How to deal with power struggle with 5 year old?

Sanja - posted on 05/17/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I used to have a perfect little girl, who would listen to me and I never have to yell at her, this year she turned 5 and now she always protests to what I or her dad tell her to do or if something doesn't go her way. I tried to reason, punish her by taking away her favourite thing, putting her in a naughty corner, cancelling her playdates, which causes new outbursts of crying and screaming. I just can't get through to her. She is very clever and strongheaded little girl. I take her out and always give her what she wants when she's good, but as soon as I say 'no' to something, she starts with 'but, mommmy'. Our arguments end up in me screaming at her and getting extremly frustrated and her crying in histerics, pulling her own hair, scraching her face (surely this is not normal), kicking and screaming on the floor. And she's capable of carrying on for hours. It seems to me that she get so angry and frustrated that she doesn't know how to deal with that emotion and I don't know what to do to help her. What is the best way to react to this, when reasoning, ignorance or punishment doesn't help?

She also begs for a hug every time she pushes me to the limit and I get really upset and tell her I'm too upset by her to give her a hug. I give her a lot of affection when she's good. What do I do when she gets like this?

She can be such an angel when it suits her and when she thinks she has some gain out of it (reward). Should I be rewarding her for everyday normal behaviour like getting up and dressed, eating breakfast, playing quietly, if so, how? I'm concerned. I'd like to see her grow up into a healthy adult who is in control of her emotions.

Sorry for such a long letter, but I don't know what to do....I don't want to yell and scream every day, I hate myself being like that and its really damaging for her younger siblings who witness this every day....

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Sara - posted on 05/17/2010

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Right - you do have to think about the other children too. It's not that she "can't deal" with the emotions, she's experimenting with what reactions get to you. How can she get you to change your mind? The more extreme the outburst, the more stern you have to be. If she gets loud or violent, remover her from the situation (the store, the room, etc.). For a little while it may mean you don't get to finish your errands when you had hoped. Consistency is the key and probably hardest for parents. We don't always have the patience ourselves to take a deep breath and communicate calmly and clearly what we expect of our child. How you respond is what she is learning, not just what you say. Give her warnings of an impending deadline - "In 5 minutes, we're going to clean up and so we can leave." Reward the behavior she is learning right now, when she chooses correctly with something you know she struggles with. If we are teaching her how to be an adult (which is our one and only job in life), you can't reward her for the things that everybody has to do everyday. Even we grown people get rewards for choosing to keep it together when things go wrong. Our rewards are successful relationships in life. Just one more little note - you can't reason with a 5 yr old. Right now you are teaching her to obey. When they get older and closer to teens and making actual decisions, then you reason. Right now they are just learning the rules. There, mine was long too. Feel better?

Sara - posted on 05/18/2010

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Sending her to her room is exactly what I mean or leave the store if she's throwing a fit. DO NOT COMPLETE A TASK YOU HAVE ASKED HER TO DO!! That is exactly her goal. Plan some play dates or other fun things she likes to do - like the library or park. Tell her about the plans and talk them up big. Then do the 5 minute warning - maybe you want to start with 15 minutes, then remind her every 5 (both to clean up and the consequences if she doesn't) - knowing full well that the first few times she won't get to go to whatever you have had planned. Your house may not be as clean as you would like it, but the more consistent you are, the quicker this process will be. Children don't do well when they don't know what is expected of them. Give her clear cut boundaries - "We are going to the store. I need/expect you to sit quietly for a bit." Add a reward like helping get the groceries from the shelves or putting on the belt at the checkout. I think its a rare mom that doesn't yell, so don't beat yourself up there. The problem is that by 5 she thinks you've changed the rules in the middle of the game. Be consistent!! Take a deep breath and stand your ground!

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Sara - posted on 08/22/2012

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I think it sounds like the 5 year old is feeling like she is fighting for your attention and her own place in the family. Figure out how to carve out time just for her. If they are together all day, every day - maybe it's getting her up just a bit before the little one, or letting her stay up just a bit longer at night. Giver her a space that is just hers too. If you have more house to work with, make it an area that little sister is not allowed to go in. If you have not so much house to work with, make it a container that you can get down for her that has things just for her to do (crafts, reading books, writing practice, etc). She's trying to assert her seniority. Help her do that and not damage the relationship with her sister.

Arian - posted on 08/22/2012

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Hi! How would I take care of the situation where my 5 year old girl has a 3year old sister and she (5year old) act like she hates her. Every where I need her to b quiet, she acts terrible, doesn't let me talk even with her doctor specially when the instructions started to be given. Everywhere we go, my 5 year old wants to do her activity and her sister as well, not letting her sister play what makes my 3year old nuts and starts behaving even worts......they are driving me crazy. Every morning my 3years old wakes up happy and earlier than everyone else, as soon as 5years old wakes up, 3yo runs and hugs her big sister, but 5yo doesn't respond.... What can I do?

Arian - posted on 08/22/2012

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Hi! How would I take care of the situation where my 5 year old girl has a 3year old sister and she (5year old) act like she hates her. Every where I need her to b quiet, she acts terrible, doesn't let me talk even with her doctor specially when the instructions started to be given. Everywhere we go, my 5 year old wants to do her activity and her sister as well, not letting her sister play what makes my 3year old nuts and starts behaving even worts......they are driving me crazy. Every morning my 3years old wakes up happy and earlier than everyone else, as soon as 5years old wakes up, 3yo runs and hugs her big sister, but 5yo doesn't respond.... What can I do?

JuLeah - posted on 08/23/2011

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Learning to control behaviors around big feelings is hard. Lose the labels! She is not good or bad, and angel or a devil.

She is a kid

Blind obediance is good? Telling her to do something and having her obey without question is really what you want? You want her acting like this with peers, future boy friends?

I think that she is questioning is a good thing

Teach her, don't punish her. Punishment doesn't teach

Big emotion is ok. Anger is ok. To question is ok.

Don't try to reason with her when she is in this state. It will make the situation worse not better

Ignorance ?? I don't understand that

So, she clearly wants some power and control in her life, give it to her

Instead of "Go brush your teeth"

"Do you want to use your red or blue toothbrush?"

"Do you want to brush your teeth before you put jammies on or after?"

When I set a limit for my child, all discussion is over. For example, "I know you will remember to clear your dishes after dinner" - well usually if I phrase it like that instead of "clear your dishes" she does it But, if she didn't clear her dishes, I'd not nag or yell or scold.

At some point she will come to me with ..."Can I watch Sponge Bob?" or "Will you read to me?" .... and I will ask, "Are the dishes cleared?"

She can go to her room and hang out until she gets her behaviors under control, but they are not wrong ... don't take it personally and of course she need a hug/reassurance that you still love her .... get some books on the life of a five yr old, it will help you understand her

Sara - posted on 08/23/2011

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Sanja - she's going to throw a fit when you discipline for a few reasons. 1 - its a new thing. You're changing the rules in the middle of the game. For you, it may seem like you are just getting started with the whole discipline thing, but in reality they have been watching and learning respect and obedience for so much longer than you think. 2 - She thinks she has you figured out. If she doesn't do it long enough (like clean-up), you will do it for her. YOU CANT DO IT! If there is a function coming up and it absolutely has to be cleaned, trade her chores. Give her a choice so she feels like a part of the process. Tell her, "I had to do clean up your toys so my friends didn't trip on them. Now you have to do one of mine. Would you like to scrub the bathtub or fold the laundry?"

The biggest things are to stay consistent and try to remain calm. I overheard a friend of mine tell a story that her daughter was trying to send her child to his room as punishment. The child responded with a "no." The mom said, "Fine. Then I'm going to mine!" Kids have to know that you are serious about this. It's a permanent thing, but they also have to know that sometimes we just need to cool down. So, by removing her from the escalating situation, you are helping her to just that. If she wont clean up, leave the toys. When you see her next, act like nothing happened and ask, "Are you ready to clean up now?" If she says no, send her back to her room. This works really well around meals, too. "Let's clean up so we can have lunch." . . . "As soon as the toys are put away we can eat." . . . "Let's see how fast you can go! I'll count while you clean - GO! One, two, ..."

Babyblueyezgrl2000 - posted on 08/23/2011

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wow that is really great advice! and im glad to hear i am not the only one going through this! i googled how to deal with a disrespectful 5 almosy 6 yr old and this popped up! so helpful!! thank you! i will try it i hope to hear back from the other mom and find out if it worked for her!

Sanja - posted on 05/17/2010

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Sara, thank you so much for your reply...
When you say 'remove her from the situation' what do you mean? I normally tell her to go upstairs to her room if she's being naughty and fighting with other kids, but thats when the tantrum starts, because she doesn't want to be punished.
You are right, she is learning from me how to respond and thats what I'm afraid of. I hate myself when I yell, but thats my last resort,normally after everything else has failed. I get frustrated and althaugh i know its wrong I get upset and angry.
I have tried with the warnings, such as in 5 minutes we'll pack up the toys so we can read the story , but she'll just ignore me, so I end up cleainig the toys myself or they'll be sitting there for days.
You made a good point, you can't reason with a 5 year old, but teach her to obey. I just don't know where to begin:(

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