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How to Discipline Six, Seven and Eight Year Olds

Our parenting skills and methods need to adjust as our kids age. Here you will learn effective ways to train and discipline your elementary aged child.

Anxiety workbook for kids

Children between the ages of six and eight (middle childhood) will 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, increased independence, a desire to socialize in groups, a desire to please others, and an increased concern for others.

Here are some suggestions for providing discipline and training for your six, seven or eight year old. You will notice that they are not all geared around correction. Discipline is as much about training as it is about correction.

Give opportunities for personal responsibility

Now is the time to increase your child’s personal responsibility through the use of “family contributions” (ie: chores). Of course, you can create a teamwork atmosphere by starting this at younger ages, but at this stage, your child is capable of having tasks for which he or she is solely responsible. It will capitalize on their desire for independence and create a sense of mastery and competence.

Be sure to work with them the first several times to model, answer questions and help them understand what is expected. Encourage the effort, no matter the outcome. One or two chore-type tasks a day (on top of any basics you have established 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.

Encourage empathy and emotional expression

You can capitalize on your child’s increased concern for others during this developmental stage by finding ways to serve others. This can be through volunteering or by helping a neighbor. You can engage in discussions about the experiences of others with questions like, “What do you think it’s like for him?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”

You can incorporate this into your discipline by helping your child “make things right” when they have disobeyed or hurt someone else.

This is also a great time to increase their emotional intelligence as they are better able to identify and articulate their thoughts and feelings.

How to Increase Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Address “back talk”

Some children start to use words and language that will test the boundaries of social relationships and norms. Somewhere during this developmental stage, you may notice that back-talk becomes common. Yelling back, engaging in debates or applying harsh, reactionary consequences will only add fuel to the fire.

The best way to address back talk is to say something like, “Wow. Those are some _______ (insert adjective here) words. You must have some strong feelings to say something like that. Let’s try that again.” Give your child a chance to re-do it. If he continues to speak disrespectfully, walk away and say, “We’ll try later. You may not speak to people like that.”

It is important that you don’t stop there. Your child needs your help. So when he is calm, go to him and say something like, “You said some hurtful things before. I say things that I don’t mean too but then I often feel bad about it later. That yucky feeling is God telling you it wasn’t right. How do you feel about what you said?” You can explore how he feels and what he can do to make it right. It might be helpful to role play how he would handle those strong feelings differently the next time he experiences them.

Our kids need to understand that words are powerful even though we can’t see them. If you practice apologizing to your kids when you mess up, they will model that behavior after you.

Should I Make My Child Apologize?

How Do I Apologize to My Children?

Correct with a purpose

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. But keep in mind that 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 an anger game (not an affiliate link) to reinforce the importance of self-control.

Don’t over-schedule

This is an age when opportunities for joining clubs, taking after school classes and sports abound. Developmentally, they want to be with peer and enjoy organized activities. It can be very easy to over-schedule your child. 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 untrue.

You do not need to fill up every hour of the day. Remember: boredom is the precursor for creativity and ingenuity. If your child complains that he or she is bored, you can simply say, “That isn’t a good feeling. I understand. I know that you can figure out what to do. There’s no rush.” One or two carefully selected after school activities are more than enough for this age group. Free play and unstructured time are essential to healthy development.

How to Handle Controlling Behavior in Children

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • Hi, I am grandmother to an 8 year old whose parents are at the site end….he has a temper melt down when asked to do things like get ready for school ,hang his clothes up, hurry up eating , every day things that need to be done…he pushes and screams at them and throws things . I don’t know what the best advice is to give them that is in line with modern methods.he can be a thoughtful kind caring boy and I don’t see the bad behaviour when I have him but that’s expected isn’t it. Please help with some words or wisdom, or a reference book I could read. We’re in England

    • Hi Jean,
      I am sorry to hear your grandson is struggling at times. Children have meltdowns and temper tantrums for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons include: fatigue, hunger, bullying, sensory processing issues, emotional dysregulation, lack of a sense of safety, lack of a consistent routine, inconsistent parenting, high sensitivity, stimulation overload, or frustration. Getting to the underlying cause is always the first step. For a resource check out this site. Once his parents can figure out what is triggering the tantrums, they will be better equipped to intervene. I often tell parents to keep a events and behavior journal so they can be on the look out for possible stressors that might set off a tantrum.

      If he is struggling with feelings management, this workbook might help him better understand the big feelings he is having and how better to handle them.

      I hope that helps. Take care,

  • I have a son 7yrs old,he is very behind to all his classmate,he cannot read and write much but he refuse to be teach,he always play outside oir house with his friends,he is hardly learn his school work.his so highper.he dont listen and he is with my sister becouse at this year i am working as OFW how will I help my son on his behavior

    • Hi Catherene,

      I would start by asking the school to do some educational assessments on your son to see if there are any underlying learning issues. I would also consider finding him a counselor who specializes in young children (possibly a play or art therapist) as it is likely he is having some “big” feelings about being separated from you.


  • What should a Grandparent do when their children have chosen to discipline the grandchild’s bad behavior at school, by not allowing the child to see the grandparent?

    • Hi Michelle,

      I am sorry to hear of the struggles in your family. It sounds like you need to have an honest and open conversation with your grandchild’s parents. If you feel that this is something that cannot be safely or effectively done on your own, I would employ the help of a counselor who has experience in family relations or mediation.

      Best wishes,

  • 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,

      • 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,

  • 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,

  • 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….

  • Hello,

    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,

  • 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,

      • But what if the problem is refusing to follow directions? I can’t ignore her refusal to put her clothes on before school. Being late for school doesn’t bother her.

        • Hi Peggy,

          Have you tried taking her to school “as is” (meaning her pajamas)? Being late may not bother her, but being the only kid in pajamas might. Don’t spring it on her. Simply tell her the night before that you will be leaving for school at a certain time and she will be going in whatever clothes she has on at the time. You can take a change of clothes and discretely hand it to the teacher in case she wants to change after you leave. If you decide to go this route, make sure you are resolved to do it. She needs to know you mean business. And as the above article states, you can always implement a behavior chart to address this issue of following directions.

          Take care,

  • 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,

  • 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

      • Hi Laura – Hope you are doing good. I have a 6 years old son and he is very innocent according to his age. He is very kind hearted and good at studies with beautiful handwriting. He does not understand the games to play with other children. He does not focus on the things and hates to discuss when we try to communicate with him or make him understand. Basically he does not want to put any efforts to learn the games due to which he does not have friends. But, he loves to make friends. He is hyperactive. Sometimes he slaps on his own cheeks and sometimes he intends to nip anyone is sitting nearby and when we ask why he has done that, he says I am angry. Please suggest something and I really worried about him.

        • Hi Naheed,

          I would suggest that you speak to your pediatrician or family doctor. Describe what you have mentioned here and inquire about a developmental evaluation for your son. I think that is the best place to start to help you figure out what is going on.

          I hope that helps,

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