29 answers

Need Advice on 5 Year Old's Behavior

My 5 year old son has been acting up lately. Whenever things don't go his way he cries loudly or screams. And it is often little things that set him off, like he spilled a drop of water on himself at school the other day. And he reacts really defiantly when he gets reprimanded (he usually gets timeouts) for something he wasn't supposed to do, like hitting his brother or something. I first thought it is just a phase, but it has been going on for a while and it is difficult to handle sometimes, especially when he screams in public. It is kind of embarrassing sometimes and I am at a loss what to do and how to handle him in those tantrums. He is very bright, he builds LEGO starships that are meant for much older kids, he is very strong-willed and a "drama queen". He is the oldest at home and in his preschool class, and he will start Kindergarten in fall. Do you have any advice?

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Thanks everybody for your great advice. Sometimes I get in a rut and forget to ask for help. Mamasource is a good resource.

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I have one exactly like you and I would love to see what people say. I have no fix it solution, but I am trying to reward the good behavior and not make too much of the bad. it is extremely hard. They know, at this age, that they are behaving inappropriately, so just to remind them of that helps them recognise it when it is happening. I am giving my son "special mommy time" without any siblings (it usually means lunch somewhere and an icecream!) so that he gets my full attention for a while (I always thought he had enough of my attention since he is such an attention seeker, but it doesn't seem so to him - so special time is clearly HIS time). I am also using a star in the jar prop - when he does something good, does something without complaining, manages to go with the flow if plans change etc etc, he gets to put one star in the jar. When the jar is full we go for a treat outing. We use this for the whole family - even the little ones can earn stars, so it is a team effort to fill the jar. It's a good way of remembering to praise the good behavior. Stars and jars can be found at Michael's. Otherwise the only thing I know and find hard is to be absolutely consistent with rules and threats. Looking forward to hearing more from others!

Go to Hand in Hand Parenting (www.handinhandparenting.org) and get their materials on tantrums. They sell lots of different little booklets on different parenting topics which are simple, short, and very helpful. I've been to one of their "Tantrum Training" classes here in the S.F. Bay Area, and it's remarkable what parents report when they use Hand in Hand's techniques. The techniques are easy to use, but they are all based on research in child development so they are grounded and proven. I recommend them highly!

You may not like what I have to say, but I spanked my son. I did not spare the rod. It was the only thing that worked.

Time out only worked for my daughter who is 20 months older than him.

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Hi, B.;
I noticed you mentioned "whenever things don't go his way." Has his loud complaining been getting him things he wants? With my kids I had a way of dealing with it at home: When she would wind up for a tantrum, I would say loudly so I know she heard, "Oh, no! I wanted to (have a treat, put in our favorite movie, go for a ride, do some artwork, read a book"--just fill in the blank--"with you, but we can't do that if you decide to cry instead! Tell you what: You go outside and finish crying, and hurry up, cause I want to have fun with you!" and all the time be ushering the offended out the door and say happily, "See you pretty soon!" On outings, of course, it is different. But I believe that these power struggles are like a tug of war game. So you just drop your end of the rope, however you can. Don't let him make you pick it up. In other words, calmly decide you are done shopping, done taking him somewhere, and leave with a disinterested attitude, or if you're NOT done with what you are doing, calmly keep pushing the cart down the isle, or whatever. I hope this helps. J.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't actually have any advice for you because I am going through the same thing with my 5 year old son. It's like the terrible 2's all over again! Let me know if you get any good advice and if anything works. I'm in the same boat that you are except that I work full time. So I come home after working an 8 hour stressfull day and have to deal with my 5 year old screaming and kicking and crying and my 11 year old daughter egging him on. *sigh* Someone help please!

Hi B.,
The first thing I would look at is make sure he was eating properly (cut out the sugar and fast foods). And some kids need a schedule to feel secure including scheduling time with just you and him and if he is really bright he needs to be creatively or physically challenged in his activities. I found that my daughter really needed a schedule - to know in advance what the day was going to look like. Flexibility was not in her vocabulary when she was young and it made her irritable when I would throw things in the day that she didn't know about. You and your husband should formulate a plan together and be consistant about your responses to his behavior. There's a book called "Bringing Up Boy's" by Dr. Dobson that might be of some help to you. I am a 52 yr. old mother of 3 girls 26, 23 and 14.

hard to tell, but sounds like he needs some good attention, loving focused and without distractions. Perhaps some art therapy would help him to get in touch with his feelings too, and then you can figure out what is going on.
Negative attention is a way of getting attention.

Hi B.,

I am 33, married, have a 7 yr old daughter and 5 yr old son, and can relate to everything you are saying. =)

It is possible that part of your son's "acting out" is because his younger brother might be "babied" a little more so this is his way of trying to get the attention back or maybe express his frustration when he is told he needs to be a certain way because he is the "older one." I thought of this especially when you mentioned that he gets in trouble for hitting his younger brother. The 3 year old probably gets into his "stuff" and is not as aware of how to share, interact with his sibling, so your 5 year old is trying to deal with this. I hope that the 3 year old is also reprimanded if he hits his older brother. He probably acts defiantly a lot because he might see that when his younger brother throws a fit, he is given some more leeway. So he thinks if he is defiant enough, he can get his way too.

I've learned that it seems phases are going on "too long" and then we begin wondering if it's more serious than just a "phase." I don't think you should feel any "embarrassment" when he screams in public. Sure, it makes everyone stare and you feel like a terrible mom or disciplinarian, but who cares what others think? The important thing is you, your children, and your relationship with them. Try not to let him feel he is embarrassing you...just deal with what is happening. Set some ground rules like: In our family, we do not scream in a store and have a tantrum like this. If you do, we will leave. (and you must stick to this). If kids throw screaming fits in a store, you just ignore the screaming, finish the shopping, and have a discussion about it at home. Another rule to set: In our family, hitting is not allowed. No one is allowed to hit anyone, no matter what. Even though it will happen anyway sometimes, if it's a family rule, they will be taught that it is never acceptable to hit each other.

I would also be careful about "labeling" your children because of self-fulfilling prophecies. If he is told he is "strong-willed" and a "drama queen," he will surely believe this about himself...after all if his mom thinks so, then he must be, right?

Being a stay at home mom can be tough, where you have to have buckets of patience and you have your kids with you almost all the time. I've found that forcing myself to be more patient, talking to my kids like adults and reasoning with them the same way, and always getting on my knees to be at their eye level when I talk to them, and treating them with respect...it works much better than having a constant battle going on.

I hope this information is helpful. Good luck.

* PS I saw some responses that say to get him tested for ADHD, etc. PLEASE keep in mind he is a child and children are not perfect and neither are adults. Perhaps he could be diagnosed in the future with something but then us adults could go get some Valium and be "mellow" all the time. There is a huge problem in this society of going overboard with diagnosing children with mental disorders when it's simply them being children.

The book "Temperament Tools" by Helen Neville has some good suggestions for recognizing what sort of personality your child has and how to gear your responses so that they'll be more effective (I know I have to try hard to restrain myself from being sarcastic or loud with my "drama queen" - who, like your son, is very bright but has difficulty expressing her feelings appropriately - because it ends up getting her *more* upset instead of helping her calm down)
Has your son been sensitive to "little things" like the water for a while or is that a totally new thing? If it's something that's been a problem before but just seems a bit more out of scale lately, you may want to look into whether he has some sensory integration issues. Just a thought (and if this is something you think you'd like to pursue further and you're in the East Bay, the folks at the Cornerstone program at the Ann Martin Center in Piedmont can be a helpful resource http://www.annmartin.org/cornerstone.html )

That's hard to deal with. When a child is throwing a tantrum (which sounds like what your son is doing) you might try removing him from the whole situation. If you are in a store - leave. Put him in his car seat and tell him he will be alone in the car until he is done screaming. Then stand outside the car. Don't worry about what other people think - you'll probably never see those people again! When the tantrum is over ask your son why he was angry or upset in a calm way and suggest better ways to communicate his anger. Nothing works the first time. It has to be a repeated in order for a child to learn. Hope this helps.

It is a phase. I have two jars. One is filled with big rocks and one is empty.
The rules: You get a rock for things. We call them listening rocks, big brother rocks, helping rocks (to promote kindness towards others), sharing rocks, recently silent rocks (for mommy needs a timeout) yes you can have time outs as well.
Everytime his behavior exhibits a habit you want to enforce you give him a rock. When he fills it up then he get to pick a toy from the $1 store. Learned from the Nannie!!! You will be very surprised about how good it works.
Also, I have found (opposite of most TV) that when my child watches this show he is embarrassed by the children's behavior and I find that he self reflects. It is very odd but we noticed it when we were watching that he will point out the behavior and say that the behavior is embarrassing.

4 kids, busy life

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