18 answers

Punishment for a 5 Year Old

Ok ladies. I have a 5 year old that gets angry when he's playing with something and he can't manipulate it the way he wants. He then get's angry and throws the toy. I've started punishing him by making him write "I will not throw" for 7 or 8 times. Is this to harsh or not harsh enough?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

There is a GREAT book, easy read-BOUNDARIES WITH KIDS-Drs. Cloud & Townsend. Will help with MOST parenting questions. Hang in there! L.

It doesn't sound too harsh to me. If you need ideas for disapline we just read a very good book. How to Raise Children you want to Keep. Lots of great ideas that have been tested on this profesionals own children as well as his clients. We are just starting to implement some of the ideas in it.

Best Wishes!

K. B

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Sounds like you've already gotten a ton of good advice, but I will add my two cents anyway. I think that teaching problem solving is the key. People get frustrated when they can't figure things out. When my son gets frustrated (he is 11), I have him stop what he is doing and think for a minute. I then ask him questions: What's wrong/what's going on? Why are you frustrated/What are you trying to do? When we get to the root of the problem (ie what he is trying to accomplish) then I ask him to think of solutions. If he can't think of a way to fix it or do it himself, I ask him if it is a good idea to throw the toy and why NOT? (He could break the toy, he could break something he could hurt someone) I help him figure that part out. Then I ask him what he could do besides throw it...the BIG answer is always "ASK FOR HELP".

I know it sounds like a lot of trouble for one little toy, but trust me, having them spend their time answering all those questions is normally punishment enough. Plus, it gives them time to calm down and ultimately work through something difficult.

THE BONUS: Well, you have laid the groundwork for them understanding how to problem solve on their own! This method takes time and patience, but who hasn't met adults that still cannot problem solve, and how sad is that?!

Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful

I would not make him write as a punishment or he will look at writing as a chore later on. But I would take the toy away. When toys get thrown in my house both the toy and the child go in time out. one minute per year of life. so 5 mins for your little guy.

2 moms found this helpful

I don't think it's too harsh, but I also don't think it's gpoing to address the root cause, so you'll keep doing the same thing over and over and over. I don't believe he's "manipulating" you at all. He's just getting frustrated and expressing it in a negative way.
It's really not about the toy, it's about learning how to deal with frustration IN GENERAL. (So I don't think "keeping the toy in sight but out of reach" is a great solution. That's just taunting him and asking for more trouble, in my humble opinion.)

Children behave better when they feel good about themselves, not when they are made to feel bad. (That's a quote from the "Positive Discipline" books - my kids' school uses it as a model for their discipline policies and it's required reading for all the parents.)

I think the best thing you can do is to help him deal with frustration in general, because whether it's from a toy or a friend or a teacher (or one day a job, a girlfriend, or spouse), life will hand him plenty of frustration, so it's good if he can recognize it and express it appropriately.
How well is he at expressing himself? Does he even know what it means to be "frustrated" - and that it's a kind of anger? Teach him the difference between frustration, disappointment, jealousy, envy, etc. (A lot of *adults* get jelousy and envy mixed up.) Does he have acceptable ways of expressing his anger? There are lots of books to help kids this age sort out thier feelings (Like "When Sophie Gets Mad, Really Really Mad" and "Alexander and the No-Good, Very Bad, Horrible Day" - stuff like that.) He probably sees his parents get at least a little frustrated every day. Talk about it. (Especially if you realize you fussed at your child because you were frustrated with... I don't know... the broken dishwasher or whatever. That's a great opportunity to talk about emotions. Like "Honey, I'm sorry I snipped at you a little while ago - I wasn't upset at you, I was just frustrated with <whatever>." He'll understand.)

Also, maybe these particular toys are just too difficult for him to play with independently and should only be taken out when an adult has time to sit and help. (When my son turned 5, ALLLL the gifts he got from friends were very complex with a bunch of tiny pieces, requiring a lot of time and supervision to assemble. (Robot kits and marble runs, etc.) So I try to set them aside until we have lots of time, like on a weekend.

It sounds like you can tell when he's starting to get frustrated with the toys, so maybe you can intervene when he first starts having the problem. When a parent helps a child do just a little more than they are capable of doing on their own, it's called "scaffolding" and it's one of the best ways to help your child's development without pushing them too hard.

So my advice is: (1)Find the toys that are too difficult for him to handle on his own and set them aside until you have time to play *with* him. This isn't punitive, so don't keep it "in his sight but out of reach".

(2)If you see him starting to get frustrated with a toy, INTERVENE before he gets angry.

(3)Talk about emotions, read books about kids getting angry, and find acceptable ways for him to express frustration, impatience, disappointment, anger, etc.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 5 year old too. If I saw that behavior happening, I would probably sit her down and talk to her about the best (most effective and not-gonna-get-you-in-trouble) ways to handle frustration. I'd say, "you know, when I get frustrated with something I can't make work, I put it down and think, think, think. If I still can't, I ask for help. But throwing is NOT an option. You may break something, hurt someone, or get in trouble -- and you STILL haven't made your problem go away. Let's think together about some better ways to deal with that frustration, okay?"

Explain to him that if he continues to throw things, he will lose them -- ALL. Learning how to handle frustration in a nonviolent, productive way is going to be a very important life lesson he'll need forever.

Maybe his burst of energy when he gets frustrated can be redirected. Maybe jumping jacks? After a while, standing in a room doing jumping jacks over a toy seems pretty silly -- good way to diffuse the situation?

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I am probably repeating a lot of others, but I would be afraid that making him write would make him see writing as a punishement... at a time when he is learning to write and should be encouraged to do so! I always try to "make the punishment fit the crime". So I'd take away the toy for a while. Sit him down and explain that when he's frustrated he should ask for help instead of throwing. I have a 5 year old too... and this happens plenty in our house.

1 mom found this helpful

M., Beth has the right idea here. First of all, five year olds are notorious for "temper tantrums", though I tend to think of such episodes as frustration fits. This is the time that he feels he is a "big boy", and it is frustrating to him when he cannot do something he intends to do. So it's not so much that he is angry, as he is frustrated and taking it out on the toy. I agree totally that the toy should be taken away immediately at that point (to teach him there are consequences to our actions), but calmly taken and the child put in time out along with a verbal explanation of why the toy is taken and why he is in time out -- mistreatment of our toys means we are not allowed to play with them until we can treat them better. Time out is to teach him to take a break from stress long enough to pull himself together (teaching what will become self-discipline). My one addition here is that after he has had his five minutes to calm himself down, you should then retrieve the toy and teach him how to do whatever it was that he was attempting to do to begin with. Do all of your disciplining with understanding of the length of his attention span, as well. If he is still unable to master the skill he was attempting and throws the toy again, repeat until he understands what is happening. Five is a difficult age for most kids and mothers of those kids, but we've all survived it fairly well, so hang in there! I agree with Beth, too, that if you make him write as "punishment", he will learn to hate writing and see it as something he will avoid or he might do the opposite and decide the writing is fun and it will no longer have any effect on his behavior. Either way, writing is not the answer. Teach him consequences instead that relate to the actions. Also, when you see that he is playing nicely with his toys later, reward him with praise! Positive consequences for positive actions -- negative for negative.

1 mom found this helpful

it sounds like he's frustrated with not being able to do it by himself...i'd try helping him figure it out first, because he may just no be able to handle the frustration, and isn't being "bad" on purpose?

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,

A 5 year old is VERY capable of manipulation and PLOTTING manipulation. This is the time to end it. I agree with Karen, it is not a strong enough punishment. Every child is different and some do not need as much, but believe me you want to nip this NOW. He KNOWS what his punishment will be and he has weighed the consequences and HE realizes it is not enough to stop him and he has CHOSEN.

A 5 year old has no rights to choose. Those are only rewards for good behavior.

God bless you!

I'd start by taking the toy away. Put it in a place where he can see it, but not get to it. That can be a reminder to him of what throwing his toys will do. Writing could help, but do it a few more times. If it doesn't appear to curb his throwing, I'd take that part of it away.

Good luck!!

The writing isn't a good punishment. I only give it to my son when he's apologizing to someone. Sit with him when he plays. When he starts getting frustrated teach him appropriate ways to calm down and deal with his frustration. This will not happen quickly and you will havbe to repeat yourself a lot. But be patient and it will eventually come.

It doesn't sound too harsh to me. If you need ideas for disapline we just read a very good book. How to Raise Children you want to Keep. Lots of great ideas that have been tested on this profesionals own children as well as his clients. We are just starting to implement some of the ideas in it.

Best Wishes!

K. B

My 5yr old gets very frustrated when she can't figure something out. She does get in trouble (she is still good about going to time out and still hates it), but when she is done we discuss other ways she could handle it. Which is usually calling the item stupid and walking away to cry it out for a few minutes. Still not appropriate, but she gets the walking away part.When she has calmed herself down, she returns. She now knows to count to 10 and try again. If she is still frustrated, she knows it is time to ask for help and that even momyy and daddy often have to ask for help, too. We still have our moments of throwing things from time to time, but she has improved. Just try not to show you are getting frustrated, too. And I agree w/ everyone else that said don't make writing a chore or punishment. Good luck.

There is a GREAT book, easy read-BOUNDARIES WITH KIDS-Drs. Cloud & Townsend. Will help with MOST parenting questions. Hang in there! L.

Your punishment doesn't fit the crime. He is 5yrs old and still learning how to express himself verbaly just like when 2yr old throw fits when they don't get their way. They know they are upset but don't know now to put the words together to express it. My daughter went though something like this around the age of 5. I would send her to her room and she wasn't allowed to come out till she was calm. Which sometimes took and hour or more because then she'd get upset that she got sent to her room!! When she would calm down, we would talk about what she did, why it was wrong (most of the time she knew it was wrong but did it out of frustration anyways) and we talked about feelings, (happy, sad, mad) and picked one that discribed how she felt when she first got upset. I let her know it is ok to feel mad or sad when something doesn't go the way you expect it just like it's ok to feel happy when something good happnes. So we worked on proper behaviour by properly expressing herself in times when she normally would have thrown a fit. I allowed her to tell me she was mad at the cat or me or what ever it was that made her feel that way as long as she didn't throw a fit. We would talk about why it made her mad and what can be done next time so it won't happen. If she threw a fit, she had to go to her room and then time out would start after she calmed down. After a lot of tail and errors, she got the hang of it and started to express herself when she was frustrated. Even now at 8yrs old I still have to remind her to use words instead of actions.

Just hang in there with him and teach him how to put words with his frustrations and how to use words instead of actions. After a while, then you can use time outs as punishment for the actions as reinforcement of the behaviours you won't tollerate like throwing toys.

Good luck!

I agree with Beth. I take the toys away from my children and I put it on a shelf in the living room, this way they see it. I will normally give it back the next day.

I also think he will grow to see writing as a chore and when he gets older you will have to fight to get him to do his engish homework. I know that writing is becoming more and more a popular punishment, but I have also seen that cause of a few. And now the parents have to punish their older children for not doing their reports.

I wish you luck and keep in mind , what works for most children may not work for yours.
My 6 yr old is one of the children that most punishments , only last a week or a few days on. We are now trying the reward system, so far so good, week 3


Having a child write is never an appropriate consequence at any age. He may begin to associate writing with punishment, which will not be good for him in school. I think a lot of children feel frustration when they cannot figure something out, because they feel defeated. It sounds more like your son needs encouragement and positive reinforcement when he succeeds. When he cannot figure out a toy and throws it, sit down with him and show him how to use the toy properly. Encourage him to try it and promptly cheer for him when he does even the slightest thing right. Even if he doesn't use the toy right, make sure you cheer him on when he does something completely different/out of the ordinary with the toy. This encourages and fosters creativity.

Good luck! And I hope your little man starts to feel better about his toys soon!


Hi M.:

If writing the sentences is not working you need something that is a little more attention getting. I had a very tempermental child and we had to do some very different types of punishment to get her attention. I would tell him whatever he throws will be taken away and not given back until he can control him self for a specified period of time. Not hours but days. If he ends up with no toys he will eventually get the picture.


Looking for harsh isn't the answer. www.loveandlogic.com is a great way to parent. It's awesome. You don't get angry or hit as a parent, which we all know causes the child to get angry and hit others. It's best to handle it in a way where the child owns the problem. I would say in a sad and very empathetic voice..."oh, this is so sad, you threw your toy". Then, you pick up the toy and dispose of it or so he thinks or really get rid of it. Or, same sadness..."looks like you need some alone time". He gets sent to his room. Then you say, "You may come out just as soon as you are acting nice." All in a nice voice....no lecturing!

Don't lose your cool. Remember, kids see how we handle things. If we are angry with them, how can we expect them to handle their frustration and anger when we can't even do it as a parent?

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