Almost 5 Year Old and Leaving House

Updated on January 30, 2013
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
22 answers

For about a month now, my soon to be 5 year old has taken her dawdling to a new level and has turned leaving the house into a power struggle. I signed both kids up for an art class she wanted to do a month ago and I've written it off --they've yet to go.

This morning she said she wanted to go to an indoor hands on museum, but when I asked her to get up and get dressed so we could go, she stayed in bed another 30 minutes. I've not brought the museum up, and I don't plan on it. My 3 year old will be very upset by this, but I refuse to nag her to get her out the door.

I just don't get why she is not willing to move too go do things she supposedly wants to do. I was thinking she just doesn't understand time, and thinks she can do whatever she wants whenever. We are trying to help her with this, especially since she takes an hour to eat a meal, etc. but I don't know what else o do. We've limited her to 30 minutes for meals, and I'm trying to use the clock to help her understand time, but she just doesn't care.

Part of the problem is that she is staying up late reading books in her bed, so she is tired in the morning. Se reads by the hallway light that she insists we have to keep on because of monsters! She use to play on the computer for 30 minutes before breakfast, but she hasn't even done that in weeks. You'd think computer time would motivate her, but she seriously doesn't even seem to care. She was upset a few weeks back when I told her she was getting up too late and it was breakfast time, but now she doesn't care.

Suggestions, ideas?

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So What Happened?

Oh she knows there are no monsters, hell I know she figured out there is no Santa, but she is scared of the dark, so we do leave the hallway light on.

I refuse to nag her because I trying to let natural consequences teach her about her choices. I'm also very pregnant and I get frustrated and angry trying to get her out of the house. I don't want to get frustrated, so I'm trying to just let actions teach her. There will be no more classes or anything unless she starts making the decision to move on her own. She does not respond well to being told what to do, in fact, it makes her moe oppositional and defiant. She is a very strong willed child, already reading at a 2nd grade level. Too smart for her own good.

Also, I use to have a strict morning routine ( I wake babies to get them on a schedule), but I do seem to have eased up on it with this pregnancy. We use to be out of the house everyday by 9, but my kids seem so happy playing in the morning. They are currently camping in the living room, very happily.

I honestly think this is a tired issue. They need an earlier bedtime, and Hubby needs to either come home earlier or not come home till after they are in bed. He's been coming home late and our schedule is all messed up.

And I do put my coat on and leave. It does work, but I want her to listen to me, so when I say, you have 5 minutes to get up and dressed and I'm ignored, I decided there should be a consequence. Today it was no museum.

Last week I also arranged for a babysitter on co- op day: if she didn't cooperate, she stayed home. I'm hoping this stuff will work, as before I would have to threatened with walking out the door. I don't wan to threaten, I want her to make good choices here. Also, I can't carry her!

Thanks to those of you who offered actual suggestions and ideas! To the unhelpful others, thanks for your judgement. I already feel a very sad and heavy weight on my spirit for letting our routine go to pot. I'm not a permissive parent, just a tired, pregnant lady that has a child that never stops testing. Whenever we finish with one test, she find another path. I'm working on my parenting skills with her, and she is teaching her brother some bad habits. Hubby and I are trying to crack down here, and we are enforcing new rules ---like a certain amount of time to eat. I've been creating a new list, and discussing the consequences with her. I'm just tired of the constant testing. She has always been this way. And like I said, I'm not permissive! My friends think I'm too hard on her!

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answers from Denver on

Part of it is age and not understanding time. The only concerning thing is that SHE is getting her way. If you have planned to go to the museum, then go. Take her in her PJs if she refuses to get dressed. Sometimes, we have to do things we don't want to do (such is life). Best of luck and it will get better :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I just have one question....who's in charge?

My daughter tried this once! ONCE!! My son and I got ready and "left" - we actually got in the car and pretended we were going to leave without her. She got ready pretty darn fast when she realized what was happening; never had any problems getting her out the door after that.

You're the adult!! Take charge!!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Honestly, I think you have perpetuated this by giving in to her. You say yourself that "I've written it off" and "I refuse to nag her to get out the door." You are the parent. Take back control. Make her get up. Make her get moving. Take her books away. Do whatever it takes to get the desired result.

I am not trying to harsh. Just honest. If you did not homeschool she would have to 'conform' to the time and structure of the classroom. It sounds like you may need to incorporate some of that structure into your homeschooling day.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

What you've been doing isn't working, so don't argue against a suggestion because it isn't want you want to do. Your methods have failed, so it is time to change.

If she is reading in bed at night, remove the books from her room.

She is only 5 so if she is dragging her feet just to be a pill, pick her up and physically move her. It isn't a natural consequence for her to ruin everyone's day. She doesn't care about others. She may be academically advanced, but she still has the logic of a 5 year old child that is being allowed to run the show. Smart does not equal mature.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

A couple of things really struck me. In your SWH you talk about natural consequences. Great! Nothing wrong with that. I'm actually a huge fan. But in your original post you said, "I've not brought the museum up, and I don't plan on it."

Not going to museum cannot be a natural consequence if you never mention it to her.

You also said, "My 3 year old will be very upset by this, but I refuse to nag her to get her out the door." Totally get that. Except this is no longer just about your 5 year old and you. The 5 year old's actions are punishing the 3 year old. That is something that should be addressed. It's one thing if her actions inconvenience Mom & Dad. Sometimes parents should be inconvenienced in favor of their children. But it's not ok to punish younger siblings. She needs to be more aware of the needs of the other kids in the house.

I don't mean to beat you up. Really I don't. I have a 6 1/2 year old, and I don't always know how to get him out the door for school. He just get's interested in other things. I actually found that I was giving him too much time in the morning. I would wake him up, give him some time in bed before I said he needed to eat breakfast. Then he had 20 minutes or so before I told him he had to get dressed. I've found he responds much better when I give him just enough time to accomplish the tasks. Extra time, and he get's into something that he doesn't want to stop (coloring or goofing around with little brother). Some kids will do better with extra time, but not this guy. You have to find what works for her.

I would try to go back to a more routine day. Kids really do better with routines and consistency. Try a few scenarios to see what works for her - what she responds to. It might take a couple of weeks to really get a good routine, but it will be worth it in the end.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Who is running the show? You are the adult, she is the child! You call the shots, not her.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Is her bed positioned in such a way that she can read by the hallway light? I would position her bed differently so that she can't read by that particular light. If reading is bed is something you want to make time for (I almost always read in bed. Love it!), then give her a lamp and an amount of time. At 8:00 pm (or whatever you decide), reading time is over, and it's time to sleep.

If you are homeschooling, obviously you have flexibility. But one of the things kids learn in a traditional school is to follow a schedule, eat during lunch time, use the restroom when the time is allowed, wait your turn. I've heard some moms say the homeschool because traditional school wastes so much time lining the kids up and taking them to the restroom together. Ok, the kids might not be learning arithmetic, but they are learning life skills.

At some point, you're going to need to incorporate some of these life skills into your curriculum. You don't have to do it right now, but you seem rather frustrated. Maybe this is a good time to begin thinking about how you'd like to approach it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My goodness who is in charge here?
You don't "ask" children to do things.
Yes, you may ask them, what flavor ice cream would you like, or what color dress do you want to wear, but you don't ask them to get up, or get dressed, or go to bed, or put on their seatbelt, you tell them, it's time to do xyz. These things are not negotiable, it's not a choice.
And what are you teaching your son, that his sister gets to decide the plans for the day? That is GROSSLY unfair.
As a mother it is your job to have certain expectations and then hold your children accountable for their actions, that's how they LEARN. All your daughter is learning now is that if she doesn't feel like doing what you asked then she's not going to do it. I'm sorry that you are tired and frustrated but motherhood is hard and it will be even harder the older she gets if you don't start setting higher expectations NOW.
I shudder to imagine this girl as a teenager if you continue down this highly ineffective and dangerous path of permissiveness.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

You DO have to take back control if you ever want her to be on time for anything in her life. Do you plan to homeschool? If not, starting real school will be torture for both of you if you wait until then...

Go get her out of the bed. When mine were that age, I went in, turned on the lights, sang a song, and took them to the bathroom. Got 'em dressed, got 'em downstairs, gave them breakfast. Why not do that?

We always had somewhere to be. I worked when my kids were little, so we were getting out of the house pronto. If they weren't dressed because they pitched a fit, I plopped them in their carseats still UNDRESSED, stuck a waffle in their hands and DROVE. I would have lost my job if I were perpetually late for work.

My kids learned not to pull that kind of stuff because it didn't do them any good. In fact, they lost the "good breakfast" and got stuck with a cold waffle or muffin.

Your daughter doesn't have any bad consequences. Missing an "idea" of the museum or art class is nothing to a 5 year when compared to the NOW of reading a book by the night light and snuggling in the bed after mom has said to get up.

J., you have to decide what's easy and what's right. Sometimes, what's right is what's hard. Making her get up and toe the line is right, and in your case, hard. But if you want her to be responsible as she gets older, you need to do it.


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answers from Rochester on

Give her an earlier bedtime and limit the time she's allowed to read. I allow my seven year old to read in bed for an hour...but I put her to bed an hour earlier than I would if she wasn't going to read. She doesn't know this.

Sounds like she needs more sleep, honestly. What time is she getting up in the morning?

Also, don't limit her meal time. That's not fair. It's healthier to take your time eating, and my seven year old is a VERY pokey eater. It probably takes her half an hour for breakfast (and that's an easy breakfast) and an hour (at least) for dinner. She has gotten a bit better with age. Start breakfast earlier, let her linger at dinner...the only thing you need to teach her to hustle with is lunch, if you intend on sending her to school.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes of course you're a tired mom who cant possibly be expected to carry a five yr old! We understand that, but you are making your job harder by expecting her to act logically and predict the effects of her actions. But small children do not understand time. Your friends are right! Your expectations of her are too high! Children thrive on routines so I hope you find the energy to work on that, it will make your life easier when you have a baby and need to get one to Kindergarten on time! Routines and consistency makes the feel secure-which she needs before the baby comes. You're going to have a terrible time when she starts school and I hope you can start changing things now so it will be easier for you! My son has plenty of night lights, hall way lights but I check on him and tell him to stop playing in bed that he needs to lay down and rest his head. (Maybe Dad can help with that?) Make getting dressed a fun race let her beat you if she makes an attempt to beat you (you can be getting dressed or cleaning the kitchen or packing a snack for an outing, or anything, and she has to beat you! It may be a control issue with her, not dawdling, Kids react better to a timer than a parent always telling them what to do
When the timer goes off, it is time to brush teeth. When the timer goes off, breakfast is over (pack a healthy snack, cheerios and fruit for the car) When the timer goes off it is bath time. My son felt more independent letting the timer tell him the time, not Mommy. Good luck!

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answers from Victoria on

I think five years old is too young to just say ok wake up time and leave it up to her to get out of bed. I have a five yr old and i wake him up and continue to wake him up and tell him its time to get dressed untill he actually wakes up. If your wanting your children to learn neutral then you have to have a neutral responce and not be angered that she isnt acting right. Its neutral. I find this a disservice. Her actions arent the ones to teach her at five years old its your responce and actions that teach heer.

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answers from San Francisco on

You have posted before about your daughter not listening, not responding to consequences, etc. and each time you make excuses based on her intelligence and stubborness. And now you are blaming it on her being tired.
J., this is NOT a matter of her intelligence, and being stubborn is something want to discourage, not accept. She does what she does because she can.
And how incredibly unfair that her behavior is dictating the activity of the rest of the family!
When you have plans for the day, you follow through. YOU are the parent, you should not be building your life around the ever changing whims of a child. What kind of structure is that for her? And like I said, how unfair is that for everyone else? You are punishing your son because you don't want to "nag" your daughter? That just makes no sense to me. The only consequence she seems to be getting at this point is that of if I don't want to do it then we don't do it.
If nothing else I would tell your son that since his sister doesn't want to go you will take him on another day, a day when your husband can stay home with your daughter.
Stop engaging in this power play WITH A CHILD and start being the mom. And if she continues with her highly defiant behavior by all means have her evaluated for ODD, though I have a feeling that won't be necessary. I think she just needs to learn some boundaries, respect and acceptable behavior.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Please check out the book Love and Logic by Foster Cline. It deals with the very same issues you are having.

1. When you dawdle, you don't get where you want to go. That's a real-life consequence. If you tell her "okay, if we are going there, we leave in 30 minutes," and she's not ready to go when you are, she doesn't go. You have boring grown up stuff to do now.

2. Buy her a watch and start teaching her the importance of being punctual. Early is on time, on time is late. That's what we tell our kids.

3.She's staying up late reading by the hallway light because you're allowing her to do so. No. Reading time is from 8:00pm-9:00pm in our house. Once it's bedtime, if lights are still on I dock their allowance. They know that 9pm is bedtime, and if they are still up they are willfully disobeying. Don't buy into that monster nonsense...she's manipulating you to keep the lights on so she can stay up late and read.

4. If she doesn't get up on time, let natural consequences teach her a lesson. No breakfast. Oops, you missed the bus? She has to pay you $1 of her allowance to drive her to school. If she's late for school, write her teacher a note stating, "DD is late because she chose not to get out of bed and get ready for school on time. Please do whatever you do to students as a consequence for irresponsible behavior and tardiness. You have my full support. -DD's Mom."

Bottom line: Make staying in bed and making poor choices more painful than doing the right thing. She'll start to choose better.

Best of luck!

C. Lee

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I am a total Love and Logic believer. BUT in this case what you are teaching her is "If you throw a big temper tantrum you get to stay home all day and play toys, watch TV, and have everything your own way". That's not what you need to be teaching her. She needs boundaries or she will be heck on wheels in a couple of years and you are constantly fighting every morning before school then find out about half way through the school year they are going to flunk her because of her tardy's.

This is what I did when our girl refused to get up in the mornings. I pushed her out the door into the car in her pj's. She started screaming and panicking and fighting like crazy to get back in. I left her out there and we went out to get in the car. She stood there screaming and have a total melt down.

I told her that from now on she would get in the vehicle with or without clothes she picked out one way or the other. From that moment on she got up and was by the door before anyone else.

What she learned. I have boundaries and I won't let her control the home. It is not all about her.

She learned that I mean business. I mean for her to mind me and if she doesn't, well, I am bigger than her and I can pick her up and put her where I need her to be.

This morning there was a storm and I woke her up. I said "there's a storm, get dressed in case we need to go in the storm shelter". She got right up and got completely dressed.

SO, what would have happened if the sirens were going off and she was having a temper tantrum refusing to get dressed? She could have cost us our lives if there had been a tornado in our area. She could have made us have to walk outside in golf ball size hail and ceiling to ground lightening. She could have done all sorts of delaying actions that jeopardized our safety.

But because I took a stance and made her stand outside in her pull up and jammies for about 5 minutes she learned when "I" say it's time to go she has a few minutes to pick her hiney up and get ready.

You're the adult, you have the ability to make her do what you want at this time, if you don't let her know you have limits she will forever and ever and ever run over you and make you do what she wants and you will never have the ability to do anything but conform to whatever it is "she" wants.

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answers from Washington DC on

1. If the event is for both of them and your 5 yr old makes it impossible to go, then I would start doing things without her. Can you call a friend to babysit DD5 while you take the 3 yr old?

2. Take all the books out of her room. Turn the hall light off when you go to bed. Etc. Make it harder for her to stay up at night reading. I'm all for reading! But sometimes kids need to be reined in. I would have a consequence for this behavior.

3. Wake her. Wake her before your 3 yr old. You might get a grumpy child and you might have to wake up earlier but if it's important (like you paid money!) then she gets up. I tell my 4.5 yr old that she has x time (and set a timer) and what she doesn't do, doesn't get done. She might go to school hungry, or she might go in her pjs (which she hates) or she might have bad hair or stinky teeth. She doesn't get to dawdle and make everyone else late. If she cries, too bad, she was told what was going to happen. There are times when staying home and lounging is not an option. I made plans, people are expecting us, we have an appointment. Get. Moving. DD also loses choices. She doesn't get to choose her breakfast, clothes or what toy to bring if she doesn't move it. If I have to streamline our morning, I choose.

When my DD misbehaved at NYE, she did not go to the party. That was hard for us, too, but sometimes you have to really get their attention and make them face the music. Since then, I have only had to say, "Do you remember what happens if you are bad before a party? Do you get to go?" and she smartens up. She KNOWS she will be left home and she hates it. Maybe your DD needs to see that little one will go without her and regret it.

If you refuse to nag her to get her going then you shouldn't make any plans that require her to get moving. Kids can be really frustrating to get out of the house sometimes, but if my older child was constantly keeping my younger child from going anywhere, I'd be making some noise or making other arrangements for the older child. The issue I see here is that she can choose no more classes and that's fine, but she's also dictating everyone else and that's not fine.

When my SS would dawdle in the AM, he had to pay us to take him to school. $10 adds up (he was a teen) and he learned not to miss the bus because we made the consequence painful. To his wallet. We have sent kids to school without showers, in their not-favorite clothes, etc. Amazing what motivation they can get when it impacts something that matters to them.

I understand being tired and pregnant and just not wanting to fight her. But think of it this way - you are only going to have your hands MORE full soon. Get DD5 in line before the baby comes so it will be easier.

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answers from Santa Fe on

My kids have a specific time they have to be up and downstairs at the breakfast table. I go wake them up. If one of them does not want to get out of bed I will go back upstairs about 10m later and will count to 3. If they don't get up by 3 they get a consequence...they always get up. My 8 year old used to sometimes pull this stunt but he does not do it anymore...he knows to come downstairs and sit at the breakfast table. If you have planned to do something that morning I don't think it is right to let your daughter laze around and cause you to not go. What are you going to do when she has to get ready for school every morning and be at the bus stop at 8am every day? It is a really good thing to teach her she cannot deviate from a normal morning routine and just do whatever she wants. I think put her to bed earlier and if she is staying up too late reading be sure to go up and remind her when it is time to sleep. My son also keeps his lights on and he also likes to read. We have a clock next to his bed and he knows that by a certain time he needs to close his book. We have to go remind him occasionally. Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you answered your own question--she's staying up too late. Move bedtime up 30 minutes for reading, then light OUT.
She's old enough to know there are no monsters.
Give her monster spray and a tiny flashlight.
She's playing you! Lol

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answers from Oklahoma City on

The tail is wagging the dog here. I worry that once the baby comes it will be even harder to establish your authority. Bottom line she needs to learn to go along with the family program vs. the family catering to her. If she is strong willed I would work on giving her choices when you can and also upping your presence in the interaction. I am not recommending yelling or being crazy harsh, but find your "I mean business Missy" voice and face and employ it when necessary. Also, state your expectations clearly: everyone one dressed by 7:30 and ready to go by 8:00 each morning. Those who aren't ready get a consequence. Those who are ready get a sticker, or extra time reading with mom, or collect 5 stickers and gets a trip to the library....I would do all this yesterday because when the baby comes, everyone will have a lot of other things to deal with and daily power struggles will be exhausting.

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answers from New York on

First of all, she sounds like an absolutely brilliant little girl. Congratulations and wow.

Second, as a fellow mom of a gifted child, I want to tell you right now that gifts in one area usually come with deficits in another. And a classic deficit is maturity. This is where being gifted gets really hard, because we think that if a child is reading at X level, the child should be reasoning at the same level, but they very seldom do. It's more common for intellectually gifted kids to plan and reason at a younger level than their biological age.

Which gets me to, generally, as people get older, they perceive cause and effect in longer and longer increments. For a one-year-old, the cause-and-effect chain lasts seconds. If I drop this spoon off my highchair for the 50 billionth time, what will happen? Will it magically fall to the floor again, or not? Wow, why don't I give it try?

For a high school student, the cause-and-effect chain lasts a few months. If I spend 3 hours each morning putting on my makeup, maybe Johnny will notice me, and then maybe he'll ask me to the prom, and wouldn't that be cool. (Kids this age often CANNOT compute, If I study really hard and don't worry about what other kids think, then I'll get into a great college and have a really successful career.)

It's only when we get to be adults that we can think in terms of, If I put this money aside now, instead of taking my dream vacation, then I'll have funds set aside for an emergency, for retirement, etc. That's the thinking of a fully adult brain.

So, you're asking your, what, 4 3/4 yr old to engage in a thought process for which her brain has not yet developed. She's saying, maybe, I really need to find out whether Jack and Annie get back to the treehouse. If I don't find out, I'll die. That thinking overrides her ability to compute, Getting dressed takes X amount of time, and we need to be out the door by 8, so I'd better start now.

So, apologies for this ridiculously long post. Your story brings up a lot of issues I'm dealing with with my own son now. But really, you need to scale your expectations to her level of maturity. The purpose of consequences is to give your kids a challenge they can meet with hard work and determination. If they keep failing, they'll just give up, like your daughter is doing, and then it'll be harder to get her to rise to any occasion the next time around.

You seem to be cutting yourself a certain amount of slack (you're very pregnant -- you get frustrated and angry). You need to cut your 4-year-old at least a comparable amount of slack. She's too young to think things through.

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answers from Dover on

I think some of it is the age (and in my experience, my daughter is much worse than my son ever was) because they don't really understand time yet. My daughter seems to be on her on time too...why it takes 15 minutes to go 20 ft to the bathroom to brush her teeth is Greek to me!

It does sound like she needs to go to bed earlier. What mostly works for us is we made a schedule and the times that are not negotiable are set (for instance what the bus comes and what time we get home at night). Then realistically (and with some time padded in) how much time she needs for certain things (getting ready for school, dinner, homework, and bath time). The rest is play time, reading, tv, whatever else we want to do. If she takes too long to eat and it's now bath time well she missed out on tv etc.

Another thing that does seem to help is "Suzy, we're planning to go to the museum tomorrow IF you get up on time". Then follow through and let her know clearly "Suzy, you need to be up in 5 minutes or we aren't going to the museum today"...then follow through (because even though you have told her the night before she may not truely get what "on time" means). If you can have someone come over and stay home with her when she doesn't hold up her end but still take your other child who did.

Consistency does help but it doesn't happen overnight.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Dear J.:

My son is four, pretty strong-willed, and also enjoys playing games (he'll run around a table if he thinks I'll chase him). It can be a real challenge to make transitions from breakfast to brushing teeth, from dinner to bath, from playing to bed time, etc.. Part of it is his desire to control and test. Part of it is that he's not listening. But part of it is also that when you're four, you have the ability to do fun stuff, and you realize that the world's your oyster, you really do have a hard time actually hearing. I am more successful when I get close to him, put my face next to his, make eye contact, say something in his ear, ask him to repeat what I said, and physically guide him to the activity. Be flexible -- you have 3 minutes to finish what you're doing. Be specific -- I want to you put your red socks on your feet now. Be firm -- if you don't put on your socks, then you can't do x. Follow-up.

That said, I will admit that I have no idea what I would do if I was raising more than one child. What works for you will be very different than what works for me. Also, the concessions I make (and I sure do make them!) will be very different than those that you make. Best wishes!

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