Help : 5 Year Old Needs Help with Respecting Authority

Updated on October 17, 2010
A.S. asks from Dover, PA
5 answers

My son is 5 years old, an only child, strong willed and independent. He started K-4 this year, I held him out of kindergarten because I did not feel he was emotionally mature enough to go. We are having huge issues with respecting authority. No just ours but at school. He goes to a private all day christian school and he has been is the office 3 times in 3 weeks because of "disobedience issues with the teacher". The principle and I both feel he knows that he is being disobedient but chooses to act out. I am ready to rip out my hair. We have tried time outs, taking things away, and spanking. Time outs work at the time for most corrections but don't seem to be cutting it for this. I have taken away things such as the TV, toys, play dates, and fun activities. I even went in to the school the one day and talked with him (my idea, no the principles). The school does support corporal punishment and my son was warned that if I or his father had to come in again that he would receive a spanking. My son is not afraid of the spanking so the threat was probably pointless. We have tried talking about it, applying Christian principles, and praise. I am trying to praise more as I know I fail in this area. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to nip this fast and get him pointed in the right direction. I want to be proud of my son not mortified, I now hate picking him up from school dreading what the teacher is going to say. He also does this with some of my adult friends.

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi A.,

I am a mom of a very strong willed 6 yr old son. I have learned that the best way to discipline him is not to be more powerful and have control over him (boy is this a hard way!) but rather to have power in partnership with him and set things up or teach him how to behave and still meet his needs. When you have punishments it is a win/lose situation and that doesn't seem to phase my son. When you have training then its a win/win situation. My son has walked through something so that its now his idea and he is for it.

With regards to the classroom, perhaps the style of classroom is clashing with his personality. He probably isn't a 'line up and follow' type of person and if that's what's expected, this is a hard place for him. My son went to a public school that had a large section of the kindergarten day as "choice time" where there were several stations of learning opportunities he could pick from. Then there were other times where all kids followed along with a (very talented) teacher (who really "got" 5 yr olds). This is all new to them.

I am a big admirer of a classroom structure that is taught by Jane Nelsen that teaches kids to find the answer for problems. The kids help each other to succeed. If that isn't a great dynamic, I don't know what is. I found a youtube video that goes through it if you're interested:

Being strong willed can be a wonderful trait - it gives someone the drive to do the impossible or become a great leader. However it's tough when you're the parent. One book that really helped me was "Raising your Spirited Child". I should say that I read Dr. Dobson's book on strong willed chidren and when I got through, summed it up for me by the parent needing to be the strongest one and dominate. I didn't want that. I wanted my son to be able to think through something and come up with the best course of action, led by his inner guidance (christian morals) instead of my outer parenting (rules and punishments).

I am really happy I took this style. Some days are really hard when he is difficult, but most days are good and his God-given temperament is still there and as strong as the day he was born.

Good luck! It may not be your son, but rather the school approach or their expectations that are out of line.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Quite a few kids just don't respond well to negative forms of discipline, like denial of privileges, taking away toys, or spanking. Some kids don't even respond well to time outs. It sounds like your son may do better with a more positive approach, since your current methods don't seem to be working.

I'm a strong proponent of compassionate and empathetic parenting, because it gets super results with my 4yo grandson, as it did with his mommy when she was little. And several other young families I know have happy and positive results with this method, even, in some cases, with kids who seemed destined for a life of "crime."

An amazingly good resource for this approach is the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. If it's not already in your parenting library, I recommend it enthusiastically.

I think you'll be really glad when you try this approach, because it will not only help you eliminate negativity, but your overall communication will improve – so terribly important as your son becomes older. You'll be coached on how to praise in the most effective possible ways.

This book teaches you how to help your son identify his issues, and give him an opportunity to come up with his own appropriate solutions (yes, kids can do this!). And while this is a patient and respectful approach, it's NOT pushover parenting – you also learn how to present your own needs and limits in a way your son can hear better.

This style of parenting is authoritative, without being authoritarian. It's an important distinction!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I'm seeing two separate issues in your post. One is your son's behavior. Is it time to see a family counselor about it? You might ask your school for a recommendation of a good therapist. You aren't the first mom with a strong-willed child and you won't be the last! Sometimes a parent just needs some extra help.

The other issue is your embarrassment. I don't blame you - I've had strong-willed children, too! - but keep that separate from your son's behavior, because that's your problem, not his. The reason I'm hitting this point is that your actions toward your son need to be motivated by the fact that your son is doing the wrong things - not because you're embarrassed by what he's doing.

I'm looking at your post again and noticing that your son is not emotionally mature and he's in a school situation for the first time. So I can picture a little boy in a new environment with a lot of children around him, acting out his fears...? Of course he can't be allowed take his fears out on anybody else. And, of course, you haven't stopped loving him, and of course he knows it. Make sure that he knows it, and also that he knows he's going to keep going to school!

If it'll make you feel better, when my older son started first grade at a private Christian school, there was one kid in his class who had to go to the principal's office for discipline reasons any number of times... and it happened to be the principal's son. And you think you're embarrassed? (It worked out - the boy grew up to be a fine man, and he and his dad have always stayed friends.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Spankings are obviously NOT working so you should be trying different methods. Maybe punishments don't work at all for him. Are you Always Consistent with your rules and Consequences?? Does he know what to expect from day to day? Does he sometimes get one warning and sometimes five warnings? Did the teacher set up a behavior chart for him? Or a system for the class? He should have a simple behavior chart, green is good Yellow is a warning, red means he did not heed warning. He should be praised if he gets green and yellows. He needs praise whenever he is not misbehaving and a strict very consistent system at home like two warnings, three strikes and you're in time out.
I agree he needs a counselor or therapist. If this school is not working with you, trying behavior modification, then try a different school! Read lots of books about discipline for VERY young children. like 1,2,3 Magic
Hope things great better!



answers from Harrisburg on

We all struggle to do what we know is the right thing to do. I have found that a reward for good behavior... whether doing the expected chores, unloading the plastic dishes from the dishwaher, putting clothing in the laundry basket (not just on the floor), making the bed, respect for others, honoring others, the children earn "points". We have to work together to what the point value is and how many points earn you a particular something. An example would be... 5 points earns you your choice of an extra story before bed. Or 10 points allows you to choose a movie from the library to watch with the family. Nothing is immediate, other than the points themselves. For being mean-spirited during the day, you don't lose points, but you don't earn any either... and many times that is enough punishment, especially if they see something on the reward chart.

Good luck!

Next question: Preschool Teacher Placing Child in Time Out Too Long.