  • Like my son, Josh was a highly sensitive child who felt things deeply.
  • He often had a tough time controlling his powerful emotions and struggled with tantrums.

Reading this social-emotional book was a safe way to enter the conversation with my son.

2. Use a Visual Emotional Support Tool

Another tool you can add to your home is a visual emotional support tool.

For example, I Know What to Do When I’m Feeling is a flip-chart type book that helps kids identify their feelings. Further, it helps kids think through what to do when they’re experiencing different feelings.

Another idea is a simple Zones of Regulation-ish chart. This leads us to the third strategy to create an emotionally intelligent family culture.

3. Model Your Own Feelings and Mental Processes

One thing you can do to create an emotionally intelligent family culture is to model your internal world. For me, this meant that I model my own internal experiences. For example, while in the kitchen making dinner, I may say something like this.

Earlier today, I got my feelings hurt by a friend. Then I felt this heavy feeling in my chest and I wanted to cry. So I called Daddy for a few minutes and he let me cry.

Wow! That made me feel so much better.

By using these three strategies, you’ll begin to create an emotionally-intelligent culture in your home. This can help your child feel safe to verbalize and address the feelings and thoughts that often lead to tantrums.

Further, as your child develops emotional awareness and language skills, you’re more likely to identify tantrum triggers. Awareness of habits and patterns is the first step to changing them. Ultimately, the combined effect of these three strategies can help your child overcome tantrums.

3. Felt Safety

Felt safety is a concept developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis, and it’s foundational to any relationship, but especially to the parent-child relationship.

Felt safety is when you arrange the environment and adjust your behavior so that your children can feel in a profound… way that they are truely… safe with you.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, p. 48, The Connected Child

Your relationship with your child is your number one parenting tool. Because of this, it’s critical to be your child’s safe place.

A child’s primary need is to feel safe with their caregiver. Your child must believe that they’re deeply and unconditionally loved by you.

Specifically, your child must be confident that your love is not based on their behavior.

Video Tutorial of the 3-Part Brain

A basic understanding of the 3 part-brain can help you better understand the need for felt safety.

The neurosequential model of development championed by Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Dan Siegel is an excellent framework for anyone caring for children.

Felt Safety in the Middle of a Tantrum

What does this all mean in the moment of the tantrum? When your child is in the middle of a tantrum or meltdown, lower your body to your child’s level.

This lessens the fight-flight-freeze response in the amygdala. The amygdala is located in the area of the brain controlling your child’s volatile reaction at that moment.

Your goal is to help that part of your child’s brain calm down. Further, lowering yourself to your child’s level creates a space for connection and safety with your child. This is part of the larger process of co-regulation.

Important Note About Eye Contact:

Do not force eye contact with a dysregulated child.

This will only lead to greater stimulation and increase the stress response.

4. Co-Regulation

When your older child is dysregulated or having an emotional outburst, it’s essential to co-regulate. Co-regulation is the process where parents help children learn to self-regulate by connecting with and attuning to them in hard moments.

This stands in opposition to behaviorism-based parenting strategies that send a child to their room until they can “learn to behave.”

There’s no healthy self-regulation without first experiencing co-regulation with a compassionate, attuned, caregiver. Be that for your child.

Let’s look at an example of how to offer co-regulation when a 7-year-old is throwing a tantrum.

7 Year Old Throwing a Tantrum

Seven-year-old Billy just walks into the house from playing outside with the neighborhood kids. His face looks distraught as he runs straight to his room and slams the door.

You’re about to go check in on him when your youngest distracts you with their needs.

About ten minutes later, you hear banging and yelling coming from Billy’s room.

1. You take a deep breath to activate the calming part of your nervous system and then approach his room.

2. Slowly, you open the door and observe.

Billy’s screaming while he throws toys, books, etc across the room. He’s completely dysregulated and out of control.

(To the outside world, it looks like he’s in the middle of a tantrum, but you know better.)

3. You calmly enter the room and say,

Hey, Bud. Woah. You seem really angry right now.”

He chucks another book to the floor.

“I hate them so much!”

The lightbulb goes off in your head. You gently engage with curiosity.

Buddy, deep breaths. What’s going on?

At that moment, he realizes you’re safe and spills the beans about how the boys up the street ganged up on him.

4. You kneel to his level and attune to his possible thoughts and feelings.

That must have felt isolating to you. I can imagine I’d feel rejected and alone if my friends did that to me. That doesn’t feel good.

5. Once he’s calm, then you address the mess.

Well, that was tough. But now, look at this mess. Your poor toys didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s work together to clean this mess up.

Once you two work as a team to clean up, you can say something like,

Ok. We did it. Now, let’s try to come up with some ideas of what to do next time you get your feelings hurt.

Remember, this is just one step in the long journey to your child learning appropriate self-regulation.

Layer Upon Layer

Each experience is meant to lead to another.

When that next hard moment comes, he’ll have a new tool in his emotional regulation tool belt.

Specifically, he’ll have the memory of his mom’s support the last time he was hurting inside. That will guide his internal experience in a positive direction.

But, what comes next?

Download the Behind the Behavior Cheat Sheet!

Behind the Behavior Cheat Sheet Sample how to discipline a 5 year old who hits

5. Collaboration

When the time is right, collaborate with your child. Discuss emotional regulation activities that may help your child find calm before the next explosion.

Make it a fun experience.

Print out the list of 47 emotional regulation activities and go through them with your older child. Using this list, brainstorm activities that your child can use to navigate hard times.

Does your child like to ride bikes? Play with kinetic sand?

A family therapist friend of mine suggests the following criteria to help kids come up with healthy coping strategies.

When examining whether a coping strategy is healthy, does it meet the following criteria? Is it…

  1. Good for you?
  2. Good for others?
  3. Easy to do?
  4. Can it Make you feel better?

These questions are often associated with an emotional regulation activity called, “Making Cope Cakes.”

However, they can be helpful questions to ask as your child builds up an emotional regulation toolbox.

The collaboration can strengthen your relationship and increase your child’s sense of agency. Both of these are healthy Positive Childhood Experiences.

6. Be Curious & Reflect

The last time your older child had a meltdown or tantrum, did you catch yourself beating yourself up?

Have you ever said something like this to yourself?

I’m the worst mother. Why can’t I control my kid? I suck.

This is a trap and a surefire way to mentally spin out of control.

Rather than beating yourself up about your child’s tantrums, be curious about them. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What was the need behind that behavior?
  • If I behaved that way when I was young, what would I be thinking about myself?
  • What happened before this emotional outburst?
  • Did my child get enough sleep last night?
  • What happened at school today? In church this morning?

By being curious, you’re better able to support your child. Dive deeper into this process in Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving.

Curiosity is a Job

Often parents and teachers will say something like,

He threw a fit in the middle of the grocery store for no apparent reason.

The problem is that there’s always a reason behind the behavior.

Additionally, if we spend time assessing our kids’ hard behaviors in the short term, we get closer to the real issue.

And over time, that can lead to fewer tantrums.

Further, curiosity gives us a job to do. More specifically, it gives us a place to focus our emotional energy in response to our child’s bad day.

7 year old throwing tantrum biting his mom's hand in his bedroom

7. Professional Support

I’m convinced that mental health support is a worthwhile investment for everyone in the family. If your child’s tantrums, meltdowns, and hard behaviors become a safety issue, seek help.

Professional help can specifically help your child. For example, your child may be experiencing anxiety or sensory issues that are at the root of their outbursts.

The following types of professionals can help you and your child get to the bottom of underlying issues.

Occupational Therapist

A private occupational therapist has a solid understanding of the brain and behavior.

Additionally, they can help you find root sensory issues that may be contributing to challenging behavior.

Speech Language Pathologist

A private speech-language pathologist can help you get to root language processing issues.

Untreated language issues can lead to frustration and behaviors that can appear as disobedience.

Trauma-Informed Play Therapist

A trauma-informed play therapist is a great resource to help you and your child work through underlying emotional issues.

Further, a trauma-informed label indicates that the therapist is aware of the brain’s need for safety.

Additionally, play therapy can be much more effective for children and adults because it doesn’t rely on talking. Kids can work through hard things through play in a very effective way.

EMDR Therapy

Many therapists will be certified in EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy is one of the most effective trauma-informed therapy practices out there.

Child Psychologist

A private child psychologist can evaluate and diagnose mental health conditions such as:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (These behaviors are most often associated with an underlying root issue.)

Look for a child psychologist with a Ph.D. or Psy.D designation.

Child Psychiatrist or Developmental Pediatrician:

A child psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician can prescribe needed medication as part of a holistic approach to underlying conditions.

Seek out recommendations from a trusted group of moms in your local community.

8. You’re the Boss

Furthermore, in the end, your goal is to create a strengths-based team to support your family.

Most importantly, consider yourself the boss of this team since you’re the ultimate expert on your child.

Don’t let anyone make you feel incapable of supporting your child.

9. Get Support for You

Lastly, get help for yourself.

Working with a solid trauma-informed therapist is one of the best investments you can give your entire family.

When you’re healthy and cared for, you can better support those you love.

Recap: My 7-year-old is Throwing Tantrums

The best time to equip your child to better handle big emotions that lead to tantrums is every day. Likewise, implementing these strategies will make that happen naturally.

  1. Prioritze Emotional Regulation
  2. Emotionally Intelligent Family Culture
  3. Safety
  4. Co-Regulation
  5. Collaboration
  6. Curiosity
  7. Professional Support
  8. You’re the Boss
  9. Get Support for You

Expect them to mess up a lot. And when that happens, offer patience, love, and plenty of time to practice their emotional regulation skills.

In the end, if your 7 year old is throwing tantrums, take a deep breath and pause. After that, think about what’s behind the behavior.

Then offer compassion and support.

You’re doing a great job, Friend! So, what do you think?

Do these ideas resonate for your child? In this with you!

Learn More in Behind the Behavior Book!

white parenting book for special needs adoptive moms on white table with coffee mug and greenery lying next to it

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a nominal fee from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support. See my disclosure policy for more info.

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