How to Discipline Six, Seven and Eight Year Olds

March 27, 2011 | By | 18 Replies More

Children in this age group (the latency stage of childhood development) begin to demonstrate some characteristics that distinguish them from the previous stage including (among others):  a focus on rules, black and white thinking, a reality (rather than fantasy) orientation, a desire to socialize in groups and the creation of social hierarchies.  As with every stage in your child’s development, this time period also requires special consideration for effective discipline.  Here are some suggestions for providing discipline and training for your six, seven or eight year old:

  • Put ’em to work. Now is the time to increase your child’s personal responsibility through the implementation of daily chores.  While you may eagerly jump at the idea of having a little helper at your fingertips, don’t get too excited.  You have your work cut out for you.  First, you will need to adjust your expectations.  Your children are not going to vacuum, wipe counters or fold laundry the way you would.  Keep in mind that it is not the results, but rather the learning and the underlying principle that matters most.  Do not criticize and do not, no matter how tempting, go along behind them and “fix” it.  Secondly, you will need to do a little teaching.  Don’t assume that just because they have seen you dry dishes a million times that they know how to do it or what to use.  Take some time to demonstrate, model and encourage their efforts.  One or two chore-type tasks a day (on top of the basics like making beds and picking up toys) is sufficient.  Creating a “chore time,” where all family members are engaged in work of some kind, will encourage participation and contribute to a sense of teamwork.
  • Give them a little perspective. During this developmental period, the self-focused mentality of toddlerhood returns, but with a slightly more mature “flavor.”  This self-serving attitude is often seen in transitory friendships, incidents of lying, and blaming others.  Any and all efforts to encourage empathy, consider the needs of others and make amends for wrongs will provide a helpful antidote to this “disease” of self-absorption.
  • Tame the tongue. Somewhere during this developmental stage, you may notice that back-talk comes out of nowhere.  Wise parents will address it promptly.  Yelling back, engaging in debates or applying harsh, reactionary consequences will only add fuel to the fire.  Disengage, and apply appropriate consequences in a matter of fact way.  Discipline disrespectful words with the same conviction and consistency as if it were an act of physical aggression.  You will do your children a service to teach them that their words have power and must be used carefully.
  • Get them back on track. You may want to consider the use of a behavior chart. Charts are great for short term solutions to big-sized problems.  If your child is struggling across the board, a reset button is necessary.  A chart can be a great way to get him back on track.  We prefer charts that allow children to earn back privileges that would be normally embedded into a regular day, such as regular bedtime, dessert, tv time, computer time, play time outside, etc.  These “privileges” are earned with points from success in problem areas.  Click here to learn more information about this type of behavior chart.
  • Speak their language.  You may find that discipline that deals in a “currency” that is meaningful to your child can be very effective at this age.  This means that a loss of a valued privilege can go a long way in correcting a pattern of misbehavior.  Remember to not just stop there.  Lasting change is best achieved when positive corrective measures are included as well (for example: if your child demonstrates poor self-control with a sibling, you can remove the use of a favorite video game for a period of time but during that time play The Anger Game to reinforce the importance of self-control).
  • Let them relax. This is an age when opportunities for joining clubs, taking after school classes and sports abound.  Resist the urge to over-schedule your child in response to the abundance of opportunities.  Many parents fear that they will miss some hidden talent or gift if they do not expose their child to every opportunity available.  This is simply unfounded.  One or two carefully selected after school activities are more than enough for this age where free play and unstructured time are at a premium but essential to healthy development.

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Category: Ages & Stages, Ages 5-10, Featured Articles

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

About the Author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

Comments (18)

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  1. CAITLYN says:

    thank god for this site. i try thees things already but now i have a little more info that will be helpful.

  2. shadary l davis says:

    well hello my name is shadaryl and i have a 7 year old son i uesed to hav e2 children but now i have one and iam having a little problem with reconnecting my self to him i love my son very much but as mom i guess iam using the i love you word alot or r playing i mean most of the time iam at work and my friend watches him i just feel like iam trying to regroup from the lost of my other son what iam really saying is that i have to put some piece back together that i havent re done since my son has been gone

    • Hi Shadaryl – I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My heart breaks for your family. May I suggest that you find some support? Psychology Today’s website has a place where you can find a counselor. Simply type in your zipcode. When the next page pops up, on the top left you will see the topic “issues.” Click “more.” Scroll down until you find “grief.” This will help you find counselors in your area who specialize in grief and loss. My prayers are with you and your family.

      ~ Laura

  3. shelley says:

    HI,this is my first look at this website. Recomended to me by a lobing friend. I am having problems with my eight year old. I jave treid a lot of different ways to get her into her own bed,to no avail. I am a single mother,in march of 2013 her step father left us. He had cancer.He passed in dec.Of course she rembers these tragic times and uses the excuse that she is afraid that im gonna die…Also things always jave to go her way or she jas a temper tantrum… i need some help…got any suggestions.GOD BLESS.

    • Hi Shelley – Thanks for stopping by. Transitioning children to their own space can be hard, particularly after a loss. I would start slow. Tell your daughter that you understand her need to be close but that you need your space as well. You can start by putting a sleeping bag on the floor of your room. Tell her she can sleep there, but not in your bed. After a period of adjustment to that phase, you can move the sleeping bag into the hallway. You can do this in progressive steps moving her toward her own room. Provide her with a relaxing and assuring bedtime routine – maybe a shower/bath, quiet music, story, prayers, etc. Once she is in her room, let her have some control of the setting. Would she like a closet light on? Some soft music? Something from your bed (like a pillow)? You may find that the structure and consistency your provide around bedtime might translate to other areas of your parenting and you may find the temper tantrums decreasing. If your daughter is really struggling with fears and these fears are impacting her daily functioning, I would suggest you seek out a trusted counselor in your area. Psychology today has a great site to help you search. Simply type in your zip code and then look to the left menu to check off the right criterion.

      I hope that helps.
      God bless you,

  4. Cindy says:

    Hi I have a question. I have a daughter who is 6 going on 7, she’s lived with her father for the last two years and now it’s my two years with her. She’s been good the last 6 months, I mean she’s tested her ground and gotten time outs and stuff taken away etc. But now she’s doing things she knows is wrong and when I talk to her she smiles and could care less about time outs and taking stuff away. She’s shooting back with comments of I don’t care to because I wanted to. I have tried every single thing I can think of besides spanking cause I don’t believe in spanking. All the things I have tried are time outs, taking toys away, taking special outgoings away,chores, writing sentences. I’m running out of things and she’s trying different things every day. Can you please give me some other methods. Or ideas.

    • Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for stopping by. I can appreciate your frustration – it is hard when nothing seems to work. While everything you tried can be effective interventions, they all seem to be focused on what she is doing wrong and negative consequences. For some children, this can lead to an increase in undesireable behaviors rather than a decrease. I would suggest an about-face in how you address her negative behaviors and focus on the positive. This can be a difficult shift for parents who fear that they are letting their child “get away” with things. In a nutshell, you focus on what you want to see more of and minimize/ignore what you want to see less of.

      This article is a great place to start. Also, I would highly reccommend that you read Howard Glasser’s Nurtured Heart Approach. You might also want to read this and this to help you get into the spirit of encouraging the positive that you see.

      I hope that helps.

      God bless,

  5. Tia says:


    I am currently struggling with my 8 year old son with his very very very bad behavior. He keeps lying and hurting other people. he has been suspended from school 7 times this year. PLEASE PLEASE give me some type of method I am at the point of sending him to military school.

    • Hi Tia,

      I am sorry to hear about your sturggles with your son. What comes to mind right away is an approach to behavior modification called the Nurtured Heart Approach – the subtitle is “Transforming the Difficult Child.” I think it would work well in your situation. You could read a book on the subject, but I think it would be a good idea to get more direct help. This organization can direct you to a trained Nurtured Heart Practitioner in your area. If that doesn’t work, I would try a google search using the terms “nurtured heart approach” and your city/state. This would provide you (hopefully) with some contacts that you could work with directly in your area.

      I hope that helps.

      God bless,

  6. Monica says:

    I have a 8 year old daughter whose very smart and talented. She’s very bad with telling the truth. I try to discipline her, but she has temper tantrum. I even spanked her and put her in time out, but it seem to get worse please help me….

  7. What is appropriate punishment for an 8 yr old who can’t quit talking in school. The child’s lowest grade is 96 otherwise.

    • My first suggestion would be to investigate why the child is talking. Can you have a meeting with the teacher to find out more about the situation? Your child may feel bored or under-challenged. If so, the teacher can provide some enrichment that might be engaging. Or maybe your child could have a seat change. There are some other tips that might work too, like a laminated sign on your child’s desk with a friendly reminder to be quiet and raise his or her hand. Frequent breaks to get up and walk around might use up pent up energy that is coming out with words. Finding out why and then using that information would be more effective then just punishment for the behavior.

      I hope that helps,

  8. Amanda says:

    My 7 yr old daughter is having problems in school. Not wanting to do her work, talking and being disruptive, and even tried to throw her unfinished classwork in the trash so she didnt have to bring it home to finish. She has already had hockey taken away from her. We dont watch much tv period, dont even have cable, and she doesnt get much time with the electronics(ipad), usually only on the weekends. She has lost recesses, i have put her to bed early, and have taken away her fun weekend with grandma. I dont know what else to do for her to grasp the concept of personal responsibility. I dont like yelling, and rarely spank her, but i feel like i am running out of options and am at my wits end. I am a single parent, but she does get to see her dad twice a month until we move out of state this summer. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.

    • Hi Amanda,

      I would suggest that you have a meeting with the school. I would have a lot of questions for them such as: Where are her strengths and weaknesses in school? Is she struggling in any subjects? What is her attitude toward school work? Does she need some modifications to help her complete her work? (such as more time, a quiet space, etc). It is likely that she is avoiding work for a reason – not just to be difficult. I would also suggest working with the teacher to come up with some sort of plan for accountability – a form that goes daily between home and school so that you can communicate about her progress. Since removing privileges doesn’t work, try and incentive program such as she can earn something (play time, extra bedtime, etc) for each day she produces a good report. But first I would try to see if there are any academic issues that could be addressed.

      I hope that helps,

      • Amanda says:

        I have been told that she a very bright child. She loves to read, and she can do the math homework easily, well, when she wants to anyway. She loves to write stories, but dislikes her writing homework. Her teacher sends me daily progress reports via email. I was thinking of giving her a chore (something easy like sweeping the kitchen, and i would help her pick the stuff up into the dustpan), and letting her earn stickers for doing a good job, especially if she listens and does what is asked of her. She likes to help out in the yard, so that isn’t a good punishment. I would love to let her earn time for riding her bike. We have started doing a quick 10 minute jog in the morning (her doctors advice to help burn some energy early). This started being a real issue since she has been doing regular visitations with her father. She used to talk about him, and she stopped about 8 months ago. Her teacher says she talks about everyone but him lately. We will be moving later this year, so i am hoping that once she gets in a more steady atmosphere that she will perk up a bit. We are stable in our current location, but i am interested to see in what ways she changes once she stops seeing her dad. I really do hope he isnt part of the issue, but that has been the only big change since this problem started. Thanks for the input.

        • It sounds like you are on the right track – I think the morning jog is a great idea. Incentives are probably more effective for her than punishments – she may feel more motivated and encouraged if you focus on the behaviors and attitudes that you like, rather than looking to take things away for the behaviors you don’t like. You may also want to consider a counselor for her to talk to if she has difficulty opening up – it is good for children of divorced parents to have a “neutral” person to confide in.

          God bless,

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