5 Year Old Defiance

Updated on July 24, 2009
M.D. asks from Rochester, NY
18 answers

I am new here. I found mamasource from a google search...I searched because I am at my wits end and need A. to speak with others who may understand and B. get some "tried and true" advice.

I am a teacher on summer vacation and, as such, have been spending a lot of time with my son lately. So far, summer has been stressful. My son seems to expect my constant attention and constant entertainment and when he doesn't get it (and sometimes even when he does) he does everything wrong; defies me, hits people, breaks all of the known "rules," etc. I know that some of this is age and gender appropriate and that some is likely the impulsivity of ADHD, but I'm losing patience and running out of ideas with regard to discipline/consequences. We have a system in place which involves a 3 chances per day to make mistakes...if any chances remain at the end of a day, we call it a good day and he gets a magnet on a calendar for each chance remaining...then a small toy or other reward for every 10 magnets. If he keeps all 3 chances in a day, he gets a special token gift. (usually a Pokemon card.) Discipline usually consists of time outs.

It is so important to me to raise a respectful, decent, happy young man and at the end of the day I just don't feel successful.

I'm not sure that that is enough for you to go on, but can't wait for some feedback.

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So What Happened?

We had a great day today!!!

Thanks so much for all of your input...I feel better just having vented and heard from people who get it. I will follow up on your links and book suggestion and come up with some sort of new chart plan.

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

Is he getting services from the school district? If not, request an evaluation right away and get their services. It will help tremendously! If you are, call them and request more services.

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answers from New York on

Hi M.,
As a teacher, I'm sure you've heard something about 1 - 2 - 3 Magic. I've seen flyers sent home with my children notifying parents of classes at the school. It is very benificial. It works with my kids, I have 4.

You didn't state how many good days you've had in the last couple weeks, or how many bad days. I am assuming that the bad outweighs the good days?

Have you thought about taking away a "chance" and have him only start out with 2, then, if there is more, they carry over to the next day?

Or offer something a little better than a sticker, like take him out for ice cream, a special day at the local pool, or park/playground, a hiking trip, a playdate, or just out to lunch. Something away from the house, different, something you don't usually do together/or do often.

Tell him ahead of time, when you both wake, that you would like to take him out tonight for ice cream, but only if he doesnt use all of his chances.

Try one change at a time, like better things to look forward to, first, then if that doesnt work after a week, take away 1 chance per day, and keep minor, cheap extra treats.

This may have been a little confusing, sorry, it all kind out popped out of my head. You'll figure something out.

I know, its hard to keep kids occupied all day long. And it can get expensive trying to treat them when they are good.

I do not like seeing kids diagnosed with adhd, and medicated. I do understand that some kids do need help with this, but most, I think only need to be stimulated, find something to keep the kids busy, keep the minds busy and learning.

I have no clue what to do with my 8 year old son around the house here, so I send him to my parents. He hangs with his pop-pop, helps him fix lawn mowers/cars/tractors/tires, chop & stack wood, (anything my dad can get his hands on), mows the lawn, weeds the garden, rides his bike, fixes his bike. Everything that his pop-pop does.

Does your son have a man close in his life that he can learn these things from? It may help alot to keep him busy, entertained.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Syracuse on

I have a 5 yr old boy(and a 10,8,7,and almost 3yr old boys too)...you got a lot of responses already, but I just have to throw my 2 cents in too. First, if you don't go to bed exhausted and doubtful/frustrated sometimes...well them you're not doing a good job. the fact that you care enough to labor over your actions/his reactions screams...GREAT MOTHER to me. Second I am all about the positive learning/rewards for good behavior although I think you're doing it a little backwards(please don't be offended...I did it wrong at first too)and here's why...no 3 strikes/chances...YOU'RE TEACHING HIM NOT TO LISTEN UNTILL YOU'RE ANGRY!!!!!! keep the chart, but he has to earn everything...no 1,2,3...I did this whole counting to 3 and my oldest son doesn't even move til 3...my husband and I laugh about it now because we call him...Caden, Caden...CADEN!!!(and then he perks up...we hit 3 and he listens and to be honest that is really annoying!!!) So from my own expirence...I say keep the chart or do a point system and add the points up...but focus on what you want him to do, not what you don't want him to do. I attended a parenting seminar once and it changed the way I talk when the speaker said children hear the action word not the whole phrase...so in stead of saying "don't run!!" where they hear RUN...say "walk!!" "don't stand on the couch" should be "sit" and so forth. Thirdly, you're a teacher...you're used to making lesson plans...USE your strengths...make a calander/chart and hang it where he can see it...even if he can't read it yet, you guys can go over it everyday together. This does 2 major things for you it builds a structured routine(you could pencil in everything or just meals and trips)and it gives him another physical reminder of what he has to look forward to...the park/playdate/zoo/dad's whatever...We're all about routine over here...of course I have 5 and w/o my calendar/schedule i'd be lost :) Goodluck and don't worry you're doing a great job!!!!



answers from New York on

Hi M.,
My oldest was an ADHD kid too, and needed the constant entertainment - seemed like the more attention you gave her, the more she demanded. I think that for many kids, the unstructured atmosphere of summer is too much for them to handle. I am a big believer of day camp and summer programs, even if you don't work during the summer. My kids always did camp, even the summers that I have off, they needed structured activity and socialization. I couldn't offer them what they needed and I don't feel in the least bit badly about that.
Good luck!



answers from New York on

Dear M.,
I've always believed that no behavior is age or gender appropriate. Bad behavior is simply not acceptable.
My daughter would have been labeled as ADHD, if it had been known at the time. She was extremely active, so I understand how you feel. My solution was to keep her active physically; swimming lessons, dance lessons, trips to the park, and many walks together. Having a dog also expended her endless energy. She was diagnosed with dislexia, which made learning difficult. But we worked through that together. Despite her learning disability and her over-active nature, she graduated from college and is now a family therapist, dealing with families whose children have behavioral problems.
My advice is to take your son's attributes, and use them for his benefit. You're a teacher, you can do this.
I must say that I do not understand your rewards system with your son. Three mistakes per day are acceptable - No. In life, are mistakes allowable? So, what are you teaching your son? think about it?



answers from New York on

You mentioned ADHD in your note has your son been diagnosed? If not perhaps try a holistic approach to discover if he has it and how to deal with it:


His activity level: If he's looking to you t be his main source of activity/entertainment perhaps find him a summer program that REALLY keeps the kids busy and active during the day. My son's summer camp keeps them moving all day -- it's great he's ready to fall out by 6:30pm on camp days.

The need for discipline: http://www.parenting.com/article/Child/Behavior/Ask-Dr-Se...

I'm sure there are other websites that may address discipline needs for children with ADHD too.

good luck!

good luck



answers from New York on

Wow- you sounds totally overwhelmed and exhausted. Do you have support to help you? I hope so becasue it will help you stay refreshed and able to manage some of the more challenging behaviors! Have you sought out any kind of services to support your son? Parents and children as young as 5 can benefit from some therapeutic services to find solutions to the challenges you are dealing with. I worked as a therapist with children and I always said there is no book about your child. Some dsicipline approaches work for some children and not for others. We write the book on our child everyday and sometimes get it right and other times have to try again. have you tried a more positive discipline approach or chart addressing one or two behaviors at a time? Is your son in any kind of a camp or anything> Often when kids have so much unstructured times they exhibit more behaviors. I have dealt with ADHD both professionally and personally and it is very hard. These children can be very misubderstood but can also drive evryone absolutely nuts. Find something for yourself to maintain your sanity! I love in Gillette too....nice to see another Gillette mom!



answers from New York on

Suggestions to help you:
-give him a list (of 3) places to go (beach, zoo, playdate, movie, game arcade) let him choose.
-buy a game u need to play together
- set aside alone time/privacy for u both (give him a timer when its up)
- good luck. Maybe he's so excited to be with you. He is seeking atructure he has during year, he needs to see more peers or needs to feel more control.

Have a good summer! He'll grow up before u know it. So create special memories + talk about it a lot!!! Ask him what he likes best about whichever activity he chose, his fave food, fave music...give him a good time!


answers from New York on

I read your "So what happened?" summary and skimmed through the responses. I'll try to be brief and not repeat.

I am a special education teacher, home on vacation, too. Even before the summer time came, we were having the same type of issues that you are describing. I don't know where you live, but we decided to enroll my son, Conner, in Tae Kwon Do. I highly recommend Master Song Academy in Fairfield. He's a little more expensive than some other places, but he is great with the kids and sets up a behavior chart with the parents to use outside of class. At the end of the month, he takes Conner aside and reviews the smiles and x's that are on it. Conner has learned to respect Master Song and he doesn't want to disappoint him, so just knowing that we are going to tell him is enough to make Conner change his behavior. Plus, the class is training him to be more focused and aware of his behaviors. There is a lot of positive reinforcement during the class, too.

The other advice you received about being consistent with consequences and rewarding great days is what we do, too. In addition to putting Conner in time-out, we also remove one of his favorite toys from the play area and put it on top of the refridgerator. He has to be good for a whole day before he can get it back. Sometimes the fridge is covered with toys, sometimes days can go by and there are no toys up there.




answers from Utica on

Hi M.
and welcome!!
Is it possible that you are training him as you would children in a classroom, and therefore not putting on your
"mother" hat?
I am old & maybe old enough to be your mother. Are you able to talk to her? I hope so.
Any way, I am against the 3 strikes rule, in any way. I can tell you that it works great in a classroom because they come with different rules and must learn the rules of the classroom. He is 5, your rules are your rules, end of discussion. "If he is good", lets him know that you know(expect) him to be bad, or do wrong so he does. Not only that but you are watching for him to mess up. No matter what situation you are in what you are watching for you will see and hear. What happened to the thought that what you expect you will get? Teachers in the classroom that expect to have a group of genius kids and treat them as such, allow there class to reach for the stars. Right?
Moms who expect their children to reach the stars, help them to achieve that. Right?
When I started homeschooling I learned that I already ran my house like a classroom with mom in charge, homeschooling made me run school time with the teacher in me in charge, but I had to remove that hat to mother them.
Smart children never have enough to do at home.
I had an MD tell me that it was alot more difficult to raise a smart child than an average child because you had to have so much more available for them and that includes more of yourself. I agree. You can't freak, you have to be ready with something else to do whenever they need it.
My mom always said "if you watch your child closely you will be able to learn what triggers the bad times and avoid them by changing the situation before it happens" I also found that to be true, but alot more difficult to enact, but well worth it each time you do.
We all need cool off time, but usually at my house it was me. I would say "mom needs time off" go to your room and ________, I will call you when I feel better. It takes the pressure off them, and I had broad enough shoulders as mom to say, I am escalating the problem.
Acting rude and breaking the rules is normal show of independence. Testing limits, normal. Gets them ready for the school environment, where they must stand on their own two feet and do what is right. Has he been places where there are different rules? Maybe that needs to be addressed.
God bless you
Trust you will get lots of ideas
K. === SAHM married 38 years --- adult children --- 38, coach; 33, lawyer, married with 1yo, my most stressful child; 19, fine arts major, 3.8 GPA, living on campus, summer job special needs rehab house monitor; 19, twin sister, journalism major, 3.7 GPA, commuting, summer job nanny for our grandson across the country. I homeschooled the twins.



answers from Albany on

Hi M.-my 5 year old has been going thru the same thing-acting rude and breaking the rules. We went back to daily treats for 1-2 weeks for good behavior on her chart and also some more down time in her day and she eventually turned it around. I know it's not easy!!!



answers from New York on

hi M., i struggle with my 6 year old too, he just seems to require so much more attention than the other 2. i guess maybe its a first born thing. anyway, one thing that struck me about your post is your discipline/reward system. i think that a full day is just too long for most 5 year olds, and especially if your son has adhd, or just adhd tendencies. i think you are setting him up for failure without meaning to, its just too overwhelming. i would shoot for a much smaller block of time, and fewer tokens or whatever, so he can experience more immediate and meaningful rewards and consequences. at 5 years old, time on a clock probably doesnt mean much to him, i would think of a way to break up your day that makes sense with your routines, ... also, chances "to make mistakes" is very broad and nonspecific, it expects an awful lot of any 5 year old. unless thats just how you were wording it to sum up for your posting? i would do something like, if you can keep your hands to yourself from now until lunch, or whatever, then you earn....etc.... try to focus on one or 2 behaviors at a time, whatever is most important to you, and whatever you think he can succeed at right away so he gets a real taste not only of your rewards, but much more importantly of your genuine and very enthusiastic (overly) praise and attention. i know you must be exhausted, and it can be so tough to muster up that kind of of emotion by late in the day (or even early in the day, some days!), but it sounds like that is all he really wants anyway, not so much trinkets, which im sure he likes, but your attention and time. try rewards like that, it might be more effective. if you get ready quickly/pick up your things/have good manners during lunch/play with your toys while i make dinner/whatever ..... we will go for a walk together/play one game of....., something like that. the time you invest now will pay off later. i have tried so many different reward systems, charts, tokens, prizes, etc. in the end, i find it much more effective to keep it simple, and that my big smiles and hugs and genuine words of praise and appreciation and reiterating what they did right and why it was good, and time spent together is the most effective. (and time outs too, make sure he is truly miserable if you are giving time outs, lots of times they really dont mind, be sure your negative consequences ARE negative to him) oh, and dont underestimate the power of good old exhaustion, he might need to burn off more energy in a positive way. go do something physical, swimming really wipes them out! plus it can be really nice quality time for the 2 of you. i know its hard, and i often need to take my own advice, but try to look at the summer not as something to survive, but as precious time during which you have full control and can really focus on him and turning things around a bit. i wish you all the best. i am a stay at home mom, and hubby works hard and i often feel like i do everything, and i catch myself thinking that i feel like a single mom sometimes, then i think to myself, holy cow, i have some nerve because i cannot imagine how actual single moms do it! i give you so much credit. ...and i was a teacher before i started having kids, and i know how all consuming and exhausting and unappreciated that often is, so you really have your hands full. i wish you both all the best, really. i hope you enjoy the summer.



answers from New York on

Hi M.
I really feel for you and your son and I hope you can find some answers. I also have a 5 year old son who I stay home with. I think your expectations are a little to high. Five years olds make mistakes... it's how they learn. It's also part of how they test their boundaries. They want to see how far they can push the rules.
As far as your 3 chance plan I think it's unfair & unrealistic. I'm sure you make mistakes every day, possibly 3 or more in a day and you're an adult. Mistakes makes us human.
Try to see him as a fun adventurous boy and enjoy the fun times. Reward and recognize the good behavior. It reenforces it and if he sees it makes you proud he'll continue to do it. Recognize the little things too... like dressing himself and brushing his teeth. Try to focus more on the good things he does because the bad things will decrease and they won't bother you as much.
Just remember that he's not one of your high school students so don't expect him to act like them and please don't label him. So many teachers are quick to label little boys. Boys just need some time to run & play and some boundaries where it's o.k. for them to be active healthy boys. Be patient and just remember he won't be five for long! All the best!



answers from New York on

Most of the response I read seems like good advice and information that you can take to tailor to you and your child's needs. If you're interested in reading, there is a wonderful book about children who have challenging behavior, it's called "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I think that you can a lot of great ideas from this author. Ideas that will probably be more beneficial for you at this moment. I hope that you have the opportunity to read it. A.



answers from New York on

Hi M., and welcome!

I can't offer any personal advice as I don't have a child with ADHD, but I can share what has worked for my cousin who has a seven year old with ADHD. She's struggled with him last summer and keeping him busy, and what she finally did was enroll him in morning camps this summer. He worked with her on picking the camps that interested him the most (mostly sports, but he did go to one art camp and in August he's going to a computer camp), and he goes from 8-12 p.m. every morning. A few of the camps offer lunch, and he decided he wanted to stay through lunch so he could talk to his friends. My cousin felt a bit guilty at first, but he loves it and it gives her time to spend with her other kids without the fear of the ADHD acting up.

On a related note, my cousin also completely eliminated Red 40 food dye from her son's diet, and that helped dramatically with her behavioral problems. I'm not sure if it will work for you, but it is worth suggesting.

My best to you!



answers from New York on

The fact that you are on summer vacation and spending more time with your son seems to tell the story. He is testing you and enjoying your attention..good or bad. The testing isnt working since you give him 3 chances to mess up. He cant figure out his limits if he is allowed to mess up at all. Instead of 3 chances to mess up, give him to the count of 3 to STOP whatever he is doing. At his age he needs to be reminded often that he is breaking the rules.
You want him to say please and thank you and be respectful, then dont give him what he wants unless he says it. I always said "I cant hear you." Or "whats the magic word?" They do forget and so do adults. Soon all you will need to do is look at him expectantly and he will remember. You can see the little wheels turning and then the light dawning.
As far as the ADHD is concerned are you sure he just isnt a normal active 5 y/o? Is he getting enough exercise? Kids especially boys that age have an extraordinary amount of energy. Also a very short attention span, well its really that so much interests them that they jump from one thing to another, this is great for their development, but hard on the parent.
When it comes to hitting he should not get a warning, he is old enough to know its wrong. Immediately give him a time out, no warning, no scolding. After the time is up ask him if he knows why. he will know. Then tell him you will not tolerate hurting other people or animals. Hug him and send him off to play.
When he defies you,do you argue? This is giving him the attention he needs, warn him to behave, count and punish. Dont argue, this is an easy trap for a parent to get into and it never works.
Now perhaps your expectations are too high. I dont know, but you mentioned he constantly breaks "all of the known" rules. Perhaps there are too many rules. He isnt in school and you shouldn't expect him to behave as your students do. Try to see if you cant ease up on some of the rules and spend more time having FUN.



answers from New York on

Hi M.
Sounds like you really need some extra help. It doesn't seem like the 3 chances thing is working; if it's not, then definitely don't wait to do something different. It may be too difficult for your son to remember the 3 "chances."

Have you read any books about how to raise ADHD kids? Also, have you thought about getting him evaluated, which would include getting extra help on how to discipline him (you don't have to put him on meds just because you get him evaluated, if that is something you are worried about).

I personally like the Step parenting approach. It is reasonable, respectful, and in the moment. Kids need in the moment discpline, which could be one reason why the 3 chances may not be working.
I hope all works out well for you and your son.



answers from Rochester on


Wow, there wasn't much here that I gave you - just my thoughts really.

Not instead of activities but in addition to them - take him to the park. You don't have to run around. If there are undesirable influences there you can find another one. Get a soccer ball on a tether. he can kick the ball back to himself. :)

Bring lots of little snacks, too - healthy and stuff that boosts his protein a little in between meals. Sometimes hyper is because of hunger or thirst. His own water bottle would be great. (I always pack TP & soap for the park - bc they don't want to stop playing!)

Back to my original post:

Nothing is an instant fix.

Look up API - attachment parenting international. It is not something you have to start from birth to gain the benefits from.

You will get new ideas and new perspectives. Above all, you might find a new level of closeness with your son.

Be sure to read the introduction.

My understanding of punishment is punitive - take away something for a behavior that is unacceptable. Rewards are given for behaviors that are acceptable.

Discipline to my understanding teaches the correct behavior. We all learn as a result of being taught over and over and over again what is the right way to do something. As adults, we can make the connections faster and sometimes if not most get it on the first try. Kids don't have this advantage.

It's hard not to lose your cool, but keeping it will help your son learn something else: keeping his cool.

I wish you luck and send hope that your son will be able to discipline his actions by himself soon.


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