Being 7 years old can be rough. At that age, your child is starting to understand that their actions have consequences. It can be tricky to make sure that they understand what they did wrong, and ensure they won’t do it again without being too harsh. At this stage, it may pay off more to focus on why they are being punished, rather than traumatizing the child! Here are some harmless punishments from veteran parents and babysitters that will keep the peace on the playground.
1. Public Apology
This is one I really hated growing up but paid off in the end! If your child is bothering a friend, sibling, or someone else, make them apologize to the person out loud. When a child turns 7, they are beginning to articulate words more effectively and can be understood by people outside of their immediate family. This means that they can begin to gain personal relationships with friends. They can learn how to maintain these friendships and share them with others.
The trick to this one is to make sure they aren’t just mumbling “sorry”. Make them speak clearly, and have them say something along the lines of “I’m sorry that I did this”.
This one has the benefit of letting you and the 7-year-old know exactly what the child did wrong. I know my mother sometimes wouldn’t know what someone had done until they apologized. I like this one in particular because it’s not only harmless, it teaches children how to apologize and take credit for their actions.
2. Nose on the Wall
This is a good punishment for a small offense, like calling someone a bad name or not sharing. Tell your child to go to an open wall, and stand there with their nose pressed against it. They’re not allowed to sit down, and they have to keep their nose on the wall for one to five minutes.
Start with one, and if they whine, sit, or do anything else they shouldn’t be doing, add a minute. Make sure to let them know when you’re ready to add minutes, usually, just the threat of having to stand there longer will keep them in line. This is a handy punishment because it isn’t very harsh, you don’t have to manhandle the kid and it only takes away a few minutes of their time.
7-year-old children are also beginning to ask a lot of questions. This is an age where they begin to learn how things work and are curious to learn more. It will often take a lot for them to be quiet and stand still for a full minute, helping them to exercise self-discipline and use the quiet time to think about not doing it again.
3. Doing Service
Doing service is a great way to target behavior if the kid is bothering one person in particular, like a friend or sibling. The child has to do a service requested by the person they’ve wronged.
I think this really teaches them the consequences of bullying better than just grounding or spanking. You should probably have the service greenlit by you, to make sure the child isn’t being asked to do anything crazy or unreasonable, but it can help the target of the bullying to feel like they have some say in the matter when they get to pick.
Some services the 7-year-old can do could be doing a chore for the person, or letting the person use a toy or item they own. At this age, they are learning to better articulate their thoughts and feelings, so they are able to express their reasoning and develop a relationship with another person. They will learn that service is a wonderful way to express that they care.
4. Going to Bed Early
If your 7-year-old just won’t stop their bad behavior, send them to bed earlier than usual. Children’s minds begin to have a more stable concept of time when they are seven years old. This means that they are able to know how long seconds, minutes, hours, and even days are and can tell the difference!
By sending them 30 minutes to an hour early, you will help them further this brain development and they will be aware of how long that amount of time is in relation to their usual bedtime.
Chances are, they aren’t going to sleep, but just sending them to their room with the expectation of silence is often enough. This can give the kid time to calm down and rest, and hopefully, the extra time will give them a chance to improve. Sometimes kids just need a little quiet time.
5. Hands in the air
Putting your hands in the air was how my parents would stop fights in the car, and it’s definitely a low-maintenance, easy punishment to implement. Have the kid put their hands in the air for a few minutes. This will silence them pretty quickly, and they can’t fight without hands.
The only thing to keep in mind with this method of punishment is that keeping your arms straight up for more than a couple of minutes can make your shoulders sore, so let them put their hands back down after a minute or two. 7-year-olds are also able to have a more accurate concept of time at this age, so they will understand how long a few minutes will be.
6. Toy Jail
While 7-year-olds are still learning what is of the most value, they often have emotional connections to stuffed animals, toys, devices, and other objects. One suggestion for teaching them consequences may be to take one of these possessions for a period of time.
This could mean no teddy bear for an hour, no tablet for the rest of the day, no book when they go to bed, or any other object that is meaningful. Be sure to explain to the child why it is being taken, and when it can be given back. You may also want to give them a small task like cleaning up their toys, and the toy can be returned when they finish.
This punishment is a classic. You can ground them from anything that they like, but I would recommend just taking away one thing at a time. Time with friends, for example, or screens. The best way is to ground them from whatever it is they had when they acted up. If they hit a friend while playing, for example, they are no longer allowed to play with any friends for a week.
If you have to extend grounding past a week or two, then you might want to start taking away more privileges or use a different punishment. In my experience, after a couple of weeks, kids get too used to not having that privilege anymore, so they no longer care about being grounded.
Obviously, not every kid is the same though. They respond differently to different punishments, so if you see that one tactic isn’t working, I recommend no longer using that punishment, instead of just making it harsher. There were some things my parents could use to make my siblings behave that would never work on me, and vice versa.
You want to drill into that connection between action and consequence. You can choose your actions, but you can’t choose your consequences.