This post is directed at the mothers of boys out there, or child-development types, or even the men who remember what it was like to be seven or eight years old.

In general, I’ve found seven to be a great age. I’ve had such a delightful year listening to “Jack’s” increasingly sophisticated ideas, his application of actual reasoning to his arguments, the beginning of his inevitable joke-and-riddle phase. He can stump me sometimes, he catches me off guard with his humor and we’ve begun to find a few common interests. I’m hoping to hang on to this phase of his development for as long as possible.

There is, however, one exception to my infatuation with seven-year-old boydom: the child’s lack of coping skills. (Yes, I know I made up a word there, but I like it.)

Jack and I can be in the midst of a perfectly rational, enjoyable discussion about dinosaurs or the recounting of a funny antic performed by some kid on the bus, and then something subtle occurs—like his four-year-old sister doesn’t understand the last thing he said, or he discovers that the clock over the stove is off by a minute or two and thereby just gave him an incorrect time—and Jack dissolves. Rain when the weatherman predicted a dry day, a rule broken during a board game, a toy falling off a precarious pile where he just placed it in an effort to put it away—any of these, or anything at all, is cause for a full-blown, no-holds-barred meltdown.

At first, I thought that it was only Jack who is as volatile as a peppermint Mento dropped into a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. But as I began to talk to the other moms in the bleachers at soccer practice (yes, thank you, I am officially a cliché), I discovered that many of them possess stories to match my own. Moreover, some of them had been through this stage of boyhood before and/or knew others parents who had and expressed the uniform opinion that this volatility is a classic characteristic of the seven-year-old boy.

What is it about seven-year-old boys that renders them incapable of coping with, well, anything? I’ve been trying to puzzle this out. We know, for example, that girls tend to develop emotionally more rapidly than boys. I’m wondering if perhaps seven-year-old girls then generally have more emotional tools at their disposal to grapple with the emotions generated by their increased cognitive skills and more complex interactions with the world than do boys wrestling with same thoughts and interactions. I think it’s a plausible theory, but I don’t know if it’s true or if some other dynamic is responsible.

In any event, whatever the cause might be, we parents have to deal with the rumbling volcano that is the seven-year-old boy. (Or eight-year-old; much as I’d like this phenomenon to end on Jack’s upcoming eighth birthday, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that it will continue.)

What are your experiences with boys this age? Have you got any tips for those of us who are trying to help our seven-year-old boys cope with the world around them?

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