Help Dealing with the Terrible...Sixes???

Updated on January 02, 2010
V.E. asks from Littleton, CO
10 answers

Ok, moms. I'm really starting to get lost on what to do with my 6 year old. He is acting awful lately! He is not listening, talking back, being disrespectful and rude to almost everyone. He has developed a habit of waking up before the sun rises, and wandering around the house. Nothing I do will keep him in bed, or his room. He usually says he is hungry. I have tried giving him a snack right before bedtime. I have tried changing his bedtime to slightly later to see if he was getting enough sleep, and he would just wake up at the same time and be crabby the whole day. I even put the gate up, but then he can't go to the restroom. I know he needs more sleep, because the times I wake up really early for work, or restroom and catch him up at 5am, I send him back to bed and he always falls back asleep. I have even told him that if he leaves his area, he can't play the wii that day, or some other consequence. Then when I wake up (mindful, the latest I sleep in till is 7 whether or not I work) he is in a complete other part of the house. If I ask him about what I told him what would happen if he did that, he answers "I can't play wii" or whatever it is, then he throws a temper tantrum about it, flinging himself on the floor and crying. He seems to knows what he's been told, it just seems like he doesn't care. His answer for everything I tell him is "I don't want to". The other day I told him to clean up his room while I was cleaning the living room. I went to check on him about 15 min later, and it was still messy and he was just sitting there. When I asked why he didn't listen, he said there was too much stuff on the floor and it would take too long to put away. Those are just a couple examples.

At school, he isn't talking back or anything. He is well behaved, slightly distractable during class or while standing in line. He had a slow start in the beginning of the year with his letter recognition, but we have been working a lot at home and I've seen a drastic improvement. The teacher said he is always kind to the other kids, but I have noticed some of the other kids acting this way during class, so I don't know how much he is picking up there.

We are trying to spend more one on one time with him, and it definitely is worse when he is with me than with his (step)dad. I'm thinking it might be more competition with his sister now that she is walking and talking? Its definitely worse when she is around.

I'm starting to feel like he either isn't understanding consequences, or isn't caring about them. He isn't following directions and just has a general attitude. Definitely testing his boundries. He can't spend the whole day in the corner or his room. I'm just not sure what to do!

***a little more detail. I did the original request on my BlackBerry and was in a rush. On the cleaning the room, all that he needs to do, is make sure his dirty clothes go in the hamper and his toys in the toy box. That is the only real chore he has to do everyday. He had 4 to 5 things on the floor, plus his dirty pajamas and underwear. I told him to pick up his clothes and toys, then when I was done putting the laundry away, we would watch a movie. He knew that he couldn't watch the movie until he was done, but when I went in there he threw a fit when I told him he had to finish so we can watch the movie. It took him less than 3 minutes to clean up.

I don't believe he should be free to explore his own house at 430am when there's 2 levels and he will go on the separate level then us. I set out food for him to snack on, he knows how to get his own cereal, make sandwiches and even toast, but he knows not to use the toaster without someone there. And he usually has juice boxes or some drink ready. The TV is set to change to PBS as soon as the kid shows start, so all he would have to do is turn it on. His usual bedtime is 7 strict on a school night and sometimes we let him stay up till 8 on a weekend.

This isn't anything new, its just been escalating the past few months. I'm always consistent with rules and punishments. He just seems not to care.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the responses!! I'm hoping for it to pass SOON, but now that school started back again, we changed his bedtime to 7:30 and it seems to help a lot with the sleeping. He still is a little sassy, but I'm really working on giving him encouragement when he does something quickly or without arguing. I think thats helping a bit. He USED to like chores and clean up time, but lately he drags his feet on doing them. It seems like once he started kindergarten this year, his attitude started going downhill. Unfortunately, he hasn't caught on that the longer he is throwing a fit in the corner, the longer he stands there lol.

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answers from Fort Collins on

I'm sorry that things are so difficult right now, the first thing to remember is that "this too shall pass" everything is a phase with growing-up so don't get too wrapped-up in the kid's drama, cause he learns to use it against you. I would agree that much of his behaviors are about seeking attention and control- they say Kindergarden is really hard for kids- is he in 1st grade now?

I just recommend setting aside some quality time for just you and him to go do something he likes, but nothing too exhausting. Mention that you have noticed him behaving strangely and you would like him to talk about his feelings, he may just need to feel more understood. That's all I got; Good Luck!

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answers from Denver on

why isn't he allowed to explore his own house?

as far as the room cleaning, if you go to,
you will find a treasure waiting for you and your husband and children.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

A lot of his behavior is actually still within normal for his age. And some kids just mature more slowly than others. My son (now 8) was very slow in his emotional development and still is "behind" other kids in managing his emotions. I just have to work with his behavior on a one-day-at-a-time basis (sometimes even hour by hour). What I have found is firm and immediate consequences. Usually it is time out and then sometimes loss of a privelige for the rest of the day. Yes, there is a lot of screaming and crying about it, but just stay calm and firm. (And he has begun to understand that all the screaming does is prolong the time out). We also do the same things for his 6 year old brother and it seems to be working well for both of them.

When he talks back, listen to what is under the words. It is often from frustration that he can't express himself. He may not be deliberately trying to be disrespectful. Help him say what he is trying to say the right way. If he still gets nasty about it, then for us it is "you can go to your room until you can talk to me the right way."

As far as the early waking, some kids are just that way. Mind you, necessarily at 4:30, but some kids are just early risers. My 6yo falls asleep between 8 and 8:30 pm (bedtime is officially 8:30 but he's often asleep by then) and rarely sleeps past 6. He often comes in to our room at that point, but he knows how to fix his own cereal as well. I would suggest slowly pushing back your son's bedtime to 8 pm. Then teach your son how to tell time to the hour (either digital or analog is fine, just show him how to tell what hour it is) and tell him he may not go upstairs/downstairs (or wherever you don't want him) until 7. The consequences should be very firm and logical - rather than no Wii, he has to spend that much time in his room, since he didn't when he was supposed to. Make sure there are some engaging things for him to do when he wakes up, and encourage him to come to you first if he needs to leave his room. My son actually crawls into our bed mostly asleep, and I just walk him back to his (like sleepwalking - this could even be part of your son's issue!)
As far as cleaning his room or doing any other chores, most kids his age (and even older) have a very hard time doing chores unspervised. Even something that to us seems super simple, like picking up clothes and toys really quickly, can be overwhelming to a 6 year old. Plan on spending the 15 minute with him that it takes to clean up, even though he is doing most of the work and you will just be directing and keping him on track. On a side note, all our kids (including the 6yo) have chores to help the family, mostly unloading the dishwasher, unsupervised (well, reminders to keep going) - but this is only because we've done it together for quite a while first.

Yes, he is testing his boundaries. It's going to happen a LOT more at home where he knows he will be loved no matter what, than at school (where he is still wanting to please the teacher so she will like him). And its very likely that he doesn't fully understand consequences. Your job is to be firm and consistant (the more exceptions there are the harder it will be for him to learn it) and to help him learn to understand. You can even play if-then games: if teddy (climbs the honey tree, etc) then (he will get stung by a bee, etc), just do this when you're not trying to enforce consequences. And, make sure you praise every little effort and step in the right direction. What you focus on will increase!
Be patient. It can take months for you to really appreciate the change, and even then there will be times when you want to pull your hair out, lol. Just keep working at it :)



answers from Pueblo on

I have a nephew who had always been a VERY early waker. Around 5 or 6 years of age, my SIL was tired of getting up with him. They put cereal on a low shelf (or got a bowl of it ready before bed) and a cup of milk so he could get himself some breakfast and made up the TV so he could just push a button and watch cartoons or an approved show.

They set boundaries and he knew he could play quietly in his room, or eat some cereal and watch cartoons.

Could he be going through a growth spurt and need to go to bed a little earlier? My kids are younger than him but when they go to bed later, they wake up earlier. Strange!



answers from Salt Lake City on

With the sleeping more thing... my kids sleep in later if they go to bed EARLIER!! I don't know why it works but when they are tired, if I put them to bed earlier, they are able to sleep better and longer, almost like they get overly tired if we keep them up later! After the new year, I put my kids to bed between 8:30-9:00 last night and they rarely/never sleep in but they got up between 8:30-9:30. Ahhh it was nice! My kids are 1-10.



answers from Provo on

you're doing everything that i would do and more in this situation. could he be lonely? is there a good friend he doesn't play with as much now that he's in school? does he have friends at school? is he being picked on by anyone? just some ideas of things you can ask him about if you haven't already. last year my son was in preschool and started acting out a lot. i talked with him about it and the frustrations he voiced were things like the girls at school didn't like to play the same things he did, he didn't get along with the only other boy in his class, he wished he had more time in the mornings to play before school, and he missed playing with one of the neighbor kids. i also think the weather and the fact that his teacher was pregnant that year added into his bad mood. unfortunately there wasn't a lot i could do to change things for him, but understanding what the root of the problem was helped some. and sometimes we just had to grit our teeth and look forward to the summer when he could run free again. good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

He sure is testing you! I don't know what to do about the morning thing, but something we have recently gone through with my 5 year old is the "I don't want to" phase. I just calmly say "It's not an option and you don't have to want to, you just have to do it." He huffs and puffs, but just does it, because I just keep repeating the answer and waiting on him to comply. If he's overwhelmed by the mess, which is understandable with little boys messes sometimes, offer to pitch in to help him get started. Divvy up the chores - I'll stack the books and you put away the blocks. Don't do another task until he's done his. If he refuses, your help is done. Hope that helps with a few of the things. Little boys can be very hard headed. My two sure were/are!



answers from Provo on

Your six year old sound similar to my 5 1/2 year old's behavior. So this morning my husband and I were discussing and with my educational background; we discovered all we were ever doing is giving consequences for things my daughter was doing wrong or not listening. We also noticed she was continuing to throw more fits about anything we ask her to do. She loves to play computer. Somehow I have been forgetting to give nice consequences when she does do nice things for us, or when she does what we ask her to do. So, we have set up a small reward system. We are starting out small, rewarding when she gets dressed without a fit, eating her food all gone, etc. We are using fuzz balls in a ziploc bag. We also explained very clearly how she can earn these fuzz balls. So far this morning she has done everything we have asked her to do without a fit. I did set up a saving system with the fuzz balls. 1= 15min of computer or wii, 2= 30min of show time, all the way to 10 = buy a cheap computer game. The reason I set 10 is knowing my 5 year old it is going to take her a while to save fuzz balls enough for a game as she really likes playing the computer. She already used both balls she earned this morning on computer use. Eventually, I will raise the stakes in earning fuzz balls to doing a string of things to earn one. For example, get dress, eat, and get everything ready for school in a certain amount of time before earning one fuzz ball. We will see how well this works. Good luck on your endeavers with your son.



answers from Denver on

Sorry to say but he sounds perfectly normal to me. All kids hit these stages and they frustrate us as parents immensely. The only thing I see that maybe you can do differently is work with him while he cleans his room. He is pretty small to take that responsibility seriously. Make it fun, set a timer and see who can pick up the most stuff, or both of you shove everything into a pile in the middle of the floor (believe me they love it) then take things out of the pile one at a time and put them away. Just be sure to not expect more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time on stuff like this. It is so hard for them to get it right away and pay attention.

As far as him getting up all the time or seeming to have attitude. Just keep putting him back in his room and following through with your consequence. He may spend a couple of days in the corner, but believe me, he won't like it and within a few days he will straighten up.

Just remember, don't let him push you around. Keep your cool. Don't feed into his tantrums and fits. If he is misbehaving, take him to his naughty spot (the corner, his bed, the couch, whatever) and walk away. He may freak out for a long time, he may get up 50 times, just stick with it. it will work.

Remember, that you need represent what you want him to be, that little one is watching. She will start doing the same things he is doing and then you will really lose it.

Good luck!


answers from Denver on

Is the sun waking him up in the mornings? You may try blackout curtains for his bedroom.

I have found that as parents we feel frustration and disappointment when we have unrealistic expectations of our children. We often are unaware of what they are or are not really capable of at certain ages. I have worked with many parents that see their children as little adults and expect them to behave and think like adults. We tend to complain that they aren't listening when what is really happening is that they do not understand. We try to throw abstract concepts at them rather than learning to teach them from a concrete stand point. You have received some really great ideas about supporting him in cleaning his room. I would also suggest that you educate yourself on the developmental abilities of children at certain ages.

A couple of keys to discipline are consistency and appropriateness. You must follow through every time and you need to find what is effective. If the Wii doesn't do it what will? There is always something, although that isn't always easy to find. You have to be like Sherlock Holmes and be curious about what has the most meaning in your childs life.

Curiousity goes a lot further in parenting than expectations. If our methods aren't working then instead of getting bogged down in frustration, get curious about the whole situation. What is really driving the child's behavior? What are they really feeling: tired, hungry, overwhelmed, confused? (We have a tendency to assume they are doing it to piss us off when that is rarely the case for children - teens maybe, but even then they usually are too self centered and are reacting to their own stuff) How clear have we made the situation? Do they understand what we want them to do-can they express it in their own words without just parroting our words back to us? Why are we so sensitive to this particular issue? What stands in the way of following through with discipline--are we afraid they won't like us, is it too hard to listen to them be upset, do we not have a method to deal with their tantrums and stay calm ourselves? Could our own unresolved issues be the problem and not the child's behavior?

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