My 5 Year Old Throws Fits

Updated on March 07, 2010
D.R. asks from Las Vegas, NM
6 answers

about 4 months ago my 5 year old started throwing fits when i ask her to do something like clean her room or even simple things like sit at the table for dinner i need so advise on what can i do to stop her from doing this im afraid that it might rub off on my 2 year old?

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answers from Sacramento on

I'm going to again recommend the book "Raising your Emotionally Intelligent Child"

I think 5 is a really hard age, especially with a younger sibling in the house. They are more independent and therefore we expect more from them, and yet, here is the younger sibling who has none of the same expectations. Sometimes, they may even view the sibling as getting more attention because they are simply not able to do as much and therefore require more of your attention. These feelings can come out in interesting ways...

You may think about a reward system for your daughter when it comes to doing chores...

Also, if she's in kindergarten she may be feeling a lot of pressure that she isn't verbalizing to you. I'd talk with her and see if you can find out what's behind her fits.

Good luck!



answers from Phoenix on

You can find solutions to school-age tantrums in several books like Michelle LaRowe's Nanny to the Rescue and The Family Coach Method.

Instead of the traditional time-out I usually rec that parents take a peek at the who what when where and how of the behavior, this by itself often shifts the behavior. Here's how you do it:

Kids fighting or having fits? Be a Behavioral Detective

Whenever a parent is seeking to solve a behavioral, developmental, social or learning issue, the best thing to do first is to take an inventory: Step back, watch, listen, observe and learn. Be calm, breathe through it, you'll see more clearly.

Before you intervene around a behavioral challenge or an issue at home or school, it’s really important to step back, look at it objectively and understand the who, what, where, when, how, and why, of the specific behavior.

While many parents I meet come to talk about discipline, before we talk about about behavioral interventions to increase compliance, we discuss how to be a detective. Being a detective allows you to observe your parenting interactions a little differently. We learn to seek to understand before we intervene.

The problem with intervening too soon is that you might be implementing ready, fire, aim instead of ready, aim, fire. Now of course, if you fire before you aim, chances are you’re going to miss the mark and you’re going to need to re-do the intervention. You may also have to undo your mistakes surrounding the original misfire. Worry-not, for you can. But if you understand what you are doing and why, before you take action, you are more likely to hit the mark.

When you are a behavioral detective you are empowered to better understand the meaning of your child’s behavior by considering the who, what, when, where and how of any specific behavior.

By being a detective you will learn to ask yourself:

• Who was there?
• What did I expect?
• What did I get?
• What did I understand?
• What did I not understand?
• What was my child trying to communicate to me?
• What was happening?
• What was going on in the environment?
• What was my child doing?
• What was I doing?
• What were other people in the setting doing?
• What time of day was it?
• What happened before, during and after the specific behavior?
• What was said?
• What actions took place?
• When did the behavior occur?
• When did I respond? Did I wait to long? Could I have intervened to help sooner?
• Where were we?
• Where were the other family members?
• Where were the other children in the classroom, playing field or setting?
• How did I intervene?
• How could I have said something differently?
• How could I have done something differently?

The ABCs of Being A Detective

In order to be a behavioral detective, take out a blank piece of paper and divide it into four columns. Observe, take notes and learn how to look at behavior from a new viewpoint.

In Column #1 describe the situation, behavior, experience or circumstance that posed a challenge for the child.

Some examples include:

• Mary would not get out of bed this morning
• Leslie would not stop picking on her younger sister
• James bit a child in preschool
• Allison refused to eat her dinner
• Sarah would not share her toys with a playmate

Column # 2 is labeled A: What leads up to the behavior, what’s going on at the time, who’s present at the time, and what are the circumstances prior to the behavior. Notes in this column include:

• Has the child eaten well?
• Has the child slept well?
• Does the child have his cuddly with him or something to help sooth him during a transition?
• Was the child prepared for the requested behavior or personal experience?
• Did the child sleep enough?
• Did the child have a late-afternoon snack?
• Was a parent impatient, thus contributing to the misbehavior?
• Were there too many children in the classroom this morning, so that the class was loud or unruly?
• Was the child woken up too early?
• Was there an adult present to help the child with a skill deficit?
• Did the child have the necessary skills to manage the experience?

Column #3 is labeled B: The actual behavior, its length, duration, severity.

In this column describe the specific behavior.

• What happened?
• What behavior was exhibited?
• How long did it go on for?
• How severe was the behavior?

Column #4 is labeled C: How did the event end, what happened next, what were the consequences of the behavior, what did the child or other children around the child do, what were the interventions, how did each of those interventions work or not work.

In this column describe who did what when and what were the resulting actions or consequences.

• Who was there?
• Who was involved?
• What did each person say?
• What did each person do?
• What happened next?
• Were consequences employed?
• Was discipline used?
• What form of discipline?
• How was it administered?
• By whom?
• How did the child respond?
• What seemed to work well?
• What did not work well?
• What improvements might be needed?

The next time your child misbehaves, become a behavioral detective. Sit back and observe. Take notes. Consider what you said and did. Consider what your child said and did. Consider what others said and did. Just being aware will likely alter your behavior as well as the behavior of your child.

You'll be amazed by what you learn. Just looking, listening and learning changes behavior, watch. When you understand the who, what, when, where and how of your child's behavior you can make more informed choices regarding how to intervene.

How to be a behavior detective to increase your child's skill sets is explored in detail in Dr. L. Kenney's The Family Coach Method, St. Lynn's Press November, 2009.

Good luck! L.



answers from Hickory on

I feel you here. My 6 year old is doing the same. There are better days than others. I am an early childhood educator and no matter the education I have learned that each child is different so the same thing will not work for all. For mine we have found letting her help more in the adult chores helps her work better with us. She gets to order her own food when we go out. This helps with the behavior while out. If we talk as grown up to her and ask what her thoughts are life goes better. They are just at the stage where they have so much to say to us but find it hard. When that happens we get the fit. I have started saying, "I am not screaming at you so when you can talk to me with your voice than come to me." This surprising has help out greatly.



answers from Phoenix on

My friend was complaining this very thing was happening at her house with her 7 yr old. She said she used to be so good and obedient, and now tantrums all the time! We agreed she just had to keep being firm and stick with the time outs. Once she said her daughter screamed for 1/2 hour in time out just because she didn't like the clothes she was supposed to wear to school. Then she was late to school! Can't wait to hear advice from others also!

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