Help! Unruly 5 Year Old!

Updated on October 01, 2010
D.D. asks from Schaumburg, IL
15 answers

I am completely at a loss. My 5 year old just started kindergarten 3 weeks ago and in the last week she has suddenly turned into a monster. Normally I would think that it has something to do with school, but she LOVES school. So much in fact that she is upset on the weekends when she's out. So I don't think that is the problem. She has been through a lot this year, We have moved twice and I know that has taken a toll, but she is just plain awful! Talking back, not just to me but to other adults, Whining, baby talk, and just being downright mean! The back talk is by far the worst, I am at my wits end and am even considering sending her to stay with my in-laws for a while to see if that helps. She is just reaking havoc on our entire household and the worst part is that she does not really get upset she has actually laughed. We have an almost 2 year old that sees her actions and of course follows suit.

We have tried everything for punishment. Nothing seems to work. Tonight I actually put her to bed at 6pm to think about what she did.

Does any one have any suggestions?

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answers from Harrisburg on

From website, this might be helpful...

The five-year old lives in the here and now, and doesn't comprehend the idea of long-term consequences. He has difficulty seeing a point of view that is different from his own and this can make him seem stubborn and argumentative. But, he is generally cooperative and helpful, wanting to please his parents and be good. He may come home from kindergarten talking about a child who is bad. This is a good time to help him recognize what happens when someone behaves badly and to praise him for his good behavior.

Five has a good imagination and that can manifest as lying. It's best to treat lying with a light touch this year. Let her know that you know she is 'pretending' or not telling the truth. If she lies to avoid punishment, talk to her about the importance of telling the truth and add a small consequence for not doing so.

Because of five's here and now mindset, consequences for misbehavior and non-compliance should be immediate and brief. Don't expect that he'll learn his lesson the first, or even the tenth, time he receives a consequence. He hasn't yet learned self-control; and so, discipline this year involves baby steps, not giant leaps. Don't give up and don't get frustrated; just keep on giving consequences for misbehavior consistently with the attitude that he has the desire to be good, but is still learning

Daily structure and routines are important throughout childhood; but this is a transition year, so structure is crucial to your child's security and well-being. As much as possible, her life should revolve around familiar people, places, and routines.

When behavior problems occur, make sure that your child is getting plenty of rest and regular meals; cut back on outside activities to focus on familiar daily routines; catch him being good and praise him; and give immediate instruction or consequences for misbehavior.

Hope that helps.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Reno on

In my house we call this "cell block"...

Sit her down at the kitchen table for a family meeting. Explain to her that you do not appreciate her recent behavior (give specific examples). Tell her what you do expect. Then, let her know that since she has not been behaving nicely, she has lost all fun things.

Escort her to her room and have her pack up all toys, books, knick knacks...everything goes but the bed and clothes. Remove all boxes to a secure location. As she sits on her bed, in her stripped down room, tell her again what you expect as far as her behavior goes. Role play, if necessary. Tell your daughter that she must live this way for two weeks. Nothing fun in her room and nothing fun around the house (that includes tv, electronics, movies, computer, etc.). She may, however, sit in her room, play outside, read books, etc. for a period of 7 consecutive days. If she continues to behave poorly, the 7 days start over.

Combine this with the introduction of goody tickets. Every time you see your daughter respond in the way you like, she earns a goody ticket. These tickets may be cashed in for privileges when her seven days are up (and after, if you continue this after the 7 days).

She'll respond one of two ways. First, she'll clean up her act, earn tons of goody tickets and at 7 days all her stuff is moved back and you have a reformed child who has earned a lot of privileges. Or, she'll pitch a fit and you'll put her in her room, where she'll stay until she can be a polite, well-behaved member of the family. And the next day, the seven days start over. The child psychologist from whom I got this idea said the longest a kid held out on this punishment was three weeks.

I have actually used this with my son when he was 9 years old. It took him three days to reform his behavior and we haven't had a problem since. All my husband and I have to do is look at our sons and say, "would you prefer some time in cell block?" That usually does the trick. Goody tickets were an invention of my MIL and it worked great for her five kids and five grandkids.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Something sudden usually suggests something has changed. She could be getting sick, or probably more likely, she is tired. I'm wondering what time bedtime is?

Try positive reinforcement for getting it right rather than punishment for getting it wrong. If she was really good up until do want her to have a personality don't you? It's time she tested the waters a little bit. I'm not saying you need to let her get away with too much, but consider she could just be having a growing spurt. If you have been getting angry you may be creating a power struggle. I wouldn't send her away. It's only been a week. Have you read the "Love and Logic" books? If not I sure would consider it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I wouldn't send her to your in-laws. You sounds really frustrated and I'm betting that this is translating to her. Have you tried talking to her about her behavior? At 5 she may not be able to articulate all of her feelings, but I bet you can get a good idea of what might be going on for her if you ask some open ended questions and really listen to her.

Give her more time to adjust to the new demands of kindergarten. Has she been in preschool previously? If not, it could be the exposure to other kids and testing out new behaviors on you. It could just be that she's having trouble processing her new schedule. I'd keep her evenings and weekends really light and let her rest as much as possible.

I have a kindergartner and a 1st grader and they have been difficult on the weekends and sometimes in the evenings during the week. My daughter has been usually jealous of her brother and needing more attention from. I have handled it by giving her natural consequences, understanding that she's really worn out and trying to cope with it all. Feelings are ok, sometimes behavior is not. Someone mentioned to me that it takes about a month for it to level out.

Good luck, D.~

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

In short, she is tired!!! This is very normal for children getting into a new routine with a new class, especially if her kindergarten is an all-day thing. Every parent I know is struggling with the same thing right now with the start of school. Our daughter just began preschool 4 days a week for the first time and she is showing some of the same signs. On Friday (her off day), we had a HORRIBLE day together because all she did was argue and talk back. Left me crying by the end of it, I was so worn out. (And this is not usual behavior for her.)

Putting her to bed earlier is a good idea, not so much as a punishment but because she needs it! Adjust her schedule and in a few days, I wouldn't doubt if you saw improvement.

Hang in there and good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I could have written this post word for word!!! My 5 yr old daughter started KG 3 weeks ago and it has really been such a transition. I too have a younger 2 year old, and she is sooo mean to him. It's really sad. It's affecting our whole house including arguments between my husband and I. Right now, I have no advice as I haven't been able to come up with anything to help yet, just know that others are exactly where you are! I'm looking forward to reading your responses here!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The baby talk is symptomatic of atypical strep. Have a rapid strep culture run ALONG WITH a 72 hour culture. Yes, even if she does NOT have a sore throat. Strep can manifest in the brain with an autoimmune disorder called PANDAS. (My daughter has this and that is how I know.)

I know this sounds like the wackiest thing ever, but please do this in case that is what it is. So much better safe than sorry. to read my story


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I love AMom2's answer. Kids go through a lot at around age 5. Don't worry, it doesn't last the entire year. You will get your sweet child back. (In conjunction with what AMom2 answered below, try turning off the TV for a few months.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Oh my dear girl.....I am so with you!!!I have a 5 year old boy who RULES our house...when he's good..he's an angel....when he's "bad" watch out....He has me worn to a frazzle to say the least!!!Its taken its tole thats for sure.All we can do is hang in there and hope it settles down....I've read a few books that say that these kids can sometimes be super intelligent and get into trouble cause they're bored!!!My son LOVES school too and wants to b there all the time!From one frazzled mom to another......just know you're not alone!!!!I'll be reading everyone's input on this too,to see if anyone knows how to handle our little....."treasures!!!"

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My almost 5 year old who is starting K tomorrow has been demonstrating similar behavior since the summer, mostly directed at me. He has become fresh and can be mean as well. I have set a few different systems that work fairly well when I use them consistently.

I loosly use the 123 magic method. I have explained to my son that if he is not listening to me or acting inappropriately (explained to him in age appropriate language) I would say 1. If I get to 3 he gets a time out. This has worked frequently if I remember to just count him and say nothing else. I have found that the more I talk and repeat myself the less effective I am at stopping the behavior.

I have also established a positive reinforcement system with him. He loves playing miniture golf. So I made a mini golf course on a piece of paper and whenever I catch him behaving appropriately or if he has a great listening day he gets a "hole". When he earns 18 holes I will reward him by taking him to play mini golf.

The books that i have so far found to be the most helpful are 123 Magic and How to Manage your Strong willed Child.

Good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Starting school and moving are big changes in her life. It's pretty normal to have some behavior problems in the beginning. For one thing, she is being exsposed to alot of other kids, some who probably talk like that. Just keep reinforcing your home rules(ie no back talk). Also you could talk to the school social worker for advice. That's why they are there. I wouldn't send her away, that would just make her worse and confused. Sometimes kids just go through these phases. Sometimes you might need help to get them through. Don't be afraid to ask.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My daughter just started full day kindergarten, which she loves as well, and she has been ultra crabby and whiny! I think part of it has to do with being tired and the other part has to be with trying to assert some independence. They are having these new experiences and responsibilities and starting to be treated a little more "grown up" at school so of course they want to spread their wings at home as well. Being children, they don't know how to go about it and it so it comes out in bad behavior. My daughter had this exact same experience with preschool last year- she would get in the car with a saucy attitude as soon as I picked her up! But in a month or two things settle down, they become comfortable with the new routine and start settling into it. I did a few things that helped- I always made for some down time to relax after school, I did not tolerate backtalk or whining, but I did make an effort to not sweat the small stuff and let her make as many decisions as I can in a day on her own. Just knowing that it is normal and won't last forever can make a person feel better! Just be consistant about timeouts or whatever you use when she is disrespectful, but understanding about the changes she is going through.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My son started 1/2 day kindergarten this year and he's just exhausted! It completely changes his behavior, and he laughs as we get madder when he gets so overtired. It is very frustrating! We've moved his bedtime up to 7 (or as close as we can manage) and it has helped. Give her some more time to adjust, especially if she's not acting out in school. My guess is she's just overtired. It's a big change, and probably a lot more structure than she had over the summer. Good luck!



answers from Las Vegas on

Does she still take a nap?



answers from Chicago on

My 5 year old changed over night as well from the first day of school. It's kind of a cocky attitude like he's so much smarter now that he doesn't have to listen to us. We've stuck to our guns and just stayed strict with him. If he wants to act out, talk back, whine or throw a tantrum, he gets sent to his room because it's just not allowed.

He still has some outbursts every now and again, but after he's done, I walk him to his room, lay him down on his bed and tell him to think about his action and when he is ready to talk to us with respect and say he's sorry, he can come out.

It's getting better, just keep your ground, he's just testing you.

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