Parents of 7-year-olds know firsthand that time does fly. It seems one minute our kids are tugging on our legs for a sippy cup, then trying to figure out the social scene at school the next. Understanding what's happening to our 7-year-olds developmentally is key to successfully parenting this precious age group.

7 Year Old boy

Our 7-year-olds are in the midst of middle childhood, which, as a stage, presents plenty of challenges for both children and parents. Observation of our children during this time in their little lives reveals several universal milestones that truly mark the seventh year of life.

What's happening physically?

Perhaps the most obvious mark of a 7-year-old's physical development is the advancement of motor skills. Dr Robyn McKay, a therapist at Arizona State University and expert in child and adolescent development, says, "Around age 7, a child's balance and motor skills have improved enough that she begins to gain more confidence in her favorite physical activities." This means kids start delving into their interests a little more, sometimes pursing competitive sports or joining performance teams. "Exercise continues to play a major role in well-being, growth and physical development," says McKay. "Many children do not get enough exercise, so it's important for parents to encourage physical activity."

Of course, all kids are not the same and everyone develops at a different rate, so parents should avoid comparing their child's progress to another child's. "Parents may observe 'asynchronous' development, meaning that their child may be advanced in one area such as reading and language, and may appear to lag behind with regard to social skills or physical ability," says McKay.

What's happening in the brain?

The human brain is an incredible masterpiece, a fact that is further validated by the neurological development of 7-year-olds. "At the beginning of middle childhood, neural connections in the brain are being fine-tuned through a process called pruning, which increases the brain's processing speed and efficiency," says McKay. "The result is an increase in the ability to engage in complex thinking and planning."

Parents of 7-year-olds may marvel at their child's new ability to process information and communicate her own opinions. "Around this time, children become cognitively flexible and are able to reason, to solve problems and to think logically," says McKay. "Now that they're in school all day, they are being exposed to many different viewpoints, and they begin to be able to take another person's perspective."

What's happening socially and emotionally?

While parents are learning more and more about their children during this stage, 7-year-olds are also discovering more about themselves and the world around them. They are especially keen on the burgeoning social scene among school and neighborhood friends. "Children this age can usually identify feelings of pride and shame, and these two emotions seem to play an important role in self-concept -- how children feel about themselves," says McKay.

Even though they are blossoming on their own, kids need parental guidance during this stage so that they know how to self-regulate their emotions. "At this point, most children are figuring out socially acceptable ways to express emotion, including anger and frustration," says McKay.

Tips for Moms

Expert TipsAs a child development expert, Dr McKay has plenty of experience with 7-year-olds and their parents. She offers the following tips for moms:

  • Help your child identify her emotions. Being able to say how she feels (e.g., "sad" or "mad") and what she needs (e.g., "a hug" or "to be by myself for a while") are two very powerful skills that your child can learn.
  • Teach her how to take a breath, count to 10 or take time out when she is feeling strong negative emotion. Role-model these behaviors yourself by getting comfortable with your own emotions.
  • Help your child discover what's right with her. Focus on her strengths, her abilities and her talents. Building a strong self-concept now will help her in the future.

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Tags: 7-year-olds

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Comments on "Your 7-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips"

jackie January 03, 2014 | 6:22 AM

my 7ywar old son has change so much from being respectful to no i,m not doing it he,s a very smart little boy but just dosent want to respect i give him time out but that still dosent work always has something back to say bad mouths me i just don,t know where did i go wrong please help

brenda June 12, 2013 | 1:04 AM

hi I a mother of a seven year old boy ,since this year I've noticed that he is not being good. he always do thing as he wants. he is good in his studies but I always gets complained from teacher that he is a talkative child and he cant stay in his place, he is always moving or he is under the table in the class .he always breaks his school things , his pencil case , his rulers , his scissors and he even eats his pencils at the top . I always talks to him by explaining him that he is not doing good but he continues . please help me I just don't know what to do .

Melissa June 05, 2013 | 6:57 AM

help - I am the grandmother of a 7 yr old girl. She is brite, and loving but I worry with the way her parents talk to her that she will develope problems. She is terrible at picking up her room - and they yell calling her names - like hog! etc. I have given my opinion which was not well received. Their response is they only do it at home - not in public. How can I help my grandaughter?

Paula December 29, 2012 | 9:13 AM

My 7 year old daughter in the last few months has changed from a child who would do what was asked of her, to a child who now frequently shouts at me and challenges all my request to do almost everything I ask/tell her... She is the perfect pupil in school and exemplary in her behaviour wherever we are out. I have suggested she talks to me in her rude voice when at Nanny and Grampy's house - to which she reponds that she won't. Which confirms that she does have some control over her frustration/anger towards me... HELP!!!

marion July 11, 2012 | 8:52 AM

i appreciate the information being a first time mom i really need all the support. especially the "see-into" their minds to gauge what i am experiencing with him.

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