Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The joys of raising a smart alec 7 year old boy

Shepherd, age 7
My friend Mitzi called me this morning. "I need parenting advice."

"Oh," I answered. "Well I am THE EXPERT on parenting, so bring it on."

"Well, you've been through this one. Michael is in his Smart Alec Stage and it's driving me CRAZY and I need help before I kill him!!"

Oh, yes, well, I do know this one. And Mitzi knows I know because aside from hearing me complain, about a year ago she took my then 7 year old son to a baseball game and, she told me today, he was a rude little brat the whole time.

Raising boys is an experience, especially if you are Uber Female like I am. Because my 6 year old daughter is correct when she says, "Boys are weird."

Their weirdness becomes apparent soon after birth when they stare at a mobile for twenty minutes, already trying to figure out how it works. Baby girls don't do that. We want to stare at faces, trying to figure out how people work.

(When some of those girls grow up they blog for the same reason.)

Then when they are four, boys exhibit their weirdness by saying "POOP!" or "UNDERWEAR" at the dinner table and collapsing into giggles. Repeatedly. Weeeeird.

When Shepherd was five, my sweet little baby buddy, precious, lovable first born turned on me like a top. Suddenly everything in the world was my fault. If it rained, I got blamed - loudly. If he fell down and skinned his knee, somehow I was the root cause of it.

Heartbroken and perplexed I researched it, and discovered that this meant that he was beginning to identify with his father and rejecting his mother - in other words, becoming a man - and one of the ways it manifested itself was in being downright ugly to me. All part of normal gender development. Yippee. Weird.

Then, at age seven, he developed a healthy case of Seven Year Old OCD. Shep's obsession was World War II. He read every book he could find, became a History Channel addict, and asked me several times a day, "What's your favorite battleship? What's your favorite gun?"

When I said I didn't have a favorite gun, he said I was the weird one.

But age seven was also when the Smart Alec Stage began, a stage I loathed with every fiber of my mother being. Which Mitzi is currently loathing. Which you may be loathing. So here's the advice I gave her. Being THE PARENTING EXPERT and all.

First, let's start with a little bit of the psychology of a seven year old. (My credentials you ask? In addition to being certified in early childhood education, I have a PhD in Googling.)

I am focusing on boys here but much of this will apply to girls as well, just differently, because y'all know the two have very little in common.

Also, this is the "textbook" seven year old child. Your son may be a precocious smart alec or a late blooming smart alec. All children develop at their own rates. (Out of my four kids, only one of them is textbook.)

The age of seven is a big one. 

At age seven, kids begin to think in much more mature ways. Historically, this age has been known as "The Age of Reason", and when Shepherd turned seven, that made sense to me. His questions got more in depth and intelligent, and conversations with him got a lot more fun. And he began to get my jokes - yea! Spiritually, kids at age seven often 'get it' in a way they haven't before. They questions they ask can stump you.

All this will work to your advantage.
Child psychology is typically split into "before 7" (preschool) and "after 7" (the middle years). During these middle years of preadolescence, kids learn to think logically (but only about concrete things, abstract thinking begins to develop later), show empathy and sympathy, and become less egocentric (self-focused).

But they are learning. And they are only at the beginning of this stage. 

Socially, seven year olds are learning to get inside other people's brains. They have a strong sense of justice and fairness, even though it is still often self-centered. However, their primary motivation is still to keep out of trouble, not to, like, promote the goodness of society and all. Which means they may lie like a dog when caught breaking a rule. (Yesterday Shep told me the duct tape on his glasses was to 'deflect lasers', not because he had broken them again. Score one for the cognitive development. Score zero for the moral.) But they will probably feel guilty about lying and confess (which can lead to some great discussions about sin and our need for the Cross, but that's another blog post.)

Seven year olds are becoming more conscious of language and word play (they get my jokes! yea!). This is part of our problem, because that obsession with language can quickly manifest into rude, disrespectful language.  (And fart jokes. Lots of fart jokes. Still waiting for my husband to outgrow the fart joke stage.)

As they become less self-focused, they become others focused - but they are only at the beginning of this stage, remember. We have a long way to go. At this point, being other-focused is part two of our problem because they much more observant of other kids and frequently copying what they have heard from those other little smart alec friends with bad moms - you know, the moms who are saying the same thing about you.

Becoming others focused will be the primary means of our solution.

Because hallelujah, you can reason with a 7 year old!

Tomorrow, I'll tell you some practical things that worked for us.

Part two here


  1. THANK YOU, Missy! I have a 6.5-year-old boy. And an 8-year-old boy as well. Oh, and a 2-year-old too... but hopefully he'll wait on the smart-alecky stuff for a couple of years. And I'm 32 weeks pregnant with #4. A GIRL, praise the Lord! lol

    1. yea you got your girl!!!!!!!!!!!!

      They get sassy too, and it kicks in earlier ;)

  2. I am struggling with a 14 year old sassy back talker. Cuz he's smart, you know. And he knows more than I do. Ugh. It's eating my lunch. I keep telling him "your mouth is getting you in trouble!" He doesn't listen.

    1. If my mom had gotten a nickle for every time she said, "Your mouth will always get you into trouble, Melissa!" my college would have been paid for.

      I STILL hear that in my head regularly!!

  3. This terrifies me a little!!! I deeply desire to be a mom, but fear I lack the patience to handle this kind of stuff. Eek!

  4. gee thanks for the cliffhanger.... :)

  5. Missy, as a mother of six + an extra that just needed a home, I feel this. I have been through this more than once and I have to say that raising the boys has been MUCH easier than the girls. Yes, the boys are exactly as you describe, but let me tell ya, when girls reached 'that' age... OMGoodness Gracious!!! I wonder daily just where that sweet little girl I raised has gone. She left about the age of 13 and has yet to return.

  6. we have a 8 year old boy who fits the description. he is a areal sweet-heart when he isn't trying to be cool with his mouth. he is in the middle of learning how to say come backs... not popular with mommy and daddy!

    my recent post: introducing...

  7. I am about to cry. Praise the Lord for this encouragement! I have been feeling like a horrible mother because my 7 year old boy has been driving me crazy! I felt like his rudeness was my fault, because I'm his mother and I must be doing something wrong. Forget the fact that my other younger kids are not being rude. Seriously, this post was a God send.

  8. Oh, joy! My sweet, still-loves-his-mama-boy is 6.5 years old. He's my only one, and though my girls love me, my boy loooooooves me. Thought I could keep that.

  9. My 8 year old boy is lying constantly - the little white lies that just pop out before he even thinks about it - driving me crazy. He's also being mean to his brother just because. On the upside, his sense of humor has developed dramatically, and his level of sarcasm is impressive. His brother just turned 7 last week, so I'm really looking forward to having 2 boys in this stage at once!

    1. Shep has mostly gotten thru the lying phase - painfully - but he told some doozies. Now he is in his exaggerating, know it all stage, which we keep telling him is just like lying.

  10. As someone with a daughter that just turned seven I will stand behind almost all of this being true for them. They just aren't as into fart jokes as boys. They think they are funny, but just not quite as much.

  11. Hey Missy. It's me, reading blogs. If you would care to address hormonal 14 year old boys tomorrow I would be greatly obliged. So far, I've simply resorted to slipping Midol in his Gatorade.

  12. oh, I love this post!!

    My boys are 9, 7 and 4 1/2. The 9-year-old has displayed SO many of the characteristics you described, except his OCD set in at around 9 and it was on the subject of the Titanic (he literally got mad at me, when in the midst of this obsession, that Italian cruise ship sank AND I DIDN'T TELL HIM ABOUT IT IMMEDIATELY).

    I've said several times that 7-8 is really not my favorite age due to many of the things you listed...primarily the self-focus, and the skirting the truth.

    It was sad when I started watching my crazy 2nd-born (who has been a super-special, humbling parenting experience all his own to this point) start exhibiting 7-year-old behaviors.

    Save me. There's still another one after these two.

    1. Oh, and the fart and poop talk/jokes. Don't even get me started.

  13. Thanks almost 6 year old little boy has quite a little mouth and eye rolling on him. This post scares me b/c it is not pretty around here....
    oh yeah, we are in the terrible 3s with Hope....whoever said it is terrible 2s didn't have a 3 year old. The drama of the terrible 3s with a girl is fantastic. Oh my.
    Looking forward to tips b/c apple cider vinegar isn't cutting it anymore

  14. Oh yes. I happen to have one of those 7 year old boys. His sense of self-focused justice and fairness? HUGE. The ugliness towards mom? It's been there but I think I'm making headway again. He's not TOO much of a smart alec yet. The fart jokes are off the chart, but my husband only encourages that and my 4 year old boy is totally into it too. Personally I am loving this age. We have some amazing conversations. You are totally right about him getting the spiritual stuff a whole lot more lately.

  15. My second son is now 8 but he did go through a similar phase. One weird moment that stood out for me when he was 7 was when he asked me to draw a dinosaur, specifically a parasaurolophus. I told him I didn't know how to draw one and he really looked at me as if it was the most ubelievable thing he'd heard.

  16. Now I'm hoping that my son is just a early developer since I'm seeing these things at 5. Not until recently did I realize that my husband hung the moon and the stars. I think I amaze my son every day that a mere girl can function in life.



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