With wit and wisdom, Dr. Ames of the highly respected Gesell Institute and Carol Chase Haber offer insights into what children this age are feeling and thinking, and how parents can best deal with these moody, serious Sevens.
Included in this book:
• New body awareness
• Concerns about fairness
• Stories from real life
• Fascination with horror, gore
• Threats of running away from home
• Life in the second grade
• Books for Sevens and the parents of Sevens
“Louise Bates Ames and her colleagues synthesize a lifetime of observation of children, consultation, and discussion with parents. These books will help parents to better understand their children and will guide them through the fascinating and sometimes trying experiences of modern parenthood.”—Donald J. Cohen, M.D., Director, Yale Child Study Center, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology, Yale School of Medicine
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About the Author
Carol Chase Haber is a school psychologist in the Hamilton County, Ohio, school system and is a trained and qualified Gesell Examiner. She is the co-author of several books, including He Hit Me First, Your Seven-Year-Old, Your Eight-Year-Old, and Your Nine-Year-Old.
Read an Excerpt
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AGE
The Seven-year-old is a very special person and Seven a unique and highly distinctive age. It stands out, coming as it does between the positive vigor of Six and the broad expansiveness of Eight.
Although any Seven, like anybody else, will have his many moments of exuberance, security and happiness, this is in general an age of withdrawal, of pulling in, of calming down. As it begins, parents and teachers may be somewhat relieved. A little calm and quiet is welcome after the tussles and tangles of Six.
But once the child of Seven starts to withdraw, it is almost as though he doesn’t know where or when to stop. He goes on and on with his withdrawal until it almost seems that he might be more comfortable and contented if there were actually no other people in the world. Some Six-year-olds seem ready to talk to almost anybody, to share themselves and their ideas and warm emotions. Seven may be much more silent and less giving in company.
People all too often do not behave in a way that satisfies the child of this age, who thinks they are mean, hateful, unfriendly, always picking on him. He thinks his teacher, especially, picks on him, and parents of Seven-year-olds are well advised not to believe all the tales of maltreatment and unfairness that their children may bring home from school.
Seven-year-olds tend to think that people don’t like them, or fear that people may not like them: “Of course the kids will make fun of me.” The child may often be moody, morose, and melancholy. Above all, the girl or boy of this age is a worrier: worries about everything—the atomic bomb, war, hurricanes, that the family may not have enough money.
Seven worries before second grade begins that it will be too difficult and that the things expected may be too hard. A girl worries that her teacher won’t like her; she worries not only about her relationship with others but about herself. Any minor pain or discomfort may be interpreted as a fatal illness. If a boy hiccoughs, he may take it as a sign that he is going to die. He may also worry that others close to him will die.
Yes, indeed, Seven has many worries and also many fears—probably more than at surrounding ages. Sometimes the child is afraid of things that have never happened—of being late for school, for instance. More realistic are such fears as fear of the dark. To him the cellar is full of ominous silences, which he tends to misinterpret. Or he may mistake for a burglar, ghost, or spy the clothes that he hung over a chair when he went to bed.
However, many Sevens have now conquered earlier fears, such as fear of the dentist or of swimming. Also, many are now willing to tackle scary situations, as did the little girl who traveled alone by plane on a summer vacation. Asked if she was frightened, she replied, “Yes, but you have to do scary things if you’re going to visit your grandmother.” Or a boy may use his flashlight to dispel frightening shadows in his closet, or get his sister to precede him down the cellar stairs, saying politely, “Ladies first.”
In addition to having many worries and fears, the child of this age often feels that he has “all the bad luck.” As one girl expressed it, “Why do I always have the bad luck? Why do things so often happen to me? I might as well be dead.” The bad luck in this case was that it was time for her to go to bed.
The Seven-year-old also tends to feel strongly that parents like brothers and sisters better than they like him and that they do more for others in the family than they do for him. Typical is the boy whose father fixed an old bike for the boy’s Five-year-old brother. The Seven-year-old whined to mother, “He never fixes my bike. He never does anything for me. Nobody around here ever does anything for me. Nobody cares about me. I might as well be dead.” Mother suggested that the boy look in the garage. Maybe Dad had fixed his bike. “No,” said the boy, “he wouldn’t do anything for me. He never does.” Actually, the father had already fixed the boy’s bike as well as his brother’s.
Seven’s characteristic expression may be a frown, with lips curled downward. Tears come easily, although the child may try to hold them back, because he is embarrassed to cry in front of other people. Also, Seven is easily disappointed. Things so often do not turn out as expected. If things go wrong at play, he is likely to leave the group, mumbling to himself, “I’m quittin’.” At home a Seven-year-old boy rushes to his room and slams the door; he may even threaten to run away from home. This is not the expansive exuberance that sometimes drove the Four-year-old out into the world, but is simply a desire to get away from what he may consider an intolerable situation.
Seven is a good listener and, within his own limits, a good student. He likes to read or be read to, watch TV, talk things over, and work things out for himself. A difficult intellectual problem can prove a challenge rather than cause the frustration it might have at Six.
In fact, Seven can be a delightful age if the adult is willing to accept the child’s feelings and sensitivities, frequent brooding, and sulking, moodiness, as well as the more pleasant aspects of this quiet, withdrawn age.
To some extent, Seven lives in a world of thought and loves to think things through. Just as his hands are busy touching, exploring, feeling everything with which he comes into contact, so his mind is busy observing, reflecting. He takes in infinitely more than he gives out, and his thought processes are probably much more intense than they may appear to be on the surface. He may even talk to himself in front of the mirror. It is as though the child of this age were trying to define himself, and he does this in part by watching the outside world and then thinking over the things he has observed.
In fact, Seven expresses at times a fine new sense of growing independence, a wish at least to try to work things out without help instead of expecting others to solve his problems for him, as he did earlier. However, for the most part, neither girl nor boy is especially adventurous, preferring to hang on to the old rather than aggressively tackling the new.
Perhaps most helpful to the adult is the child’s increasing reasonableness, his willingness (if he is in a good mood) to listen to somebody else’s side of the story. Now he can on occasion even lose at a competitive game without blowing up. However, Seven is not an age known for humor. Thus, handling a child through the use of humor may not be as successful as at some other ages.
Intellectually one of Seven’s most conspicuous characteristics is a tendency toward perseveration, a tendency to go on and on with a task or situation until it is completed to satisfaction or until somebody stops him. From the adult point of view, Seven is apt to overdo, to go on with one thing too long, such as bounce a ball against the side of the house interminably, or read or watch TV for hours. In fact, parents sometimes comment that it is fortunate that books have chapters and that TV programs have endings. If not, it might be almost impossible to separate child from book or television set. Beginnings may be difficult for Seven-year-olds, but once started, it is hard for them to stop.
The Seven-year-old becomes more aware of himself as a person. He is less selfish than at Six, but extremely self-absorbed. By absorbing impressions of things seen and heard and read, and by working things over in his mind, Seven seems to be strengthening and building up a sense of self for the time when he will burst out into the world at Eight. The Eight-year-old will take his equipment (his self) out into the world to see what he can do with it. At Seven he is busy improving, strengthening, discovering, his self. So time alone with special pursuits is treasured. Seven likes to have a room of his own to which he can retreat and where he can protect his things.
With some Sevens, self-awareness relates strongly to the physical self. Seven is aware of his body and is sensitive about exposing it, especially to the opposite sex; he may refuse to use the toilet at school if there is no door on it; he does not like to be touched.
The typical Seven-year-old has rather high standards and ideals, is serious about self and is responsible, and wants to do things right. In fact, many mothers feel that their children are too anxious to be perfect, too much afraid of failure. Many Seven-year-olds, girls as well as boys, do set very high standards for themselves, are ashamed of any mistake, and may wish to bring home only papers that are 100’s. This wish for perfection may be the reason why, when engaged in desk work, the child erases so much. (Seven has been called by some teachers “the eraser age.”) It is hard to get everything just right. Seven keeps working at a task until it is finished. Six is an attacker, a good starter. Seven is more of a finisher.