Is he the only child? Some behavioral traits are attributed to birth order.
At this age, in addition to explaining it to him, praise altruistic and flexible behavior. Find out if his behavior is triggered by anxiety (when he wants to control the situation or is he just inflexible and controlling?
If removing him from the situation calms him down, let him go back to the activity only if he agrees to try and be flexible with his peers. If he tells you that he is not ready to try that, then let him know what other options there are (either he goes home, you assign a consequence ex: no TV watching that day, doing an extra chore- just anything that he would perceive as a negative outcome) If he is compliant or you see that he is trying to change his actions, you can also reward that ex: adding extra TV time, special treat, etc.
Other adults in his life- grandparents, family members, would want to engage in the same kind of teaching/disciplining with him.
He is still learning how to relate to others and how his own behavior leads to either pleasant or unpleasant outcomes.
You can also practice some of the social behaviors you'd like him to develop at home during pretend play with him. Equine therapy can also be beneficial.
Hi Dr Rossi
Sorry for the delayed response - internet connection has been done for quite some time. Many thanks for your reply.
He is my second child (his sister is 9) and I don't think it has to do with anxiety. He seems to display this behaviour at random times i.e. he can be the most well behaved child for hours and then all of a sudden when he does not like what is happening he becomes obstinate and stubborn. One thing I am certain has had an effect is that my husband (now ex) left me when I was pregant with him so he has not had a permanent male figure in his life - I have not told either child the real reason (he had an affair) as I don't think they are old enough to understand. I have a boyfriend now so things are better in that regard (marriage is a real possibility we just need to get his kids, who are teenagers, to accept that their father is not their sole possession).
To what extent is this normal 7 year old behaviour? Although it does not make it right sometimes knowing that behaviour is relatively normal helps the adults to not be so negative towards him (I teach high school boys so know what is normal for them) - I am not explaining myself properly but hope you understand what I am trying to say.
If he becomes stubborn when he does not get his way, the behavior is purposeful and opportunistic versus random. It is indicative of low frustration tolerance. Being the youngest child may be triggering a competitive streak in him and there may be issues related to self esteem. If he has not had a male figure in his life (his dad), he may be trying to exert control over the situation. Acting out is also attention seeking. A behavior becomes dysfunctional when it causes significant stress (in this case you're experiencing the outcome of his behavior)
Social behavior can be learned through observation/mimicking, being assigned pro social tasks (helping/volunteering) with your guidance. Behavior can be shaped and he is at the age where this is still possible. His control and anger issues are secondary to another issues such as: incompetence, loneliness, feeling misunderstood, perceives that he is treated unequally from his sister, etc. Your approach would try to understand where his behavior is coming from. Punishment is not going to be helpful as it will only reinforce his belief that he is not equal or as good. If possible, try to enroll him in activities such as sports (karate, soccer) They provide structure and teach respect and accountability.