When Evan Harzer, of Nutley, New Jersey, turned 7, his parents noticed a change in his behavior. Not only was he talking back and digging in his heels when they asked him to start his homework or get ready for bed, but he also became much more resistant to their discipline strategies. "When he was younger, we could motivate him with a star chart. He'd get a gold star for good behavior and a black X if he misbehaved," says his mother, Sheila. Now when I say I'm not happy with his behavior, he'll challenge me and argue like a little lawyer."
Seven- and 8-year-olds aren't just growing more independent, they're also fine-tuning their sense of right and wrong -- so they're likely to plead innocent and mount a defense. Parents who've relied on time-outs in the past may be particularly frustrated at this stage. "Time-outs weren't designed to punish kids, but rather to help them regain control of emotions," says Joshua Sparrow, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of Discipline: The Brazelton Way. And by 7 or 8, misbehavior is less about out-of-control emotions than it is about your child testing his boundaries. However, just because your kid resists discipline doesn't mean that he's outgrown the need for it. To find methods that will work for your child, check out our expert tips.