5 Year Old Independence??

Updated on January 12, 2011
B.S. asks from Lansing, MI
15 answers

How common or uncommon is it for a five year old not to want to express independence. My five year old shows independence only when its convenient for her, she can/will do things on her own but prefers to have help. She has always been like this. When I make her do it on her own, its a fit every time. EVERY TIME. No matter how many times i've made her do it. It just gets old. And I'm not sure if this is quite common for her age, her personality. Her sister, who is only 3 is quite the opposite. Anyway, if this isn't common and even if it is, does anyone have any suggestions to stop these fits?

She doesn't want to get dressed, she doesn't want to brush her own teeth, she doesn't want to put on shoes, coat, seatbelt....etc etc. She can do all these things with ease, but just gets in this mode sometimes where she can't do any of it and needs help.

I keep thinking with age it will get better, but will it?


Yes, she is in Kindergarten and has no problems as far as i know doing it on her own there.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for all of the ideas! She does do this a lot when she is tired, mornings & nights. Like I said, if its, hey we are going to Grandma's house, she does it all on her own without a problem. So I'm guessing you are all right I need to put my foot down. I think I'll start slow like someone suggested. And I'll use consequences like others have stated.

It's not more or less about teeth brushing, but putting on shoes, coat, pajamas, clothing and so on.....she also loves routines and hates changes in routine. So I think maybe setting up a going to bed routine and getting ready in the morning routine on paper might do her some good.

Thanks again!

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answers from Detroit on

It's normal. She choosing when she wants to be as she gets bigger and you show her how things are she will catch on and become more independant.

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answers from Victoria on

My daughter attempts this and this is how I get around it. I give her specific instructions, like Katy, put your clothes on. Once she startys in with the whiny fit, I say, If you do not have them on by the time i have breakfast done, then you are refusing to do as you are told & it will cost you one toy. I give her the instructions again etc. & next time will cost her 3 toys. After that, she not only looses toys, but looses priveledges like tv, games, dance, gym, etc... So far, she hasn't gone past the one toy part. The toys are bagged & I have her go with me to donate them, so she sees that she does not get them back. She cooperates better now. I really only have to use this to get her to clean her room. Hope this helps.

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answers from Lansing on

Let's play pretend. Pretend you work in an office and it's your job to empty the trash in the break room every day. You know you should do it at the end of the work day, but you're tired and decide to wait until the morning when you have energy. Then you forget and it's lunch time when you take the trash out to the dumpster.

After a week or so of this pattern, one of your co-workers - who is frustrated with the delay and over flowing trash can - does it for you. The first day you are pleasantly surprised and happy, but the gift does not change your pattern. Your co-worker continues to do your responsibility because they are frustrated with you and decide if they don't do it it won't get done "right". Every now and then this co-worker comes to you and demands you take care of the trash right now! And all this demand does is bring up anger and resentment between the two of you.

Really what should have happened is your boss should have outlined his / her expectations of your responsibilities. By what time should the trash be taken out. And then enforced those responsibilities by stopping your co-worker from doing it for you.

This is similar to the relationship you and your daughter are caught up in. Why should she do the following jobs if she knows you will do them for her?

I would recommend you pick one, easy skill, such as zipping up her coat on her own and have her practice that skill for at least a week. She will throw a fit, but instead of jumping in and helping her, calmly tell her you know she can do it. The first few times she will most likely collapse in tears and a temper tantrum. This is normal. She doesn't want the way things are done to change and she will do anything she can to keep your routine of helping her the same.

Stay calm and consistent and make your expectations clear: "Your teacher is very impressed at how you can zip up your coat at school all on your own. Lets practice zipping up your coat at home too. I will show you how if you need help, but you still have zip up your coat by yourself."

If she does want to be shown how to zip her coat, show her how to zip it up and then promptly unzip the coat and have her repeat the procedure.
Once she can successfully zip her coat by herself and it is no longer a touch point, then move on to another skill, such as putting on her shoes.

If you try to tackle all of these skills at the same time you may overwhelm yourself and your daughter and the stress will be too much for the both of you. She needs to re-learn how to do these tasks on her own so she can build confidence in herself and her skills to control her own body.

Good luck! It will get better. I've been there and it can be frustrating, but taking a step back really helps. My turning point was reading a book called "Scream Free Parenting" by Hal Runkel.

C. J.

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answers from New York on

I think it is pretty uncommon, kids that age will fight to do it by themselves. is she just trying to get attention? how does she manage at school? Also she's getting pretty old to throw a lot of fits. One thing I've done when my son doesnt want to do something he can do Is I say ok I'll zipper your jacket if you practice tying a shoe or Ok I'll slip on your velcro shoe if you practice starting a zippered sweatshirt.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

DS just turned 5. He can do those things, but usually doesn't really seem to need to. I don't see anything wrong with helping him. It is easier to get him dressed together and I suspect he will not need or want my help in high school. Dentists strongly recommend helping kids this age brush, so no problem there. I would check his carseat anyway so it isn't any more work. I know he can do these things because he does them at preschool. Montessori seems to stress independence in daily life things.
I guess what you should do depends on why you are concerned. If it is you are worried there is something wrong, I wouldn't worry too much. If it is because it is taking you way longer to get out the door in the morning - then try brainstorming solutions with her. She is old enough. She may come up with different ideas than you would but consider her's closely, maybe they will work.

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answers from New York on

My son is 5 next month and I get the same kind of thing. If I make him do it himself it is often a fit or he just sits there and does nothing. I can just do it for him or I have to nag him every step of the way. I makes me so frustrated some days. Especially since he can do the same things with no nagging at school.

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answers from Johnstown on

Yes, it's common. It will be better with time...especially if she starts kdg. If she tells you she "doesn't want to" respond back to her with "I didn't give you the option to choose".

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answers from Honolulu on

My kids, do that when they are tired.

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answers from Harrisburg on

Are you by any way enabling it by jumping in and doing it for her when she throws the fits. She might be using you. She can do that stuff at her age. I know my son will get lazy or if I am rushing and I do it, he becomes automatically "disabled", but if I put a consequence such as "If you do not put on your socks, then you do not get to do XYZ", then he will do it, or if it is something HE really wants, then before you know it, he is well dressed and ready to go. See if you can ignore her fits, and tell yourself you cannot do it for her all her life, so one day she is going to have to do it herself and let her do it and cry if she has to.

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answers from Detroit on

She is pulling your leg...off! Anytime you do anything for your children that they can do for themselves you are enabling them to manipulate you I know there are times when time is of the essence and you need to "help" but the tasks you are mentioning should be old hat by now for her. You say she "gets in this mode sometimes where she can't do any of it and needs help"....my guess is that she WON'T do any of it, knowing that if she doesn't she is pressing all your buttons, getting attention and getting her way. I would start with having a chat with her about all the great things she can do "all by herself" because she is 5 and a really big girl now. Let her know that "starting on Monday (or whatever) this is what I expect you to do....I know you can do it, it would be really helpful if you did...this is what happens if you don't." Once she understands what you expect, that there are NATURAL AND LOGICAL CONEQUENCES if she doesn't comply, and you are going to stand firm, you WILL see a change in her behavior....first you have to change your behavior. It won't happen overnight. You will need to commit to having patience, staying calm and most importantly following through with the set-up of the new behavior as well as the consequences. It would only take one time for your little procrastinator to have to go to school in her pj's because she didn't get dressed in time,...or to miss a play date altogether because she refused to put on her shoes. Just the fact that she CAN do all these things in your absence means she is very busy pressing your buttons, pulling your leg and manipulating you into kissing her little fanny! So after you have your little chat with her and she understands what the plan is, she WILL have an issue and she WILL test you. Remind her of your agreement, stick to your guns, act like it's no big deal and FOLLOW THROUGH with whatever consequence you have planned with her. The other thing I would caution about...and this is just me, be careful with "if you get your shoes on 5 times in a row, we will have a special treat" or some sort of bribery, you might find that good, cooperative behavior will always be conditional instead of expected. Your last question...will it get better with age? NO, not unless you take control of the situation NOW. Teenage "fits" are the worst!
Years ago, when my girls were little, I took a class called STEP. Sytematic Training for Effective Parenting. The focus was 1) setting boundaries (rules) 2) natural and logical consequences (age appropriate of course) 3) FOLLOW THROUGH. You can't miss. Good luck, I hope this helps!

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answers from Washington DC on

My daughter is 7 and is the same way. Funny thing is that at age 3 she was fiercely independent and did it all herself. I have found that my daughter's issue with dressing herself is that she doesn't want to be in her room by herself. She will dress herself if someone is in there with her or if she has the clothes in my room. For the teeth brushing, she wants me to do it, but the dentist put that in her mind, telling her that mommy would brush her teeth better than her herself doing it. Find a reward. i was amazed at how well my daughter could do things when there was a movie she wanted to see on the line. I also remember being 5 years old and insisting that my mom help me into my uniform just because I wanted the attention I got from her. Maybe that is your daughter's issue?

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answers from Detroit on

My 4.5 year old son is the same way, and his 3 year old brother is the same as your 3 year old - exact opposite the first :)

So while I have no real advice, I just wanted to offer that you're not alone! And I share the same concerns about it getting better....

Hang in there Mama!



answers from Kalamazoo on

With my son it is more that he would rather be doing something else. So I would say that could be the issue or else she wants attention. If there is somenthing he wants afterwards, he gets it done in a much more timely fasion and without the complaining (ie if you get your pajamas on before thei timer goes off I will let you choose a story for me to read, etc)


answers from Santa Fe on

Ha - this sounds EXACTLY like my son when he was 5 and in Kindergarten. Why was everything such a battle?! I am guess it is just the age and your child's personality combined! Now he is 6 and half and is SO much better. My advice is just hang in there!



answers from Detroit on

Its sounds like a battle of the wills to me. She's showing you that she is in charge.

I'd work with her by building her up about her abilities to do things. Fun practice activities. Then rewards and consequences for being independent. Pick one thing for her to do consistently. Once she's mastered it then add another. Sticker charts are good, or filling a jar with stones, or something visible/tangible to give her tiny instant gratification, with a big reward when she's mastered it.

Be clear with her what the reward and consequence is. Be sure she really knows how to do the activity. And then be consistent. DO NOT GIVE IN TO WHINING OR CRYING OR FITS!!!! You're the mom and you need to lead her in this. Don't get angry, just implement the consequence. She might fight a long time, weeks or months even. BUT, this is a battle of the wills, so if you don't win it now when she's 5, you'll have hell when she's 16! You just have a few short years until a child is 7 to properly form their character, so make the most of it. Keep it fun, but firm. She is going to learn this so don't give up. :)

Best wishes!

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