5 Year Old Just Wants to Argue About Everything!

Updated on May 21, 2013
K.B. asks from Detroit, MI
21 answers

My daughter has always been a strong-willed but very sweet natured kid, and at 3 and 4 could often be challenge to deal with. Things seemed to even out after she turned 5 and started kindergarten - she got better about listening and following directions and life didn't seem to be such a battle of the wills all the time. Now the past couple of months it seems to be starting back up again. She will be turning 6 in August and it seems like she has to talk back and argue over anything she can - even when I know I am right, it's like she doesn't want to believe a word I say.

She wanted to go on some website where girls can design their own clothes and then the parents can order them. She told me, "They just send you the clothes in the mail!" I told her they had to be ordered, and they cost money, and I wasn't going to be buying anything -she has plenty of clothes already. She insisted that the clothes didn't cost anything - they just came in the mail. Even after I pointed out to her on the website how it worked, she didn't want to believe me. When she started crying and whining about it, I sent her to her room to calm down and set a timer for 30 minutes before she was allowed to come out again. She also was banned from the computer the rest of the day.

She had a bath tonight and I brushed her hair through. She brushed her teeth and then wanted me to brush part of her hair again because I hadn't done it the first time. I told her I did brush all of it and she said "No you didn't!" and continued to argue with me. I ended up doing it again because it was just easier to give in and brush her hair real quick and get her off to bed than continue to argue with her.

These are just 2 examples, but this is how it goes on all the time. If I tell her to stop arguing, she'll say "But I'm not arguing!" If I tell her I don't listen to whining, she will say, "But I'm NOT whining!" in a very whiny voice. She also keeps pestering me over certain things that she wants that I've already given her answer to. She will ask, "When is E going to babysit me again?", "When are we going to go to Disney World again?", "Am I still going to get a hamster for my birthday?" and so on, over and over (as in, at least once a week). I tell her the same thing every time, but if it's not the answer she wants, she continues to whine over it, until finally I raise my voice and tell her she needs to stop already, because I don't listen to whining. She basically talks and chatters and asks questions constantly, and isn't really quiet until she's asleep in bed. If I tell her no to something, she wails, "But WHYYYYY???"

I realize it might seem silly to continue to argue with a 5 year old, but I find it really disrespectful that she thinks she can continue to insist that she's right all the time and just keep talking back. Aside from sending her to her room for 30 minutes or more at a time everytime it happens, what else can I do to get it under control?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the responses so far. I ended up having a little talk with her this morning (which I think works better because it's less emotional than in the heat of the moment) and hopefully made it clear to her that she doesn't need to keep talking back and arguing after I've told her something - there will come a time in her life where it will make sense for her to argue her point, but right now she's the kid, we are the parents, and when I give an answer, it's not going to change. She does not have to have something to say about everything and if she continues to pester me about it, she's going to have to cool off in her room alone. Just to be clear, I had never implemented that long of a time-out before. I would routinely give her 5 minutes, or until she decided to calm down and be nice again, but her arguing over the computer was so over the top, we needed that time to help us both calm down. I also felt I really needed to put her in her place - I also get sick and tired of putting her in time-out in her room and having her yell and carry on about how she's scared in there (oh, come on, it's your bedroom, not the basement or a locked closet!) and keep asking why she's in there. The 30 minutes (with the timer set) gave her a chance (I think) to really feel more remorseful for arguing with me, and I got 30 minutes of peace and quiet to read part of a magazine.

Thanks again Mamas, I really appreciate it!

ETA - we do do a lot of 1-2-3 Magic and it typically works - I'm just getting tired of always having to use it!

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answers from Chicago on

When my son decides to "challenge" my statement(s) I remind him that I am the adult, he is the child, while he can ask questions, he can not argue with an adult - it is rude and disrespectful.

30 min is too long for a punishment of any sort for such a young one. 1 min per year is the reccomendation and I agree with that. However I also agree that the 6 min do not begin until the child is calm.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I would be inclined to just go along with her wild story and then brush it off. It sounds like she gets attention from you which is what she is really wanting.

That being said it's been a LOOOONG time since I had a five-year old so I'm rusty. I promise you that it does pass. My oldest was like this at times and he's a wonderful young man today at 19.

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answers from Detroit on

Sometimes kids will ask the same question repeatedly because they want to be sure that the answer hasn't changed. With my students at school (yes - even 10, 11, and 12 year olds do the same thing! LOL) I will ask them the question back. For example, if you daughter says, "When is E going to babysit me again?" Ask her, "When IS E going to babysit you again?"

Just remember it takes 2 to argue (and Tango!). If you have answered once and she continues to ask ignore it. Or send her to a quiet place or time out if you have told her to stop asking. It takes TONS of patience, but she will eventually learn. I have used the " You can keep asking, but the answer is not going to change" line too.

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answers from Portland on

It takes two or more to argue. Stop trying to convince her you are right. Give her the answer and walk away. As to brushing the hair, what does it hurt to brush it again. No need to even tell her you've already brushed it. She her asking you to brush it as her way of spending a bit more time with you.

When my daughter was young, I argued with her all the time. Since then I've learned how to not argue. I say what I have to say once or maybe twice. Then I stop. I may walk away or I may just bite my tongue and stop talking. If you don't respond to her she won't get upset and continue to whine. Be in charge of the conversation.

My daughter complains a lot about how her daughter argues all the time. This is one of those situations in which Grandma has finally figured it out. My granddaughter tries to argue with me and sometimes I fall into the trap but most times I don't. It does take practice to learn how to not engage.

When she asks the same question over and over, either give a short answer, repeating the same thing in the same words or say, "I've answered that already" and walk away or ignore any further comments or behavior from her.

Whining means she goes to her room or another room because you don't want to hear the whine. At first you may have to physically guide her but if you're consistent she'll learn to either stop whining or to leave the room.

As most of us did, I hated it when my parents said, "because I told you so." I've decided it's OK to say that in other words. I try not to say I told you so but sometimes I have to. Examples of other words are, "because it's the right thing to do, because it's my decision, it's time to accept what I said, no more discussion." It sometimes works to change the subject without answering the why.

My daughter and now my granddaughter chatter on and on. Don't tell them (LOL) but I tune them out some of the time.

I don't see arguing as disrespectful. That probably helps me feel less upset about it. I see it as the child trying to figure out her world and how it works. They're also hoping we'll change our minds. So it's important to stick with what we first say so that they will learn that we don't change our minds. I've fallen into the trap of allowing them to convince me and thus changed my mind. This doesn't work. Never change your mind. I make sure before I say something that I'm going to be able to stick with what I say.

Talking back is disrespectful and it warrants an immediate trip to their bedroom or the time out chair. No arguing. No convincing them you're right when you call it talking back. Just tell them to go.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

You need to stop letting her have center stage with this arguing, mom. Walk away from her. By continuing to engage in this, you are rewarding her for her behavior.

Yes, she's being disrespectful, but she's too little to see it like that. In order to learn to be respectful, she needs you to give her a consequence for behavior that shows disrespect, and that means not giving her any attention when she refuses to stop doing it.

Tell her ONCE "You are arguing with me again. You are NOT allowed to argue." If she continues, walk out of the room. If she follows you, start your count "That's one." Then "That's two". At three, put her in her room and then set the timer.

If she whines, tell her "I don't understand whining" and ignore anything she says. When she uses her normal voice, "turn on" again and answer her.

When she starts this asking of questions over and over, just start laughing at her and walk away. Seriously, you do NOT have to answer the same question 5 times in a row! Laughing helps prevent a blow up on your part and teaches her a bit of a lesson. I promise you that others will laugh at her, so she needs to learn what that feels like at home first, in an appropriate way. This is an appropriate time to do it.

I know you're a vet, but I urge you never to promise her that she can have a pet at a certain time in the future. It's a decision that you should make in the present, not in the future. You might think that she will be old enough when she's "6", but it's not the age that is important. It's her level of maturity that's important. Making promises like this to children can set YOU up for failure or give them too much power over you. You don't want that.

Good luck!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

1. Pick your battles. It's probably not worth fighting over brushing hair or other simple things. And telling her that a dress costs money really shouldn't be an argument. It should be you explaining things to her. Maybe if you stop arguing about so much, she'll more readily accept that you do actually know things.

2. Stop engaging with her. Tell her it's not up for discussion when she starts arguing.Tell her something once or twice and then stop answering. Don't answer when she whines.

3. 30 minutes is a pretty long time out for a five or six year old. I have two six year old girls, and we do six minutes, or however long it takes to calm down (if it takes longer than six minutes).

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answers from Chicago on

They regress from the half bday leading up to the next year. Behavior has to deteriorate to leap forward in terms of development.

Just keep saying, "I'm done with this conversation," and then walk away. I also say, " what did I say last time?" And turn it around, and then I walk away.

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answers from Chicago on

Definitely pick and choose your battles. I have noticed that when kids argue, they are sometimes just trying to communicate with you and they just don't know how.

With my daughter we had a rule that "No means no." She would always continue to argue or negotiate and it drove me crazy! We sat her down (when she wasn't in the middle of arguing) and let her know that when we said "No, and that's the final answer" that was her cue to stop talking. If she continued past that then she received a time-out. Then we stuck with it.

We did try to pick our battles though, because you don't want to crush your child. Sometimes we just let her be right when clearly she was wrong, just because it wouldn't make a difference. We would say "Maybe you're right about the clothes, maybe they are free, however that is not something we are going to participate in and no is the final answer."

Also know that when a child is to the point where he/she is just arguing then there's no use in "proving" that you are right. It's best to just drop the subject.

When a child asks a lot of questions, just turn the question back around. "When is E going to babysit me again?" you say "When do YOU think E will babysit you again?" You'll find that more often than not they will answer their own question. If she says "I don't know" then you can say "I don't know either."

You can also turn it into a joke. "E will babysit you again when the grass turns pink with polka dots!"

Understand that all the questions are just her attempts to communicate. You can also gently let her know that you need some quiet time. My daughter was a chatterbox and sometimes I just needed to tell her that mommy needed some quiet time, and could she find something else to do?

Good luck!

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answers from Cleveland on

With the hair brush I just would of done it again. You need to pick your battles I have a strong willed 4 yr old. Its all about picking n choosing. IMO your feeding into it big time. With the clothes I would of just said that the answer was no n that was that. No reason to of even go to the site

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answers from Kansas City on

i totally understand.

my son is 6 1/2, just wrapping up kindergarten, and has adhd. he is a VERY sweet child. but due to all of the above - he constantly has to have "something" to say. he is VERY sassy. and he constantly thinks he knows better than i do. not even in a defiant way (although he does have his moments of frustration - it is VERY frustrating always knowing more than everyone else but no one ever letting you tell them this! lol) he's normally just arguing in a pleasant tone, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

honestly i am not having a huge ton of success either. but we are chipping away at it...i do put him in time out for back-talking. i have told him on more than one occasion that the answer is NO and will always be NO and harping on it won't change my answer, and if he brings it up again he will go to time out. and constantly remind him to "stop arguing". and constantly have to remind MYSELF not to engage him. it's an uphill battle. hang in there!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My short answer is to stay calm, state your limit, and carry on as much as possible. (my cat deleted the other answer I had for you)

I wonder if the arguing is an attention-getting behavior, esp. the calling out after she's been placed in her room. I have had to learn to ignore a lot as a parent. When any arguing starts up, I simply tell my son "I've given you/explained my answer, and I'm done discussing it. So, we can move on and do X, or we'll need to take a break." Taking a break means one of us is going to leave the environment: either I will go away, up to my room, or if I'm doing housework, he will need to go to his room for a bit. Sometimes I leave because I am trying to show him that *I* can control my own actions and choices and make the choice to leave an unpleasant moment and that I can remove myself from the argument. It is a form of modeling, just like taking some 'cool down time' as an adult instead of banishing the child right off the bat.

Sometimes I will use a simple "I" statement and give a choice: "I am feeling very frustrated right now because you have asked me the same question four times and you won't accept my answer. At this point, you may either stop talking about this or you will need to go play somewhere else. Show me with your actions what you would like to do." (this implies, too, that I'll be watching/listening for him to move on and let the original question/idea go.)

Some of what you discuss is your daughter's fantasy/wish bumping heads with reality, and I think that when we see this sort of thing, it's good to name it and give a little empathy. "Oh, honey, I see... you really WISH that the computer would just send you those clothes, huh? It's a fun idea, but that's not how it really works. Bummer, huh?" or "I know, you wish you could have your hamster right now, it's hard to wait, isn't it?" Sometimes, those end questions touch on the empathy piece they need and help to move their brains/the conversation along to less arguing and to help them get in tough with their feelings. Further, it lets them know that we *do* understand that it is important to them.

As for flat-out backtalk, that only gets you one warning ("You are using a rude voice and I do not appreciate it. Try that again or wait until you can be polite, please." ) Usually, this is a bid for attention, so I try not to give it too much of a reaction, just "I don't want to be around you when you are being rude to me. You may play in your room until X." or once again, I'll go take a break somewhere else if that's an option.

One thing to keep in mind: we adults forget that sometimes, people who live together aren't always nice to each other. It doesn't mean it has to be the norm, just that we are all human. So when I get crabby with my son or husband, I am sure to apologize and let them know I made a mistake and it wasn't right of me to grump at them. Being aware of one's own actions is important in helping our little ones be aware of their actions, too.

ETA: One important thing to add is this: if you think the behavior comes from her desire to get your attention, be sure you are giving her lots of that at more appropriate times. One practice I use when I start to see attention-getting behavior is to give lots of nonverbal, loving attention during times when my son is busy doing things which he enjoys. For example, if he's busy playing with Legos, that's the time I'll go and kiss his head, tousle his hair, rub his back, give his shoulder a friendly squeeze.This is an expression of our love for them when they are not doing anything to please us, necessarily, but that we love them for WHO they are, just for being. This is a profound and powerful progressive action to take and does really fill them up more than talking or praising good behavior will. Being loved just for being yourself... If I'm not in a loving space, I might also use some craft sticks and move them from one cup to another (apron with two pockets, same thing)... this reminds me that he needs a lot of this during some times and helps me keep track. Shoot for 20 of those 'positive strokes' a day (no, I'm not joking, this intensity DOES make a difference.... I've seen it work a lot) when you are seeing annoying, attention-getting behaviors. It will get better!

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answers from Boston on

I think I'd just had that she has to understand it is her CHOICE to go to her room when she argues or talks back. It is an automatic consequence of her own actions. That means you have to be incredibly consistent.

The other thing is for her to realize she has a choice between 2 things: playing a board game with you, or being in her room; going outside to ride her bike or being in her room; doings arts and crafts or being in her room.

You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to, says a wise mom friend of mine. Every time you engage her in the arguing or in the extended explanation of why she can't do X or Y, she gets a pay-off. She gets your undivided attention, which is what she wants. So you need to separate yourself from her back talk. Leave the room, go outside and rake the lawn with head phones on, pull the car over to the side of the road and get out (keep a book or a crossword puzzle book and pencil in the car. Get away from her nagging and do something fun and productive. Every time. If she goes to her room and then calls out to you about being afraid, don't engage her about how safe it is - ignore her and add 5 minutes to the timer. Every time. If you ignore her, she will not get the pay-off and will eventually stop.

You can also start a list of her questions and topics, and set aside 2 10-minute time periods during the day during which you pull out the list and ask if she still wants to discuss them. That way you aren't dismissing her issues, but you are channeling them and letting her know the world doesn't stop because she wants to whine. Set a timer where she can see it, and ask her "Did you want to discuss the hamster, Disney World, or clothing?" When the time is up, stop the conversation, and return the list to its place (on the fridge might work - centrally located and in front of her nose). Tell her the rest of the issues can come up the next time. She may find she forgot the issue or doesn't care that much. Even if she does care, she needs to prioritize her problems! But work the discussion times around what really needs to be done on a schedule. The talking isn't instead of meals or carpool or school or bedtime.

Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I am surprised no one offered 1,2, 3 magic. It is the best parenting book I have ever read. I still have struggles with my 6 year old but WAY more tolerable. It was suggested here by mamas when I asked the same question

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answers from Jacksonville on

If you use a lot of 1-2-3 Magic, and it typically works, why don't you use it when she starts the questions and arguing? That is what it is MADE for! Do not engage in arguing with her. That elevates her to your level, and she isn't... she's a 5 yr old, not the parent.

When she brings up Disney to rehash yet again, tell her it has been asked and answered and she knows the answer. (That is the end of it.) If she starts with the "why"s, then RIGHT THEN is when you count her. You don't explain anything else. You've already explained. And it sounds to me like you are explaining far too much and far too often on the same tired subjects. Count her! Send her to her room if she gets to 3. It really is that simple. I don't remember anywhere in the book where it says she needs to stay there for 30 minutes, though. Unless that is how long it takes her to get over her whining...
When she comes out, what then? Do you pick right back up with the argument about Disney? Or do you ignore that it even happened and move on with your day?
If you start counting her at the first hint of an argument, you will count her A LOT. And guess what... She will learn very quickly that you mean business about it and she will stop! If you only count her "sometimes" when she starts arguing with you, then she is getting the reward "sometimes" and that is generally enough to keep them going, trying for that reward that sometimes comes.

Count her. EVERY time.
Repeat after me:
"We've already discussed it and you know the answer."
(but.... whyyyyyyyy?)
"That's one."

"We've already discussed it and you know the answer."
(but Mommy, why can't we? It's so much) "That's one."

"We've already discussed that and you know the answer."
(but) "That's one."

CUT HER OFF with the arguing. Don't engage in it. Period. At all.
She will stop.

How do I know? I have a teen lawyer in my house who went through this when he was younger...

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answers from Los Angeles on

Ditto Doris Day's advice, all of it!

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answers from Washington DC on


Why are you arguing with a 5 year old? Who's the parent here?

Whining is NOT allowed in our home. I tell my kids - "when you can talk to me like a young man - i will listen. Until then? No thank you."

She wins every time you argue with her. Every time you end up yelling. She wins and the boundary line is moved or blurred yet again.

Bed time routine. It takes 2 to 3 WEEKS of doing something to make it routine. Bath, brush (hair/teeth), book, bed. That's our routine. Now they are older - it's a shower - but still the same - they must BATHE.

If she keeps coming out from bed and whines WWWHHHYYY??? Because it is BED TIME. NOT "because I said so". Give her a valid answer.

Thirty minutes is WAY to long for a 5 year old to be in time out. WAY. TOO. LONG.

She keeps pestering you because SHE CAN.

Daughter - "when are we going to DisneyWorld?"
YOU - "Jane - what was my answer to this question when you asked it on Tuesday?"
Daughter - "I don't know"
YOU - "well, please think on it and let me know. MY answer has NOT changed."

ANSWER her questions. She is testing her world around her. She is learning new things! I pray my kids NEVER stop asking questions - I don't want my kids to be followers for the sake of following...

Give her choices. Let her feel like she has some control in her life. Keep the choices simple two or three things. Let her DECIDE her punishment if she fails to follow through. THEN GIVE HER THE PUNISHMENT SHE CHOSE. If she doesn't like it? She will make the right choice next time!

You and your husband MUST be on the same page. If you are not - then she will play you both and it will only get worse.

When you feel the need to yell? Take a deep breath. YOU are the parent. Does this mean I haven't yelled? Oh heck...I wish I could say I haven't. But I have. However, I continue to take deep breaths and stay calm.

You will have a buckin' bronco on your hands when she turns 9 and her hormones are raging....then when she's a teenager....oh my God. You think it's bad now???? you think the computer ordering clothes thing is bad now? Just wait - it's the cell phones, iPads, iPods, Tablets, etc. YOU MUST BE THE PARENT. The child does NOT rule the roost!!

Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

Do whatever it takes. But nip it in the bud now. Let her know she is the child and you are the parent and adult and you won't be putting up with her disrespectful ways.

Try pushups. Not the underpants, the exercise. Why? It's a time out, the child will obviously benefit from it physically, and it's a way to hand out punishment for bad behavior. Your count (i.e., how many do you want her to do and you can count as fast or slow as you want) . Let her know that if she continues acting disrespectful, this is how it will be dealt with, not to mention other privileges.

If she's scared in her room, then she needs to connect that her behavior will get her there. Don't want to go to your room? then behave!

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answers from Saginaw on

you are trying to justify yourself too much. Give your answer....and then flat out ignore her. She keeps pushing because you keep answering. And somewhere in the past you have given in. (trust me...I did the same thing and speak from experience...mine is 13 now)

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answers from Columbus on

A couple of things that I use are:

(with whining) "I can't understand you when you speak like that, please try again." (said with kindness/kind tone of voice).

with arguing/asking over and over: I ask, "Do you think that my answer will change if you keep asking?" (son usually says yes). "Well, the answer will not change, no matter how many times you ask. The answer will still be X."

It helps, sometimes. And keeping my cool/not showing frustration when I do it is important.

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answers from San Francisco on

This is why at age 3-4 when they ask "Why?" the best answer is because I said so. That leaves no room for any further arguing/begging/whining, etc. You can't reason with children at this age; they know EVERYTHING and will just go on and on and on.

I would have nipped the computer thing in the bud by just saying "No" without any explanation. Mine don't ask "why" because they know better; I don't explain myself to children.

As they get older, then you can start with the explanations but for now it's just "No because I said so." Period. End of discussion.

If she continued to ask me the same questions week in and week out, I would eventually tell her that the answer is no different than it was last week and if she asks me again, she will get a time-out. Period. End of questioning.

She's doing it because you leave yourself open for it. Don't.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think sending her to her room or "not hearing" the whining is fine. Some kids are more persistent than others.

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