22 answers

Behavior and Discipline for 5 Year Old Boy

I'm at the end of my rope with my almost 5 year old son. No matter what I tell him to do (stop hitting your brother; don't jump on the couch; go wash your hands for dinner, etc.)he just keeps doing what he was doing. When I ask why, he says because he wants to. Then I send him to time out, he mouths off all the way to his time out, I yell, he cries...In the end I always make him do whatever I asked him to in the first place, so its not like his behavior gets him anywhere. I've tried time outs, taking toys away, taking TV away. Nothing works. He is demanding and disrespectful. I have to remind him to say please and thank you. I've tried just talking to him and explaining that he needs to talk nicely and think about other people's feelings. I get nowhere. I am so frustrated! Is this behavior normal for this age? If so, when does it end? What else can I try to get through to him?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I have Love and Logic, and it really wasn't for me. Maybe I'll give it another try. Unfortunately, How to Talk so your Kids will Listen is back ordered at Tattered Cover. Today he asked nicely for Play Dough, which has been off limits for months now because of the mess they made last time. I told him he could have it this afternoon if he's good. So far, he's been much better today. So far I haven't taken playdates or trips to the park or pool away, because that would punish his brother, too; not to mention make it even harder for me, having to stay home with them both all day.
April 26, 2011 - I posted this question a long time ago. My 5 year old is almost 8 now, and was recently diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and possible ADHD. He is in weekly OT now and it is helping. I appreciate all of your responses, but spanking and timeouts are not always the answer, I have learned, and lack of discipline is not always the problem.

Featured Answers

Inappropriate behavior of children is very frustrating to the mother. I am a mother of eight and I know! I have found help in the book "The Power of Positive Parenting" by Dr. Glenn Latham. To see a sample of the information in his book, go to http://amiutah.org/lessonindex.htm

Hope this helps and good luck! Boys are really fun.

1 mom found this helpful

I am in the midst of reading a very good book on effective discipline called "1-2-3 Magic" by Thomas W Phelan; I highly recommend it! I have started using some of the techniques with my children and it has been helpful.

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Dear K.,
this is not a DISASTER
this is a bummer.
This is a working situations, which is very fixable,
and the great step you already did is that you posted here
because you think about the situation,
and do not get emotional.

I wrote about very similar situations several times,
as we mamas ALL have such issues at some time of our kids' growth.
I will copy you one of the stories, and give 2 links where many mamas share great ideas.
I very much hope that it will help, and you will find the solution that fits the best to YOUR and Your Boy !!!
All the very best to you, K.!!!


as long as you GIVE her attention, she will be throwing serious tantrums over and over again.
Keep the space safe, and allow her whatever she wants to do, NOT PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO HER>
If you get tired, waiting when she will be finally exhausted and done with the fit,
then you can try one more trick:
pretend that you absolutely do not see her: as soon as she starts getting into the tantrum 'mode', you can walk around, not 'seeing her' and talking totally to yourself: "I wonder where my little beautiful girl is, I cannot see her, and I miss her smile so much! Hmmm, I hope she did not go far, maybe she is in the bedroom, let me see... no, she is not ehre either... okay, I will just have to sit down and wait, she will be back for sure, because I love her so much, and I know she loves me too." At some point, she will get tired or exhausted, and will loose all the hope of getting your attention, and then she will appear before you as normal good girl again. THIS MOMENT you need to overflow with joy, and smile to her, and tell her "Oh, here you are!!! Where have you been? I already started looking for you in all the rooms! I missed you, smiley!"
She needs to figure out, with your help, that as soon as she is throwing tantrum, she becomes invisible to you, and the attention is ALL drawn away from her, but as soon as she has a smile, or behaves just normally, she gets a lot of cuddling great attention from you.

IN NO WAY YOU CANNOT GIVE UP and do what she wants by trying to get it through the tantrum, even if it is in the middle of the store.
good luck to you both!

one more link about the same topic

2 moms found this helpful

Does he do this behavior when your husband asks him to do something? If not, it is a respect problem. My son started arguing with me when I would tell him it was time to clean up toys, brush teeth, you name it. My daughter started to follow suit. My son is 6, and my daughter is 3. The 2 of them can be best friends one minute, and fighting the next. One thing I found that worked when it came to hitting was the way I phrased my words and followed up with the consequence part. I separated them, got down to eye level with my son, asked what happened. When he told me, I looked him in the eye and said, "You are not allowed to hit MY daughter." This way he didn't see it as hitting "HIS sister." I said the same to my daughter. "You are not allowed to hit MY son." I then had both of them apologize and do 5 push-ups and 5 jumping jacks. By the time they were done, they were best friends again. I thought of this because I know when I am upset about something I have a lot of "mad energy" to get rid of, and I go for a walk, take it out on the weeds, or clean something until it sparkles. Kids don't know what to do with their "mad energy" so they hit. Doing the physical activity right when they are mad releases that anger. I explained to my kids that they will be doing push ups and jumping jacks every time they even look like they are about to hit each other. They tested me for a couple of days and after a week, there is definitely less hitting. They know I mean business, and I don't think they LOVE to do push ups. They giggle with the jumping jacks, but I don't mind as long as they are doing what they were told. I think your son needs to see that you mean business. Yelling doesn't get you anywhere but mad. Kids know how to push our buttons, and when they find the right one(yours being that your son ignores you)they keep doing it because they can. You really need to get a handle on this or he will keep up this behavior and think he doesn't have to do anything you say because the consequences aren't great enough. My husband noticed that somehow the kids rope me into arguing with them when they don't want to do something I ask. I had to stop letting them argue. I have to catch myself and tell them, "there is no argument, do what I asked." Both of my kids are very strong willed, I just have to be stronger. Another thing, once your son gets the idea that he needs to do what you ask of him, start making it fun. Set a timer and challenge him to beat the timer when he needs to wash his hands, clean up messes, etc, then praise him for beating the timer. My kids love that game. I also think that the next time your son jumps on your couch or is disrespectful of your property, you should put it to him just like that. Tell him, "there is no jumping on MY couch." We have explained to our kids that everything in this house belongs to Mom and Dad and we just let the kids use what we have. This includes all of their bedroom furniture as well. They know that they are not allowed to treat our stuff bad because something could break, and they would have to use their piggy bank money to fix it. I think I have gone all over the place here, but it is important to be very firm and matter of fact with kids so that they understand who is in control. We surely don't want them thinking they are.

1 mom found this helpful

Inappropriate behavior of children is very frustrating to the mother. I am a mother of eight and I know! I have found help in the book "The Power of Positive Parenting" by Dr. Glenn Latham. To see a sample of the information in his book, go to http://amiutah.org/lessonindex.htm

Hope this helps and good luck! Boys are really fun.

1 mom found this helpful

You might like the book "How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk." It's been out long enough you could find it at the library or in cheap paperback online. It's not very long, and it's a very fast and simple read, and it honestly changed my life. There are no major mental games suggested, just communication patterns that actually work to keep the peace. I really recommend it.
I have two boys, also, about the same ages as yours (just turned 6 and almost 3) and that book helped me a lot. I don't lose my patience nearly as fast because I don't set myself up for their resistance as often. I used to say (stupid) things like, "Do you want to go take a bath?" and then get frustrated when I got a lot of back talk. Now I say things like "I want you to," "I need you to," "It's important that you," "I expect you to," "It's time to," and then things that are not choices are not accidentally presented as choices. I also follow through more now, like by marching them up the stairs for the bath right after I say it's time, so they know it's really happening. Using positive direction ("I expect you to be gentle withyour brother.") is also often more effective than a negative direction ("Don't hit.") because kids tend to hear only the verb ("hit") and do not always process the "don't" part.
That book also talks a lot about just making observations instead of blaming, and I've been shocked at how well this works at getting a cheerful response from my six-year-old without a lot of yellng on my part. I used to say things like,"Why did you leave your pj's on the floor! You always do this! You should pick them up! This makes extra work for me and I'm so annoyed!" and now I can say things like, "Uh-oh, I see pj's on the floor that need to be picked up. I'm glad YOU know where they go!" and he says, "Oh yeah!" and picks them up and puts them in the hamper. Sounds unrealistic, but I tell ya we've been nicer in the last year, since I started working on more direct communication with my kids and not wasting energy on frustration.
My older son's preschool teacher said that age 4 is a big one because there are dozens of developmental milestones in that year, and children that age are working on being independent even if they lack capability to do everything they want to. This can be frustrating for them, so having choices can be a relief if they feel like every minute of their lives is being directed. Also, I know most child development experts say children typically are not capable of imagining someone else's perspective until around age 5--they are egocentric just as a developmental point, not because they are being little jerks. MOdeling polite talk could go a long way (not that you don't already, I'm sure! ;) just because he cannot yet process the higher motives of good graces but could follow an example.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

K., this sounds just like me and my son when he was 5 except I would be the one crying because I was so upset with myself for the way I treated him while trying to get him to do what I wanted. This was my second child, the first was a son also, and I was doing all the same things but it wasn't working. That's when I took a "Love and Logic" class. I can't even remember what I changed, but I learned what made my son tick. His will to not be controlled was as strong as my will to control him. Control shouldn't be the goal. Get very good with the games and ways to make him think it's his idea or for his benefit. Taking orders will never be easy for this child. Even now at 14, my son does not move immediately when asked to do something. There must be a 2 or 3 minute lag time so in his mind he his making the decision of when to do something. I'm sorry to tell you that this is probably not a phase, it is his personality and you will have to make changes in your behavior and request for him to come around. Maybe your son needs lots of choices so nothing ever feels like an order. like, would you like to wash your hands in the bathroom sink or the kitchen sink? For my son, it was worth the time outs or other punishments to not be pushed or ordered around. In a war of the wills nobody wins. I really suggest reading the Love and Logic book. Once you try a few things it suggests, you'll wonder why you thought this kid was hard. Lots of luck!

Have you taken away privledges? I do that with my 6 year old, who is totally into sports, and not being able to play baseball for the rest of the day gets him back on track. Also, he is a "big boy" and so he does not think h ever needs a nap. Don't know if your son still takes them, but if not, if he is acting out I make mine take a nap. I am a single mom, and I think mostly they know it is just us and really just keep pushing to make sure we are going to actually pay attention.

I also really watch what my kids are eating when they get feisty, and it seems that processed food tends to get them more wound up. I try to cook more from scratch, but it does get hard. I also really watch the food labels and buy things that have less preservatives, colors, flavors, and go more natural if I can.

Hope those suggestions help.

My son who just turned 5 recently is very much the same way. He has always been a very strong willed child, and some days are a fight with him sun-up to sun-down. The one thing that I've found really actually makes a difference with him is focusing on the positive. At first it was anything and everything good he did-even silly things. He really began to focus on the praise and it made him WANT to behave better because he realized that it made him happier too! We don't go so overboard anymore, but still make sure we take time to appreciate when he makes an effort for something and when his behavior is good. Also making sure that he gets one-on-one time makes a big difference as well.

I am in the midst of reading a very good book on effective discipline called "1-2-3 Magic" by Thomas W Phelan; I highly recommend it! I have started using some of the techniques with my children and it has been helpful.

You are bigger than your five year old. Use that to your advantage.

Just be sure to give two choices, so he feels more in control, pick your battles, yet be consistent and follow through every time.

At the moment, I don't have great advice, just empathy. I often feel myself getting very frustrated when I ask my 4 and 5 year old to do things very politely and they act as if they didn't hear what I said... continuing to do whatever they were doing. I usually yell after 2 or 3 polite requests.

I offer great rewards throughout the week and after they have broken the family rules and had a warning, they have to give up the "special rewards" (this week the special rewards are a movie, going swimming, helping me make/eat a special treat, a special trip to 7/11 or Jungle Jim's, and going to play at a park). They have both lost at least 2 rewards and it's only Wednesday. Even if they lose treats or TV time, or special toys, they often say they don't care (that is until everyone else is eating a treat). I feel that I can't take away story time, which they love so much, because it is so good for us to spend that time together.

This is a "special" generation. There are a lot of bright, fun children, who will not be controlled. I finally gave my daughter a big spanking the other day, and it at least temporarily humbled her.

Good luck, you are not alone with this issue!

Hi K.,

My son acts the same way so you are not alone. I've learned that if I take his favorite thing away (which is riding his bike usually) his behavior is much better for me and others. I have to remind him every once in awhile to behave, but for the most of the time he will listen to me. I try to only give him 3 chances and then if he continues to be "bad" then I'll take his favorite thing away. Of course like everyone says, be consistant and if you say you're gonna do something make sure you do it. Always praise him when he does good things and tell him how happy you are when he is good. My son loves it when I tell him he is being good or that I had fun with him playing with his cars or practicing baseball, etc. I think it's important to recognize them when they do good things too. Good luck!

I have a five year old boy, and he does a lot of the same things. Usually he will stop after being asked a few times. Are you able to give him one on one time often? I know that my son does so much better when he doesn't need to seek my attention. I try (it is chalenging) to give all three of my boys one on one time everyday, or at least every other day. I have also heard to try and be respectful to them in our discipline. We need to say please and thank you to them, even when we are really frusterated or angry with them. I need to give my kids positive reaction to positive behavior all day, or I get a lot of negative behavior. Let me know and feel free to ask anytime!

Hi K.,

Try having him sit on the wall for his disrespect. When he is done with that time out, have him belly crawl to his room. My daughters new boyfriend is a Staff Sargent (for 13 yrs,) and does not tolerate a child disrespecting anyone especially their mom. When he can act civil, then you can start on the yes mom, no mom, please and thank you routine. My grandsons are 5 and 2 1/2. They are learning quickly the consequences of mouthing off, whining, and not doing as they are asked.

Hope this helps. (Sitting on the wall is where one places their back against the wall and slides down to a sitting position "without" touching ones bottom to the ground. 1 minute for each year of age. But, you can increase the time as desired.


I love the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey. It has changed the way I approach parenting with my 4 year old and 1 year old boys.

just wait till he askes you for something and when he does totally ignore him. keep doing what you are doing. pretend like you don't hear him until he asks you in the manner that you expect. i do this with my children. for instance if i ask them to do something and they say no or wait then i turn it back around on them . when they ask to go outside of to do something they want to i say no or accidentally forget(haha) then if they don't say thank you or please i wait a sec and say what did you say. until they say it with manners

You're doing your time outs wrong. You're giving him too much attention. Ask him to do something or not do something. If he refuses or ignores you, you need to give him a warning..."Honey, if you don't do this you will be in time out..." You could give a second warning if you want. If, after receiving only one or two warnings he still has not responded, tell him he is going in to timeout. Put him in a corner for 1 minute for each year of age...5 minutes. Don't talk to him while putting him there, just put him there. Don't pay attention to him or respond to him. Just leave him. If he moves, put him back and start the timer all over again, but don't talk to him. Continue to do so until he stays put the entire time. Let him scream, or talk, or whatever, just ignore him...he's trying to get a response from you. Then walk over to him, kneel down so your eyes are at his level, and explain to him why he was put in time out, or ask if he knew why and then explain. Then ask for an apology...you better not apologize, he needs to. Then give hugs and kisses, and ask him to do whatever it was you needed. The first few times may be a struggle, but it works.

Hi K.,

Check out a book called Love and Logic Magic for early childhood. It has great ideas for how to deal with misbeahaviour without screaming and yelling! yeah! Hope this helps. It's a quick read and entertaining too! God bless!

Is the child hyperactive or loses concentration easily, if this is so you may want to get him tested for ADD/ADHD. Most 5 year old I know aren't that way, but the few I do know are on ridlin or some sort of meds.

I have the same problem with my son who will be 5 in march. I hope it will get better as he gets older but I've tried everything as well and time out is the only temporary fix but it still doesn't get through to him that i'm serious.

I have a daughter that is 5 years old. She does not listen to me at all. When we go to town she throws big fits in the stores. It's embarassing when she does it. I put her in time out and she screams and throws stuff. She has worked herself up to throwing up once. I've taken her to special people and it seems like i'm not getting anywhere and just wasting my money. They don't tell me anything. I have a 3 year old son that is starting to pick up on what his sister does. I'm tired of fighting with her everyday. I'm to the end don't know what to do

Sounds to me like the time-outs are not firm, immediate, or long enough.
He is clearly able to understand exactly what you want, and he is deliberately ignoring. This sounds different from typical toddler ignoring where they are so engrossed in what they are doing that they just aren't listening to you, or they are tuning you out. Assuming you've done the traditional "1 minute per year of age" thing with the time-outs, I'd ramp that way up. He is making this a battle of respect and will and you cannot allow him to win.
I would stop with all the warnings. He heard you. He's ignoring you. Tell him ONE time. Make sure he heard you. If he ignores, pick him up, bodily, and carry him to the time-out chair, and stick him there for at least 15 minutes. He will not like being carried or treated "like a baby" and he will hate the boredom and isolation of 15 minutes facing the wall or a corner by himself. If he makes one sound while he's there, put the timer in front of him so he can see it, reset it, and tell him that you will keep doing that until he is quiet.

He may spend quite a few hours in that chair the first few days, but he'll get the idea.

It's simply a matter of making the time-outs and isolation "worth his while" to avoid. Right now, they are not.

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