5 1/2 Yr Old with a MAJOR Attitude - Pls Help

Updated on June 10, 2009
S.M. asks from Hillside, NJ
4 answers

I am searching for some advice as to how I should approach my 5 1/2 year old daughter who is starting to have a a major attitude problem; she is talking back to me and has now started to roll her eyes -- I have tried putting her in time out, taking away priveladges, and tried talking to her BUT nothing seems to work. I find myself getting frustrated at times and really raising my voice to her -- this is not an approach that I want to take. I love my little girl and I want to keep a good relationship with her always - I guess I am just scared that if she is talking back to me with an attitude at 5 yrs old - what will she be doing when she gets older. Please help me put an end to this behavior now ... Can anyone please suggest something that might have worked for you. Thank you so much for your help.

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answers from New York on

Here's the deal... positive reinforcement is wonderful to increase the frequency of desired behaviors (hence, the reinforcement). This is NOT the same as ignoring bad behaviors (actually considered negative punishment). If we're "flashing credentials", I am a child psychologist and have lost track of the letters after my name at this point, but my training is in behavior modification so here goes!

First, take away absolutely everything aside from essentials. She will need to earn her items back with good behavior and compliance. This will initially result in some serious meltdowns, but you will reinforce every little "good thing" she does. For example, if she responds verbally w/o the 'tude, she can select one small item that can return to her room. As the behaviors become more frequent, her items and priviledges will return quickly.

Once the behaviors become part of her routine, you can reinforce with positive praise. Each return to the "bad behaviors" results in having an item of YOUR choice removed.

Raising your voice won't work b/c you are engaging her in a back-and-forth, which is lending credence to her argument (thus reinforcing the behavior). You are the parent, don't forget that. Many parents that I work with have a strong need for their children to "like" them. Unfortunately by not providing the limits that children crave, the exact opposite happens. Children become somewhat resentful and keep pushing the limits to see where the parent will draw the "line".

Couple of good reads... "Stop Arguing with Your Kids" by Dr. Michael Nichols and articles by John Rosemond www.rosemond.com

Good luck-

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answers from New York on

Hey S.,

Well I don't have a masters but my eldest is 13, plus i have a 3 and 4 year old.

What I find works, is NOT to engage her when she is being fresh.

Simply tell her in a gentle but FIRM voice to pick up her toys, or put her dish in the sink. Wait a moment remind her if necessary making sure she looks you in the eye when you say this.

finally if she gives you attitude, you simply explain the rules remaining calm

" LISA I want you to put your dish in the sink now, if you do not do so then you will go to sleep.

( then follow thru and send her to bed, no toys , no TV)
10 to 15 minutes should suffice. Set an eggtimer in her room or the hallway so that she can hear it ticking and go off.

During this time she will run you ragged either crying, kicking screeming, yelling, disobeying and leaving the room,
you remain calm and say nothing. returning her to her room if necessary.

eventually she will stop and calm down.

5 minutes after she calms down you into the room, and talk to her, explaining that from now on if she misbehaves, this will be the consequence.

That you expect her to listen to you, and do as you ask.
and that you expect her to talk nicely to you. Because you talk nicely to her.

ask her if she understands, and when she agrees hug her, kiss her and help her put her dish in the sink.

OK-- Attitude, kids give you attitude as a means of engaging you. making you feel as angry as they feel.

You can't take it personal. ( easier said than done right)

I firmly believe that a child does NOT have to LIKE the punishment,afterall it is a punishment not a reward, its unreasonable for you to expect her to be happy about it. the most important thing is that she listens and follows thru.

learning to reel in her attitude comes with time,
and example.

Basically you need to be overly polite with her and everyone else. As does your spouse.

ATTITUDE is learned.

Becareful what you and everyone else is saying around her.
and especially HOW they say it,

Pay attention to the TV shows she is watching.
you'd be surprised at how kids pick up on these things.

OK last thing, talking back is a means of NEGOTIATION.
your child needs to realize that you will not Negotiate.
your the boss, thats it.

Now is it unreasonable for your child to want a compromise?
NO way. she sees you and everyone else around her doing this everyday.

Mom there is no easy solution. she needs to know that there are consequences to her actions.

but I also believe that she needs to be recognized when she listens in a positive way. So be on the look out for good behaviors. and have a reward ready and waiting. as a surprise for being good.

My last little tid bit on the subject. She is 5 so she should be able to help out around the house, collecting laundry, and setting the table, putting the dishes in the dishwasher. ( use plastic )

Do not pay her an allowance, as in real life no one ever pays you for doing these things.

But you can pay her with your time.

Create an activity to do with her with the time saved.
each day. this is her reward.

This is what I do with my boys.
it works,

But don't expect and opvernight miracle, and don't expect that you won't have to repeat yourself atleast a million more times. And then just when you think you have it all together. your kid goes and changes LOL.

Good luck,hope it helps.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Wow - what great advice you got from Cristina. I do agree with the positive reinforcement - Remember not to get to complicated - make it something you are going to do and it doesn't have to be everything at once. Baby steps count too.

I would also pay attention to her blood sugar - You no longer have the same control over the nutrition of what she is eating. She is making more of her own choices within what you allow - & it is not always the most balanced for blood sugar. Take a look at yourself also - we get more easily frustrated when we are depleted or our blood sugar is low. I know I do! lol

I have a great health presentation that might give you some nutritional pointers. www.nosickvisits.com




answers from New York on

Hi S., I understand your concerns and frustrations. My daughter is now almost 13 and I have a masters degree in special ed. What I found worked with my daughter and also with my students who have behavioral issues is definitely POSITIVE reinforcement. This means give your daughter a lot of praise and attention when she is doing the right things and try to ignore whenever possible when she is acting up. Sometime children will continue to act up when they recieve more attention by misbehaving than when they behave because for kids, believe it or not, negative attention is still attention. Perhaps she was use to having all your attention and now with a baby brother she is sharing it?
I believe Psychology really plays an important role at this young age. If you downplay/ ignore her acting up and really emphasis when she listens, for example saying "I love the was you helped me do this, your a great helper" and "Your being very patient today, I love the way your sitting nicely". The child will often take your lead and go with it.... When I was teaching prek and was faced with a number of active children, this was how I set the tone. "I love the way Johnny is doing his work, great job" and students would look and emulate him and notice that I ignored Ben who was goffing off. They got the message that if they wanted my praise and attention they needed to behave. I actually had student competing for who was my best helper. Give this method some time BE CONSISTENT on ignoring the acting out and teach her by EXAMPLE not lecture: "See how mommy talks nicely to you- I like it when you talk the same way to me." If you consistently model the behavior you want to see in your daught it will work
Good luck I hope this helps

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