How to Deal With a Misbehaving 5-Year-Old
Five-year-olds misbehave for a variety of reasons, including attention-seeking, lack of confidence, in response to change, testing limits and as a way of asserting themselves. Children continue misbehavior when they discover that acting out is an effective tactic to manipulate and control others. Immediate, appropriate parental response helps to shape healthier more adaptive coping skills.
Take note and compliment your child when his behavior is positive and spend special time just with him to diminish acting out due to attention-seeking. Child development specialist Deborah Richardson notes that some children feel their parents dislike them, because the only way they get attention is to act out. Interrupting, grandstanding and breaking known rules are signs of misbehavior to gain attention.
Encourage your child to try new activities and be tolerant of mistakes. If the acting out is due to lack of self-confidence, your child will become more secure if her attempts to try new things are rewarded. Set a good example by allowing your child to see you try new things, and if you fail, laugh or talk about the learning experience in a patient way. Allow your child to struggle to complete a new task, even if this takes longer or causes you discomfort to see her fail.
Introduce change slowly and talk about the positives. Five-year-olds need a routine to feel safe and secure, and unanticipated disruptions in the routine can cause bad behavior. Whenever possible try not to unnecessarily disrupt a child's routine. Children take their cues from a parent if they are feeling insecure in new situations, so modeling a positive attitude toward change helps.
Be consistent, firm and unemotional when setting limits. A 5-year-old tests limits to ensure her environment is safe. If you are having trouble enforcing limits because you do not want to be the "bad guy," remember that setting limits is a loving parental behavior, and your child expects to be corrected when she tests limits. Remaining unemotional shows your child that you are in control and are reliable.
Listen to your 5-year-old's feelings and opinions. Explain that you understand his feelings and empathize if you would feel similarly in the same situation. Explain that rules are meant to ensure his safety; while you understand that he is disappointed, he must follow the rules. Sometimes just listening and validating your child's feelings helps diminish acting out.
Provide your child with the tools she needs to succeed. Choose appropriately sized chairs, craft materials, puzzles and toys by reading age recommendations on the labels before you buy. Make sure the rules are clear and praise any attempts to follow them; this will help shape positive behavior. Plan activities that are interesting to prevent misbehavior due to boredom.