Worried About 5 Year Old Daughter's Behavior

Updated on July 02, 2010
L.I. asks from Dallas, TX
13 answers

I am very worried about my 5 year old daughter's behavior lately. She is normally a very sweet girl, very giving, eager to please, super if not over affectionate. Lately though, she has become very angry and acting out. She tells us no to almost anything we ask her to do, whether it is eating her dinner, going to bed, getting out the door to pick Daddy up from work, pick up her toys, etc. She will say she is too scared or too tired, or she will go into full on tantrum mode, hitting and kicking and spitting, pulling my glasses off my face and throwing them. This goes on for quite awhile until we can physically restrain her to get in the car or whatever the case may be. Sometimes for no reason at all she just comes at me clenched fists and says shes mad mad mad. Its a little scary and disturbing.

She is also being highly sensitive. She started being very shy in preschool last year, and very sensitive too. If someone would brush past her she would accuse them of push her down maliciously. If the cat meows she says the cat is yelling at her. At her soccer games she comes out crying because someone touched her or pushed her down every single game.

She also seems to be scared of everything. She was so scared at swimming lessons she ran out of the pool into oncoming traffic. We had to take her out after the first week. This week she started Gymnastics camp, which she was super excited for - when we got there the first day she panicked and cried and was scared, she finally joined in, but there are many things she sits out in. Many of the younger kids are making fun of her.

I'm not sure what exactly is causing this behavior and what to do about it. A few facts though. She does have ADHD and is on medication for it. She is a heart transplant recipient and has had her new heart for just over 3 years. There are mental problems in the family. I have Bipolar Disorder and ADD and Anxiety Disorder, and her father has Depression. Sadly, her father and I have been fighting some lately and while we try not to fight in front of her, it is a small house, so she may be hearing us fight.

What do you think Mamas? What should I do? What suggestions do you have for me? We love our daughter and need a safe way to discipline her, but nothing is working. I also have great concern for what is causing this!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your input. It helps to have some feedback when you are dealing with such a troubling situation. Since I have written this post, I called her neurologist's office to talk about her ADHD and the medicine she is currently on to see if it might be part of the problem. Unfortunately, the assistant called me back right away and said her doctor was out of town but that one of the other doctors would be calling me. He called, left me a voice mail saying he would try back later then never did. This is very typical for this office. I am fed up with them. I made the decision to take her off the medicine and if she starts having problems with ADHD severely enough that I feel she needs to see someone I think we will seek another doctor - this one is always too hard to reach when necessary. Anyway, its been almost a week since I took her off the medication and I have seen an amazing improvement in her behavior. She is not acting angry or aggressive, there has been no hitting or yelling. There have been hardly any tantrums. Her behavior over all is better. She is still crying a lot about things when they don't go her way though, and I don't think her sensitivity issues and issues over being scared of things are resolved. I am happy that we are moving in the right direction.
I have also spoken to my individual therapist, my group therapist, and my Uncle who is a therapist. They all have pretty much given me the same types of advice, that my husband and I need to be on the same page as far as discipline for my daughter, that we absolutely should not be fighting in front of her, and that we need to work on our issues so that we are not fighting so much to being with, and that it would probably be a good idea to get my daughter into therapy.
We have started not giving in to her tantrums, not giving them the attention. It is leading to listening to a lot of crying, but I think it is giving her the message that we won't give that type of behavior attention. We are both on the same page using time out for discipline, and at dinnertime and bedtime taking away watching TV if she is not complying with what she is supposed to do. We have started being more positive with her when we discipline. She has a board of activites she can get points for when she does specific good things, and gets points taken away for things like tantrums. She gets a prize at the goal of a certain number of points. She really likes this. My husband and I are making a very big effort not to fight in front of our daughter. Which has been great, because since we have such a small house, if we can't fight in front of her, we basically have to resolve our issues nicely! Its making for a happier household all the way around.
Although her anger, agression, and behavior have improved, I am still concerned about the super sensitivity, super shyness, the phobias, and the fact that she will at some point need to deal with the fact she has had a heart transplant. My husband and I are talking about putting her in therapy as all the therapists have suggested. Its just so scary and so heartbreaking to know your 5 year old already needs therapy. It makes me sad. I am glad she's doing better though.
One final note. There is something I wanted to address. In my responses somebody referred to ADHD and Bipolar as "labels" and to not fall prey to acting like what you have been labeled. I found this a very odd and ignorant thing to say. ADHD and Bipolar Disorder are medical conditions. They are not merely labels. It is not like somebody called you stupid so you act stupid. You are way off base here. I personally take great exception to this because I have both of these disorders. They are very real. They are disorders you struggle with every day. Bipolar disorder is a very serious disease - I don't think you could "act" Bipolar if you tried. Only people that have Bipolar Disorer truly understand what it feels like. Its no label.

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answers from San Antonio on

Sounds a lot like my 5 year old son in the sensitive and "scared" of stuff area. Right now he is in swimming classes and has a total phobia of putting his head under water. His three year old sister is in his class and he has been forced to do some of the things normally that would make him cry and run from the pool....because she does them no problem.

The key with tantrums is ignore ignore ignore them...did I say ignore them.

i am looking forward to others suggestions about the scared and sensitive stuff.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Some wonderful responses here. Hi L., being a therapist, of course, I will say Jen is right on. This is more than just ADHD. In fact, had I not known of the conflict she may be picking up between you and dad, I would have wondered about the bipolar possibility too. However, I know how kids act out their pain. To a 5 year old, mommy and daddy arguing is not something she can make sense of -- let's face it, as adults, we may not be able to either sometimes. Good for you in reaching out. Your daughter may benefit from play therapy and you and dad could get the support too. Good luck! S. A. K., MFT


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answers from Richmond on

Wow, sounds like my middle child. Honestly, if you're reacting to her tantrums, then she's going to continue because she knows it gets your attention. Sounds like there's a lot going on in her life right now with school and stuff... have you flat out asked her whats going on? Ask her when she's calm, bring up an incident and ask her why she behaved like that. She may surprise you with a very valid answer, and you can work on it from there. With my daughter, I would use visual 'faces' of various emotions and ask her which one she was feeling and why. If she's just having a moment where she's being a total brat (and I mean that in the most loving way possible), I will tell her to go ahead, get mad, but go do it in your room because I am absolutely not going to listen to it and neither is everyone else in the house. Once she realizes that I'm not giving in to her tantrum, she gets bored with it and becomes her normal, sweet self. Best wishes!

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answers from Dallas on

Medications can cause these symptoms as can many disorders. Has she recently been vaccinated or had an infection or virus? I live in the autism world so that is from where I see things. All these behavriors are comon in autism and ADHD is on the spectrum. It wouldn't hurt to check her food sensitivies with IgG blood testing. I work with a doctor and one little 8 yr old we had was on 7 different meds. When we put her on the gluten and casein free diet she got off all but one med. Her psycharitrist asekd for the doc i work with to take over her case as he was at a loss of what to do. Deit can make a huge difference for some kids. Dr. Bock's book Healing The New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, Asthma, ADHD, and Allergies you can probably find in your local library. There are times when the tantrum behavior is actually seizures. Dr. Amen has videos on his site (google him)about brain SPECT scans that can actually tell him what is going on the the brain which helps in the ways to treat the symptoms. You can also look into Brain Balancein Plano as they treat ADHD, find info at brainbalancecenters.com or read Meillo's book called Disconnected Kids. I hope things get better for you soon.

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answers from Sacramento on

I would get some counseling with a good child psychologist or family psychologist. I would also consider some family counseling too. It sounds like your little girl has so many issues she is facing at such a young age,with her ADHD, sensitive personality, personal health and family health history and family issues. In addition, you may want to consider team sports are not for her. Have you tried something like art lessons, art or music or drama camp or even horse bk riding lessons. Know not all children are cut out for sports even though often Moms and Dads want to promote sports with their children . One of my sisters was fairly difficult as a child, she was diagonosed at 7yr old w/learning disablity and got hep for yrs. She never had a real interest in team sports. My parents got her involved in riding lessons and art camps and lessons. They found art to be her passion and her true talent. It was so awesome that they discovered she had this incredible talent, even as a child. She graduated frm a 4 yr college in graphic arts and has been quite successful working as an artist for years. Mom and Dad please help her find her niche after you get her some help. You can do it :D

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answers from Dallas on

I don't have any experience with ADD, so please take this with some reservation -
I would check with her doctor to see if her medication could be resulting in some side effects that would cause this new behavior. Maybe check with him about altering the dosage or switching to a different medication, as long as the new dosage or medication still helps your daughter with her ADD. Like I said, I don't have experience with ADD but I'm just offering that advice.

Also, I have a son who, last year, had a serious issue with rage and dangerous threats. I was really fearful for our family. (He was 6 at the time). In retrospect, I see that it was because it was summer time and he wasn't able to handle the lack of schedule at home. Everything was very spontaneous, nothing planned, etc. Also, he saw that by making threats and acting out, he got attention. So I changed 2 things: I gave him lots of positive attention (extra time together playing games or reading books, etc.- JUST the 2 of us); and I made our days a little more structured. If we had to go off schedule for a while, I just told him the basics of what was coming up so he knew what to expect in general. When my son DID act out, I was very very calm and just sent him to his room for "alone time". That way he was not getting any attention whatsoever. I never raised my voice. I wanted him to see that his bad behavior was not going to get my attention at all.

All these steps helped a ton and his behavior really improved by the time school started in the fall.

Good luck with your daughter!



answers from Tyler on

Well, I can understand some of what you are going through. I say "some" because my 5 year old daughter is not taking it to the extreme that yours is, however, I have a suggestion.

I noticed similar behavior in my 5 year old daughter, so I began to pay closer attention to when it occurred. She is the middle child; I have a 7 year old boy and a 3 year old boy. Middle children usually feel that they are not getting the attention that they need. For us the situation is capitalized because we have girls and girls are a lot more sensitive than guys are. Girls are a lot more emotional naturally. So what I started doing was deliberately singling her out to do special little jobs for Mommy. I would ask her to help Mommy pick out the right outfit to wear to work or church. I would invite her into the bathroom with me while I put on my makeup. I started saying a little chant "girls with the girls and boys with the boys". I went to the store and we picked out a nail polish that we could both live with and went home and painted her nails and toenails in my bedroom. I have asked my husband to just give me time with her alone and take the boys somewhere or keep the boys while she and I go shopping or out for icecream. Well, if you are wondering did it work, the answer is "YES"! She was suffering from middle child syndrome (phrase made up by me).

My husband and I may have an occasional disagreement in front of our children, who doesn't. My oldest is affected the most by these "sad times". So what my husband and I do when we realize what has happened, we make a point to apologize to each other in front of the kids and kiss and make-up. This is what kids are used to. When they have a problem with another child, we make them say "I'm sorry", so why can't adults practice what they preach.

One more thing, be careful about pinning too many labels on your child, i.e. ADHD, mentally challenged, bi-polar, etc. Society will treat your child however you treat your child. Your child will take on the character that you pin on them. For example, if I constantly tell my child that he is dumb and stupid and will never learn anything, then he probably will believe that and won't even try to learn. He will be placed in special classes and forever have this "label" to overcome. However, I have chosen the opposite approach with my children. I put labels on them, but they are POSITIVE labels. I want them to have positive self-images of themselves. I want them to be highly self-confident in their abilities, so I speak that into their lives. I often call my 5 year old "my bestest girl", "my little princess". I tell her that she is so special to me and I love her so much. I don't let her give up easy when she is trying to complete a task. I don't let her say "I can't do it". I get right down on the floor with her and show her how she can do it. I tell my oldest boy, that she is his sister and his job is to treat her like a princess and she should treat him like a prince. He opens the door for her and helps her out of her carseat. He helps her carry heavy things into the house. He watches over her when they are at the park. The reverse is also true, and they both watch over the littlest prince, my 3 year old.

Children are a product of what they see, hear, and feel. WE are their parents and have way more power than we know to help them develop into healthy and happy human beings. I hope my comments and suggestions help you in your situation.



answers from Chicago on

Try less talking to her about everything and more just being together. By this mean bake cookies, sit and watch a show together and just cleaning up and tell she may join you,Your other chores and house hold needs can wait . You guys must very busy with all the camps and things going maybe she needs time at home for awhile. With all the medical issues you must be seeing a lot of doctors every month does she see a therapist too? If not it may time too. Are any of these symptoms a reaction to any of the medication she is on? Has her diet changed recently?
As for being sensitive to touch from others .. my son was this way too and one thing that worked for him was I gave him a very tight hug before we went anywhere and everytime we got out of the car to let him know that I was around and it was ok to be touched. Good luck to you.


answers from Detroit on

Well, most of what you're describing, is just like how my daughter has always been. She's not been diagnosed ADHD, but I've seen other kids that have been diagnosed as such... And my opinion, my daughter is ADHD.

She had JUST begun starting new activities at 7yrs old. I wouldn't put her into anything before that because of her intense fear of change, other kids, and overall frustration. Your daughter may just need some extremely slow changes. And maybe not so many new things to try at a time.

My daughter had a meltdown this morning and started screaming at me because she had to go to the sitter's today (which she knew yesterday she would be) instead of her grandma's. I simply told her that I wasn't going to stand and argue about it and that I wasn't yelling, so she didn't have a reason to yell. Then, I kept on walking out of her bedroom to get her brother ready for the sitter's.

My advice would be to cut back on some of the activities and introduce things VERY slowly. Try to remain calm as much as you can and talk things through without fighting. My daughter became much better when I divorced her dad and now she's living in a household without anger and resentment. Now... I'm not saying get a divorce, but maybe tell your husband when you're feeling angry or frusterated, but that you'll TALK about it later with him. Ask him if he'd do the same. My husband (DD's stepdad) and I do that. If he's mad at me, he tells me and says that we'll talk later and then he goes outside or to the garage. I do the same thing with him. Then, after the kids are in bed, we discuss what's bothering us. Sometimes we get a little heated, but neither of us like yelling. So, we really do try to listen to each other and respond accordingly.

Good luck. If I think of anything else, I can edit my answer or PM you.



answers from Dallas on

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answers from Dallas on

L., your situation sounds gut wrenching, and for some reason it's struck a chord with me even though I've never dealt with any of these issues. It looks like you've received some excellent suggestions, so I have no more to add. Just know that some stranger (me) will be praying for you and your family for clarity, harmony, endurance, patience, and all that you need to weather this storm.



answers from Columbus on

You have a very complicated situation. I would get a full work up with a Developmental Pediatrician who is the best professional to tease out what is going on and who will call in genenticists, heart specialists, transplant specialists, speech and lagnague, neurlogists, psychologists, psychiatrists, or any speicalist she may need to get a full picture of what is going on and why, and will be the best person to make sure that her treatment plan takes all her medical needs into consideration.

You can find them at children's hopsitals.




answers from Sacramento on

I would talk to her psychiatrist about the situation. Our son also has ADHD and had issues with rage & aggression, but the medication solved them completely. However, a side effect of some ADHD medications can be the same issues as the medication wears off (Adderall, in particular, is known as Madderall). Could the timing be right in your daughter's situation?

Definitely talk to the psychiatrist who's already treating her. These behaviors are not normal and the doctor should be updated on the situation to determine if it's a medication issue or whether she might have another condition going on (which is extremely common with ADHD; our son also has OCD and depression). Discipline won't work if the behavior is out of her control.

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