The medical information in this post was provided by Monica Fisher, M.D., a licensed physician and pediatrician.
When your 7-year-old child talks about killing it may be a sign of deeper emotional turmoil that, if not treated, could lead to serious harm or even death. But how can you know, and what should you do to help your child? I did some research and here is what I found.
So, what should you do if your 7-year-old child talks about killing? It is potentially serious if your child talks about killing in anyway. If there is any intent to cause actual harm to self or others, seek mental health help immediately. On the other hand, don’t over-react to sibling statements like, “Travis, if you take my [prized possession] again, I’ll kill you!”
Committing frequent acts of violence against oneself, others, or animals is not “normal” behavior for a 7 year-old child. If you notice behaviors like this it may be time to seek professional intervention.
What to Do When a 7-Year-Old Talks About Killing
Hateful words are now part of the average child’s vernacular. Children are constantly exposed to violent media from a very young age. Try as you might to shelter your child from harmful material, they will at the very least meet other children who regularly partake of violent TV, video games, whatever.
Even children who are normally kind and caring can exhibit violent behavior that will surprise parents. So what are you supposed to do when you see your 7-year-old child misbehave in this way?
Children act out in variety of different ways for a variety of different reasons. Violence is another way that a 7-year-old child may try to deal with complex emotions of frustration or depression.
In trying to assess the behavior of your 7-year-old child understand that some violent language is to be expected, but never encouraged.
For example, say a younger sibling takes your 7-year-old child’s favorite toy without permission. In the heat of the moment, your 7-year-old may say, “Travis! I’m going to kill you!” or something to that effect.
While it can be greatly disturbing to see a young child say such hateful words words with that strong of conviction, it isn’t entirely uncommon. Not to say that it isn’t a serious issue, but it may be something that parents are able to resolve without professional help.
Now if a child is actually carrying out acts of violence against others, animals, or themselves, this is a serious red flag that your 7-year-old child has deeper emotional problems that need to be resolved.
If this is the case with your 7-year-old child, seek professional intervention immediately.
Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes normal and abnormal talks of violence, and how to address them.
“Normal” Violent Speech
I hesitate to call any talk of violence “normal”, but I think you would be hard pressed to find any person, 7-year-old or not, that doesn’t utter an occasional threat.
I have worked with plenty of elementary school age children and trust me when I tell you that they can say some truly hurtful things. The problem is knowing when the line has been crossed.
Violence is more prevalent in our society than ever before. Children learn about anger through TV, movies, friends, media coverage, video games, and just about every other form of media out there.
And let’s not be so quick to blame our children’s bad behavior on the carelessness of others. Children see parents, friends, teachers, and other peers and adults that they come in frequent contact with, use anger as a means of relieving stress.
What are our children supposed to think when surrounded by aggressive behavior? It is appropriate to be angry at times, but 7-year-old children lack the cognitive reasoning and maturity needed to channel their anger in appropriate ways.
So what are some common ways that 7-year-old children display anger?
As any parent of a 7-year-old child knows, 7-year-olds can quickly become enraged when things aren’t going there way. If they feel that their needs are being ignored, than they may lash out as a means of rectifying perceived injustices.
When I worked in a first grade classroom as a paraeducator, the most common grievance children would have was others not playing, “the right way”.
That is, children refusing to play by the rules, children refusing to participate or include another child, or maybe a certain child was winning a game and the other kids got jealous. Whatever the reason, kids would get enraged in the blink of an eye.
Shouting is common when a 7-year-old child is angry, even the shouting of hurtful things like “I hate you.” Pushing and shoving is common, and other forms of rough housing is common between close friends. (Although common, acts of physical violence should be met with special scrutiny as they may be a “red flag” of deeper problems.)
Gloating and tattle-tailing, while obnoxious, are normal as well. Crying, stomping, and screaming are parts of a normal tantrum as well.
So what should a parent do when they encounter negative, but common behavior like this?
Research shows us that when children feel neglected, especially by a parent, they act out and have a tantrum. Tantrums can be caused by a variety of things, hunger, boredom, or just plain tiredness.
Children at age 7 don’t have a handle on some of the bigger emotions that people experience. Although they are learning, most children aren’t mature enough to fully deal with their anger until they are about 8 or 9 years of age.
If your child is in the middle of a tantrum, stop for a moment and think how you would like to be treated. If experience has taught me anything, it is that saying “just calm down.” to someone in the middle of a flying rage is the absolute worst thing to do.
Think about that the next time your 7-year-old son or daughter has a tantrum. If you were raging about something that happened at work or something that a colleague did, would you want a friend to embrace you and tell you to calm down and tell because “it’s not a big deal?”
Well, your 7-year-old child feels similar when you tell them to calm down in the midst of a rage.
When your 7-year-old child is having a tantrum the best thing to do is to calm them down and ask them why they are so upset. Ask what they can do to correct the behavior.
Easier said than done, but there is no surefire way to help your child calm down and no one conversation that will resolve the issue. Some punishment may be in order, but I will leave that to you as a parent to decide if and what punishment.
7-year-old children will have tantrums occasionally when dealing with particularly difficult problems or when stressed, tired, hungry, etc. But they should not go flying off the rails every time you ask them to do something.
Exactly how often is too often is difficult to say, but I think it would be safe to assume that if your child is having an abnormally frequent tantrums, this may be a sign of deeper problems.
Have you recently gone through a divorce or moved residence? Has the family suffered a recent trauma or added an additional sibling to the ranks?
These (or any other traumatic life changing events like theses), may be the root of your child’s emotional issues. If this is the case, then do all that you can to strengthen your parental relationship with the child.
Social relationships are more important that any time previous to turning 7 year old, but the parent-child relationship is king. If your child is feeling attention deprived at all, then they are likely to act out.
Lovingly reach out to your child and strengthen this relationship.
“Abnormally” Violent Speech: When to Contact a Professional
Like I said before, I do not want to normalize violent behavior, but I am a huge believer in the power parents have to influence their child towards good behavior.
I don’t think parents need to (or even should) contact a psychiatrist every time their child isn’t perfect. Parents should work with teachers and other adults to try and help their 7-year-old child in every way they can, but there are times when it is necessary to seek professional help.
I hope parents who reach out to experts don’t feel like they have failed. There is no one “right way” to raise a child, and a successful parent isn’t necessarily the parent whose kid goes on to be the president of the United States.
A successful parent does all in their power to help their child make right decisions. But that doesn’t mean children will accept our advice. Love your child and work as hard as you can for their benefit. Expect to make mistakes and always try to be better.
Part of trying to help a struggling child may be contacting a professional. And if your 7-year-old is unusually violent and aggressive, then seeking an experts opinion is the first thing you should do.
Children who should be helped by a professional are usually violent in three ways:
- Violent to others.
- Violent to animals.
- And violent to self.
Children who require professional attention don’t only say violent things, they commit violent acts. (Although obsessing over violence without necessarily physically committing violence may require professional help as well.)
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these behaviors and what “red flags” there are that your child may need proffessional help.
Violent to Others
Bullying is a serious issue. 7-year-olds lack the maturity to understand how their actions affect the feelings of others. I will be honest, most issues of “bullying” that I have seen usually stem from good intentioned children not understanding how their actions affect others.
Other times though, children do fine pleasure in pestering their peers. Even going so far as to physically injure them.
Pleasure in fighting or hurting others is a sign of deeper emotional issues that need to be addressed by a professional.
These children often find themselves in trouble at school for acting out. They are prone to talking back to authority figures and outburst of rage in the classroom. Throwing books, chairs, and desks at teachers or other students.
7-year-old children who are violent to others don’t limit themselves to physical outbursts. They know that words can hurt and aren’t afraid to use them. I have known some 7-year-olds that can weave a tapestry of profanity as intricate and complex as the best sailor ever could.
Children like this will use any weapon in their arsenal to injure others, either emotionally or physically for their own enjoyment.
Violent to Animals
Violence towards animals is historically the gateway act to greater acts of violence.
Psychology Today stated:
While this may be the case there are, in my opinion, two types of violence towards animals.
- Inquisitive violence.
- And, cruelty.
Inquisitive violence is the type of things you may see a child do to satisfy their own curiosity. Forcing your pet dog’s mouth open to get a better look at it’s teeth, pulling the cat’s tail to see it’s reaction, and pulling the legs off of bugs are all common things children do.
7-year-old children are just beginning to understand that animals have feelings and shouldn’t be treated like toys. While this behavior isn’t acceptable, it isn’t uncommon in children. Especially those with behavior disorders like Autism or ADHD.
Cruelty, on the other hand, is the harming of animals for pleasure. More serious acts of violence, like the acts described by Psychology Today, are not to be taken lightly and should be handled immediately.
Do all that you can to persuade your child to respect the lives of other people and animals. If violent behavior persists please contact a professional.
Violence to Self
Depression, while usually associated with teens and adults, affects elementary children as well. Every year, between 30 and 35 kids under the age of 12 take their own lives in the United States according to Dr. Shane G. Owens, Psychologist, and Doctor of emerging adult mental health.
If your child has made comments about hating or killing himself, it may be tempting to shrug off the comments. It can be rationalized that your 7-year-old is only going through a phase and will soon grow out of it.
While it’s true that a 7-year-old will occasionally make negative remarks towards himself, it usually isn’t to the magnitude of suicide. Such comments are not normal, and are a red flag of deeper emotional issues.
If your child frequently speaks of hating or killing himself, this is a cry for help that should not be ignored. Contact a professional and see if your child needs additional help.
What Causes Violent Speech?
Children who engage in abusive behavior either to themselves or to others, are usually victims of abuse. In an effort to understand and cope with the terrible effects that abuse causes, children lash out at others.
Children who are beaten, or abused sexually or emotionally will attack others as a cry for help.
How to Help Troubled Children
As I mentioned earlier, the parent-child relationship is one of the biggest factors in determining how a child will act. Do all that you can to strengthen that relationship with a child.
If there are serious or criminal issues at hand, please contact child protective services. Serious issues require serious attention and there is no shame in asking for help.
Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship
There is no substitute to parenting. Parents often feel that their are too many demands on their time and will leave the TV, the internet, or a friend’s parents to distract their children.
Theses are band-aid solutions that can’t help your child in the long run. In order to strengthen your relationship with your children, you will need to devote a certain amount of time to them, even if that means sacrificing some personal time in order to do so.
Listen to you child, and have try to get to know them as a person. To meaningful activities with them, even if it is something as simple as drawing or cooking together.
All these are ways to form a loving bond with a child.
How to deal with a depressed child? Depression is capable of affecting young children. If your child seems apathetic and sad, then they may have depression. If your child is unusually sad or angry, contact a professional for help.
How can I tell if my child needs professional help? There is no one behavior that will indicate whether or not your child is at risk of serious emotional issues. Talk with other adults are in frequent contact with your child (teachers, ecclesiastical leaders, a parent’s friend, etc.) what they notice about your child.
If they notice any abnormal behavior as well, give serious consideration in asking for help.