Disciplining a child at any age can be a complicated process. But for seven-year-olds, they’re on the brink between being that loving young child that wants to spend every waking moment with you and transitioning into a moody less-loving tweenager.

For any parents or teacher, this particular age is hard to discipline; your child or student is likely smart enough to see through many of the tricks that work on younger children, but not yet aware enough to understand consequences the same way an older kid might.

So what can you do, to ensure your child is disciplined and understand what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable? Dr. Debra Harris of St. Louis’ Children’s Hospital says that starting the process of disciplining and managing your child is quite easy.

First, you must divide their behavior into two categories:

  • Actions or behaviors you’d like your child to achieve and do
  • Actions or behaviors you want them to stop doing

While our personal biases determine these categories – what’s a must for one family isn’t so crucial for another – having this foundation can make disciplining your seven-your-old that little bit easier. By making what is acceptable, what is not, and what they should be doing transparent, the next steps are made far easier for everyone involved. As parents we’re far better at finding behaviors we’d like children to stop doing, whether it’s talking back, being mean to siblings or simply not listening.

So how can we apply that concept into actual discipline? Here are just a few ways:

Implement a three-count system with real consequences

As parents, we’re all too familiar with counting when it comes to parenting. From “you have five seconds to start cleaning this mess up” to “I’m going to count to three, and if it’s not done you’ll be in trouble”, there are many ways we make use in counting on the day-to-day.

But this method is slightly different, in that each count represents a stage and a warning to your child about their behavior:

  • In step one, the child is told that you do not wish them to carry out a behavior anymore. From this stage, they get 5-10 seconds to decide if they will continue an action or do something else.
  • In step two, the child is informed that if they continue the behavior, they will be disciplined, and the steps will be completed. At this point, they get another 5-10 seconds to decide their behavior and to change what they are doing.
  • Step three is an immediate consequence to their action if they choose to continue

In this discipline process, every stage of the count is laid out clearly. It’s functional, practical, and easy for children aged seven to see how their behavior resulted in a particular consequence if they do not choose to change their mind. By reinforcing this approach consistently, children are better able to understand that misbehaving will lead to consequence every time.

Discipline to teach, not punish

A misbehaving child is enough to make any parent angry. Especially when your seven-year-old is refusing to listen to you, an age at which there’s little excuse for negative behavior. But parents who jump too quickly to punishing instead of problem-solving, according to Working Mother, are less likely to have success in the long-term. The idea of being proactive and consistent with discipline isn’t to control the life of your child. Instead, the purpose is to teach them how to be self-disciplined in the future.

For children aged seven or over, there is a higher capacity to understand actions have consequences. This makes for far more straightforward discipline than younger children, where emotional capacity and frustration comes into play. Removing privileges from an older child is an excellent way to discipline, and seven-year-olds and up are particularly receptive to the removal of items and privileges as a consequence. Whether it’s not going over a friends house, not being allowed their bike or not allowing access to the TV, seven is the youngest age generally where consequences are highly effective.

Do you have a seven-year-old, or do you remember trying to effectively parent discipline when your children were that age?