26/05/2009 05:11 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne - Help! My Seven Year Old Is Turning Into A Teenager

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Antonia asks:

My 7 year old has started behaving like a teenager.

At school she's fine, but at home she is rude when she speaks to us, has strops and slams doors.

We're struggling to help her understand when she has crossed the line. We're trying 'time out' but wondered if you had any more suggestions.

Read on for life coach Joanne's answer

Dear Antonia

Sounds like you have a bad case of the pre-pre teen blues. Certainly if Time Out isn't working, then it's time to try a new approach. For a punishment or a reward to be effective, it has to be fairly immediate and have some sort of meaning to the child. So think about the things she likes, whether it's a favourite toy, game, sweets or telly, and use them as leverage.

Girls of this age often think that they know it all, so if you really want to stop her in her tracks, say "If you were the mum, and your daughter had behaved like that, what would you do?" My 9 year old has often sent herself to bed early in response to this.

If your child's behaviour has changed in a noticeable way, look around for what else has changed in her life. New school or sibling? Something troubling her with her friends? Children are very adept in showing us their feelings via their behaviour. Is there a reason why she might be testing you right now?

Although on the surface your daughter's behaviour is pushing you away, you may find that it improves when you hold her close. Spend one to one time together, even if it's just a few moments painting her toe nails or helping with her homework.

If you talk to other parents, you will find that this behaviour is normal for this age group. One way to look on it is that your child obviously feels confident and secure enough to act up at home without fear of being expelled from the group. Maybe the pressure of being 'the good girl' at school is too much for her and this is why she can't keep a lid on her feelings at home. She may seem quite grown up to you now, but inside she's still a little kid.

Sit down and talk with her about her behaviour, making it clear what is and isn't acceptable. You may have thought that you were done with reward charts, but this could be a good time to bring one out again. Pre-teens can be very frustrating, so keep reminding yourself that you're the adult here.

Maybe you could have a family meeting and establish some ground rules, and talk about why it's not OK to have strops and slam doors – obviously this applies to adults as well as children. In our house we have only one rule which is 'Be Kind' – this includes kind words, kind actions etc. Give your daughter some responsibility for ensuring that family members keep to the rules. You could be surprised at how she rises to the challenge.

Hope this helps and good luck


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