Acting-out: How Do You Control a 5 Year Old?

Updated on February 13, 2008
V.G. asks from Grand Junction, CO
10 answers

I have a 5 year old daughter who has recently started throwing tantrums like a 2 year old (which she NEVER did then!). I have had to leave public places and today she kicked a teacher. I have NO idea what is going on or how to deal with it. I am tired of asking family for advice because I get alot of "well you guys never acted like that as a child" and basically makes me feel like I am doing something wrong. I would believe this except that I have a 3 year old daughter who is nearly a saint compared to this one. I treat them the same, discipline them the same, they are involved in the same activities, same school and eat all the same foods. I am at a loss!

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So What Happened?

Ok, I wanted first to thank everyone for their advice. I might have made it seem like my child controls me when I said we "have had to leave public places"...I try NOT to do this but there are some places that disciplining my child as I would want to (such as CHURCH) that it is far less embarrassing and still makes my point to my daughter. I have started marking her hand with a sharpie pen when she misbehaves in a place that I feel is inappropriate to discipline in. She knows that the mark means she will receive her punishment later, and most of the time the anticipation of the punishment is just as bad as getting her spank, or whatever, then and there. It seems to work...SO FAR! We will see. Thanks again for all of your advice!

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answers from Denver on

I have a five year old son. Last year I took a Love and Logic class and really loved it. Are you familiar with that? Look it up online. It is all about choices but choices that YOU can live with. It really helped me not get so upset. I am an elementary school teacher too, I really believe kids need rules that they understand. She is just testing you. Remember you are the boss because you are the mom. Don't let her see that she is getting to you becasue that feeds her fire. AHHHH!! IT IS SO HARD SOME TIMES. Good luck.

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answers from Pocatello on

I have five kids, and they all respond differently to discipline, find what works for her. What does she love to do or get? When my oldest was five taking away priveleges worked for a while (no friends, no tv, etc) and then a monetary reward system worked even better. I would reward her a star (sticker on a chart) for extra good behavior, or doing an extra job. I would take away a star for any bad behavior. At the end of the week we would count up the stars and she would get a quarter for each star she earned and kept. My son gets three turns on the nintendo DS per day. If he misbehaves he loses a turn on the DS. That works wonders with him because he LOVES the DS. She could be looking for attention, love, or be acting out because something happened to her or is bothering her that she doesn't know how to verbalize. She may just be trying to exert her independence. Keep lines of communication open-and make sure she knows you are on her side.

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answers from Denver on

Perhaps you need to approach it a little bit differently. You probably can't actually control her, but she clearly needs some more convincing consequences. For my daughter (who is 5) time outs don't work, but taking a favorite toy or piece of clothing for a certain amount of time can be very persuasive. Also, trying to focus on the good behavior can help too. I know it seems like you have to lay down the law, but I will bet she is not happy with her own behavior. I think sometimes our children go through phases and may just need a little help controlling themselves. In addition to the punishments, offer incentives for good behavior. We have sticker charts we fill in each night before bed. It has a list of good behaviors and a certain number of stickers earned for each. Then after they earn a certain amount they get a prize of some sort. (a small toy, something yummy...) I have small goals and larger goals. When the chart is full, we go to Chuck e cheese. It really has made quite a change in her behavior. I think if you are patient and assure her you love her even with bad behavior, she will turn it around. Best of luck!




answers from Provo on

I'm in the same boat with my 5 year old son! I have no advice because I can't figure out what to do myself but I can sympathize with you. My child also never went through the terrible two's so I'm not sure what to do now. I feel like I've taken things away & he doesn't seem to care. I've tried reward systems but they only work temporarily. I get the opposite family advice. My mom likes to tell me this is my payback for how I acted as a child!

Good luck to you!



answers from Colorado Springs on

If she really did just start acting out I would ask her if some sort of trama happened to her. Maybe it is not something but, but something she just can't process. For me five was never a phase where behavior just changed, but perhapse it is for her. It probably wouldn't hurt to schedule an appointment with a therapist to see what is up.



answers from Casper on

Hi V.! My daughter (almost 7) does this every once in a while too! You mentioned that you have 2 kids and that they do a lot of things together. I've found that my daughter is really wanting to have/do things on her own or by herself. A trip to McD's for a run in the playhouse or to get "coffee", by herself, usually snaps her out of it. I'm guessing it gives her an "all about me" time and makes her feel unique? Give it a couple tries though, and make sure to do something with the other one too, or it might start up a whole new problem! Good Luck! H



answers from Denver on

Start by really laying down the law. I do not agree with putting them in their room as most kids would love to go play in their room. Put her in a time out spot that she doesn't really associate with fun. I also don't believe in leaving a place necessarialy. I say to both my kids 3 and 6 "there is a time out spot no matter where we are"...and I have put them in time out in the middle of the grocery before.
I however am all for a behavior chart so they can see how bad their behavior is truly getting, put down all the unacceptable behavior and each time she acts out then put up a frowny face, with every 10 frowny faces come up with a serious consequence for her, like not playing with a friend after school, no birthday parties, going to bed 40 min early. When she does something good, put on the other side smiley faces. When she sees it for herself that the frowny side is Make a HUGE deal out of the happy faces she is getting and when she gets to a certain number (you choose) then she can get a reward.
Do a chart for your 3 year old so nobody feels left out or singled out too.

And mostly, make sure nothing upsetting is going out that you aren't aware of, a bully, a friend being mean, nightmares. I would say too make sure she is getting enough sleep and eating well. Try making her bedtime earlier until the behavior improves, maybe she just isn't getting enough sleep.

Hold her accountable, she is old enough to understand right from wrong, however not old enough to control her emotions always. I always tell both my kids too, it is okay to be angry, upset, sad, HOWEVER NOT OKAY to take it out on those around you or pitch fits ! I validate what they feel but am helping them realize they don't get to have melt downs when they don't get their way either!!!

My favorite quote was from a play therapist my daughter went to see during the divorce and she said "You cannot and should not try and CONTROL a child, however it is our job to teach them to control themselves"..makes sense!!!



answers from Salt Lake City on

She believes in some way that she will change your mind and convince you of her logic and need for whatever it is she is asking for at that moment, whether it is an item, or the right to break a rule, or do what she wants.

Never give in just to stop from being embarrassed. The first time you do you have made the battle infinitely more difficult to win in the long run. When my son was doing this I would simply say "I have already told you the answer. Acting this way will not change the answer it will only earn you a consequence. This is your warning." If he continued he earned his consequence. Your resolve must be stronger then the child's. That is the only way to end this behavior. The consequence must be consistent and followed through on each time. Each child responds to different things so you must decide what that is for your child (time out, loss of privilege or a toy, etc)

You also have to sit down with her when she isn't throwing a tantrum and talk to her about "using her voice nicely and acting politely to others". She needs to know that throwing tantrums is not nice to the other people around her. She needs to know that you are not going to accept her behaving like that anymore just like you don't let her speak meanly to others or hit people. You need to make it a rule just like any other rule you have. Then you need to teach her other ways to speak to you when she is frustrated. Tell her it is ok to say "I am mad right now" but that it is not ok to throw a fit. Help her put words to how she feels so she doesn't need to throw a fit to vent.



answers from Grand Junction on

I have a 6 year-old son who is very passionate and has been complicated to discipline from age 1. Traditional, "laying down the law" methods have never been particularly successful with him and time-outs have worked some times and not others. There is a book (called "The Explosive Child" - don't freak out about the title) that I have found very helpful. It basically lays out an alternate way of preventing and dealing with tantrums. It takes a little work but I have found it quite helpful. It's pretty easy to read and to apply. Part of the issue is the child being heard and understanding why, for example, they can't have the candy bar off the shelf. A 5 year-old understands a lot and has some amount of logic, it might work well with her. She may be trying out her independence, wanting to be heard, etc. As an aside, I think your family is right - we didn't behave like this as kids - and it has nothing to do with your parenting. Children ARE different today. One could speculate about the variety of reasons, but the most important thing to know is that we could parent exactly how our parents did and the result would NOT be the same. Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Simple to remedy. This works for my daughters 4 and 2 year old. When they misbehave, she tells them "go to your room." If they don't by the count of three they get their pants spanked.

If they are visiting someone else's house, time out is in the bathroom for the 4 year old and on the couch or chair for the two year old. If they cry, she adds minutes to their time out.
She is more lenient with the two year old, but I get so tickled when that little one marches up the stairs to his room, even if it is just for a minute.

When they are rough with each other she "makes them hug and make up, and sends the offender to their room.

If your child is kicking a teacher, see if this happens anytime else. If she tries to kick at home, give her a light kick back and let her know that "that hurts", and take away a favorite toy. Give the toy back when she can say she' is sorry.

A child must be taught "respect." Foolishness on the childs part makes the parent look the same in later life.

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