Are 7-Year-Olds Selfish?


Seven can be a really fun age to be a parent of, but this can also be a time where your child may be more selfish then before. As a mother, I found that children often find comfort in routine, so sudden changes may upset your 7-year-old, but are they really being selfish when that happens? I’ve done some research to help you learn more about the behavior of a seven-year-old and ways you can help your child learn as they grow. 

So, can a seven-year-old actually be selfish? As they develop, seven-year-olds go through a psychological/cognitive stage of development where they become less tolerant of activities that they may have previously enjoyed. They become “selfish” in a sense. This selfish behavior is just a phase and part of development and will fade as the seven-year-old learns to new behavioral information.

This cognitive stage of development is a good time for you to teach your child all about behaviors that are good versus behaviors that aren’t. After all, you don’t want to simply suffer through your child’s bad behavior. It can be hard to deal with your child’s selfish attitude from day to day, so I’ve put together some tips that will help you teach your child and cope with crazy behavior as they go through changes

Understanding the Selfish Behavior

Maybe you’re frustrated because your child just threw a tantrum in the store because they wanted the red firetruck and you told them no. Maybe your child is having a hard time understanding why they can’t go down the slide eight more times or have three more cookies. All of this is perfectly normal behavior for a seven-year-old.

Like I mentioned above, children at this age go through a stage of cognitive development that often accompanies mood changes and newly found frustrations. Your seven-year-old is learning to articulate their feelings and requests, and that’s a good thing! However, with the ability to express themselves also comes a chance for them to push and test boundaries. 

Testing their new found thought skills is a good thing, but it can also be really frustrating. It might, at times, seem like your child is being selfish. I’m here to reassure you that they aren’t. But, how do you deal with their frustrating behavior, and how do you keep yourself from losing your temper?

Teaching Your 7-Year-Old to Not be Selfish

Luckily, I’ve found some good discipline recommendations from other parents and psychologists that you can try with your own child to help them learn rules and boundaries and control their behavior.

Teaching Your 7-year-old by Giving Him or Her Choices

The popular website Parents wrote an article similar to this one about dealing with your young child’s outbursts. In the article, author Michelle Crouch recommends letting your child choose between two options. Allowing your child to make a choice for themselves allows them to feel like they are getting a chance to express themselves.

You can use their choice as something you can reference later to help them understand why they can’t do something later. In Crouch’s article, she uses refers to an example given by Harvey Karp, M.D. In the example, a child who wants to read several chapters of their favorite book before bed:

“So, if your son always asks for one more chapter in his Magic Tree House book at bedtime, while you’re eating dinner, decide together how many chapters you’ll read. Make him feel invested in the decision by giving him two choices you’re okay with — something like, “Should we read one chapter or two?” Then, even if he asks for one more when you’re done, you can say, “You love stories, but remember, you said two chapters at dinner. Maybe tomorrow we can read more.” 

Harvey Karp, M.D.

To read more from this article, click here

Set Firm Boundaries and Rules

Like I mentioned before, your 7-year-old may want to push the boundaries and rules at this age, so you can help them learn by setting firm rules and then strongly enforcing them. Now, this doesn’t mean losing your temper or shouting at your child. A simple forceful answer such as “I’ve made up my mind” or “I said no” repeated over until your child understands can be effective. 

Another way that you can help teach your child rules is by setting up a delayed reward system where they learn the benefit of good behavior and kindness. Some parents use a weekly chore and behavior chart. This visual representation will help your child see their progress and understand the consequences of good and bad behavior. 

Showing Your Child You Understand Their Frustration

Showing your child that you understand their frustration is probably the most effective method for combating selfish behavior. Your children watch and learn from how you handle situations. Empathy helps a child understand and behave rationally. Knowing you care about them is important to 7-year-olds. 

When your child is calmed by your response, then you will find it much easier to reason with them and remind them of the rules you set in place before. For example, if your child wants to stay five more minutes at the park, but you know it is time to leave, you can say to your child, “I know you want to stay, sweetie. It’s sad that we have to leave.” 

Sometimes your child may be too upset to reason with, and that’s okay. Try your best, but you can always try empathizing with your child later after they have calmed down. 

I am notoriously bad at rushing around and not making time to slow down and talk, but try to make the time to slow down and talk to your child before rushing them away from the park or away from the toy aisle while they are still upset. 

How to Handle Frustration When Your 7-Year-Old is Being Selfish

Now, Mamas I know it can be really hard to control your temper when your child is acting up, especially if their meltdown happens in the middle of Walmart while you have a huge cart full of groceries and no daddy backup. But, controlling your temper is key to helping your child learn better behavior skills and boundaries at this important stage. So, here are some ways that you can cope with your child’s selfish outburst. 

  • Take a deep breath (I know this sounds really cliche, but it works, trust me)
  • Remind yourself that your child is more important than what others around you think.
  • Evaluate the situation and try to understand why your child is upset or acting selfishly
  • Use one of the method’s I’ve discuessed above to help teach your child

Don’t worry, you are doing a great job, and you know best what will help your child learn the behaviors that will help them lead a happier childhood.

Related Questions

How tall is a 7 year old? 7 year olds all develop at different speeds, but generally, they will be around 46 to 49 inches tall. Since genetics plays a large role in development, don’t worry if your child isn’t growing at the same pace as other children his or her age. If you are concerned, talk to your child’s doctor.

What grade is a 7-year-old in the United States? 7-year-olds in the United States are typically in the first grade. However, this can depend on the level of progress in cognitive and behavioral skills that the child demonstrates. If they struggle with these skills, they may be held back a year or receive extra help. Children that excel in these areas may also be moved up a grade. Although, these are more uncommon scenarios. 

Do 7-year-olds know how to share? At the age of seven, your child is able to understand how to share and play with other children his or her age. Now, this may not mean that he or she will be great at it. Your child may still not want to share or act out in response to rules or games. Unstructured play is the best for your child at this age.

Olivia Fisher

Olivia Fisher is a senior studying English with an emphasis in professional writing at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She, her husband, and their son live in Rexburg, Idaho, where they enjoy the small-town life and work hard to finish university.

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