Dealing with a moody 5-year-old

Happy Candletime! This is the third year already. If you've forgotten the rules, they're here.

And now a question from K, who wanted me to summarize and paraphrase her larger request.

Essentially, her son, since turning 5, has gone all Jekyll and Hyde. "Sweet as can be, helpful, and polite vs surly (actual surly), rude, and vicious. Permanent getting up on the wrong side of the bed, if you will." He's vicious to his older sister when she tries to interact with him, and blames his bad moods and behavior on his sister.

K thinks it may be jealousy that she's able to read and write and do other things he can't yet. But will it go away? Is there something she could be doing?

I'm looking for data points from people who may have had the same issue. My own two boys were horrible at 4.75 years but changed radically into cooperative, fluent little citizens shortly after turning 5. So I had the opposite experience.

Is there anyone else out there going through a Horrible Fives phase, or who had a child who had one? How long did it last? Was there anything you did that you think helped?

66 thoughts on “Dealing with a moody 5-year-old”

  1. We definitely had that with our son at age five. Overnight he displayed sudden sullen tantrums and bursts of anger. He didn’t have an older sibling, but did have a 1 year old younger sibling. We thought it was an attention thing at first, but I think in the end, it was just a phase that passed (thankfully). The anger did seem to come to the forefront with regards to control over any situation. Whether we asked him to get dressed, go to the bathroom, come to the table for dinner, etc., we were accused of not letting him do what he wants to do (on his schedule, presumably). It seemed to just fade within a couple months. Or I have blocked it out. It was also right around the time he started at a public preschool, so perhaps the higher level of responsibility at that age was leading him to want absolutely no requests on his time at home? As you can see, I have no real wisdom regarding this, but please take heart that you are not alone and that it does pass.

  2. My just-turned-5yo has been pretty cranky lately too. And has had some unpleasant interactions with the new nanny. But we think it’s largely an issue of boundary-pushing and new nanny isn’t as firm with him as he really needs her to be.Plus, lots of things are changing around the house (little brother is moving into the 5yo’s room next weekend) as we prepare for the arrival of #3 in December.
    So I’m mostly attributing it to situational stuff, but I’m curious to see others experiences and suggestions.

  3. I will be watching this discussion closely. We have a 6.5yo and a 4yo, both boys. Our older boy has always had frustration and anger issues but we are at a new level regarding viciousness and aggression, and have been since he was five. When the child gets angry, even over something like his brother using the same lego brick that he wanted, he will try to hurt, maim and destroy. First he goes after his brother, and then he goes after me when I separate them, and follows up with wall-kicking and toy throwing in his room. We are talking no-holds-barred biting, kicking, punching, etc. And then there is the name-calling – P.O.S. Mama, etc. (and my husband and I do not use those words). I think I am also very consistent with discipline. This happens at least once a day and I am at the end of my rope, so I am hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The bittersweet part is that he is a sweet little boy otherwise.

  4. Oh, I am so going through this right now. My daughter turned into a demon from the Hellmouth at right around 4.5 and now, at a month past turning 5, is still just awful a lot of the time. There are things I can attribute some of the behavior too — starting kindergarten, seeking control, jealousy of older sibling — but even then it’s hard to know what to DO a lot of them, particularly when she’s so damn good at pushing my buttons. I can’t offer a lot in the way of advice, because I’ve been lost and frustrated myself over this, to the point of tears many mornings, but I do see glimpses of a somewhat normal, loving, happy child in there at times and I am hopeful that this phase will pass.

  5. I get a lot of that push and pull with my 5-1/2 y.o., but he’s also always been very emotional. I think, for him, much of it has to do with more being asked of him (starting Kindergarten) while still feeling very much (and wanting to remain) a little kid.I let the outbursts roll off my back…my emotions don’t have to have anything to do with his emotions, and he’s far more likely to get out of whatever funk he’s in if my emotions remain level. He’s allowed to feel all of these big feelings; he’s not allowed to forget his manners in the midst of it.

  6. Yep, I’ve got a moody 5yo here. It’s my daughter, and she’s always been more intense about nearly everything than her big brother (8yo) is. It has definitely ramped up lately. I think it has a lot to do with starting kindy. She’s been in Montessori school since 3 yrs. old, so has always (in theory) had a good amount of independence and control. But now she’s getting old enough to really feel and sometimes even predict the consequences of her choices. I think this realization is delicious to her at times and overwhelming at others. She is fearless. She loves doing things on her own. But sometimes she just poops out and wants to blame everyone else for her bad decisions. (“Mommy, you’re MAKING me whine!”)It’s growing pains, IMO.

  7. “K thinks it may be jealousy that she’s able to read and write and do other things he can’t yet… Is there something she could be doing?”Go ahead and start teaching him how to read and write. There’s a fantastic book we used to great success with my DS starting when he was 3.5-years-old – Siegfried Engelmann’s “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.”
    See reviews at:
    http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Your-Child-Read-Lessons/dp/0671631985/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320166481&sr=1-1
    Also check out the excellent Starfall website:
    http://www.starfall.com/

  8. I’m glad to know 4.75 year-olds can be beastly, since my 4.75 yo son has a raging case of potty mouth and gleeful misbehavior (to switch to sullen and angry whinyness after being corrected). (Ie: it’s not just me! Or my son!) However, this moodiness of 5 yo + … Oh please god, not with a needy 2.5 yo and a baby due in February…

  9. Popping back in to second the Starfall recommendation…tis an excellent site, and I think it had a lot to do with both of my kids’ learning to read early.

  10. My almost 5YO went through a rough patch in regards to his younger sibling (2) which really pushed my ability to be patient and listen actively. I would do OK in the morning but by 3:00 in the afternoon I was ready to duct-tape him to a tree till bedtime (just to be clear this never. Things got better when I changed my approach to how I was responding to the sibling in-fighting. Although I’m not 100% convinced it was because I changed what I was doing (it may have just run it’s course).So anyway…maybe it’s just “a thing?”

  11. Can I tell you how relieved I am to know I’m not the only one with a moody 5 year old? I’m also happy to hear that it’s a phase that has passed for some. There are days I’d swear my just-turned-5 year old daughter was really a teenager. Often she’s well-behaved and sweet, but there are times she goes into a total mood. It’s usually around dinner time, which makes me think that it’s triggered by hunger and being tired. We try to make sure she gets enough food and have snacks on hand if she gets hungry, but I’m not sure that’s made much of a difference.She really is a great kid when she’s not in one of these moods. And I know that part of it is that she knows exactly how to push my buttons, and I try not to engage, but I’m not always successful at all.

  12. OMGWhat everyone said.
    Our nearly 6 year old went through this several times- once at 4 1/2 and another time right before 5 1/2. We were at our wit’s end, mostly when she would get so unbelievably angry about stuff and we would not know what to do make it better or stop.
    It happens now, but very much less so. She does apologize and seems to feel truly bad afterwards. It happens over the DUMBEST stuff, she’s usually very with it when it comes to big issues, changes, transitions. What sets her off is not being able to watch TV (we don’t watch most nights anymore) or not being able to have candy or a treat. Dumb stuff.
    Otherwise, she is a very fluent, mature, good kid.
    I think getting lots of breaks so you can approach it with fresh eyes/attitude is the key. Whatever you do will probably be okay, but you have to be in a good place to deal with discipline/empathy/whathaveyou.

  13. Really agree with what Helena said. However you handle it will probably be okay as long as YOU are getting enough breaks to come at it with empathy and calmness.My 4.5 year old son has been a pretty sweet, easy, mellow kind of guy his whole life but just lately I’ve been noticing how he is behaving rather disrespectfully to me (mom). It is often silly behaviour gone one step too far. His deal is not the anger/vicious thing so much as rude/disrespectful. He is imitating/following/loving/bonding with his dad so much at this age, that Freud would probably say that he is just in a natural stage of ‘separating’ from his mom (me) and moving into the latency phase.
    Dunno. Just hope he gets through whatever this is and it doesn’t get much worse before it gets better.
    I haven’t figured out what approach to take but I think what might work best with him is to sit him down and calmly tell him how it makes me feel when he rolls his eyes at me or says uncaring things. Also, some clear consequence that doesn’t involve me and that I don’t have to really enforce (i.e., not a time out because I don’t want to get in a power struggle to make sure he sits on the step…I’m thinking more like loss of minor privilege…haven’t figured this one out yet).
    Hang in there everyone. At least we aren’t alone!

  14. K doesn’t exactly say how far past 5 her son is but I’d hazard a guess that he is around 5 and 2 months. 2/3 months after a birthday ( and beofre a birthday too) are always the toughest time for us. I can’t exactly remember 5.25 but seeing similar behaviourto what K described happened at 4.25, 3.25 and 2.25 with both my kids, it was probably a bad time as well.DD is currently 2 months shy of 5 and either butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth or she is being super bitchy to someone around her. Lots of prepping on what is appropriate behaviour or what is expected of her seems to work best for her. That seems to work well with both my kids actually.

  15. It’s been awhile so the details are hazy but I recall coming to the conclusion that what big boy (who was 5ish at the time) needed was effusive loving. Lots and lots of hugs and kisses, even picking him up and carrying him around from time to time. I really think the boy was missing the baby/ toddler physical love – we were naturally treating him as a bigger boy. I also remember forcing myself to hug and love him when he was driving me crazy with some of behaviours you describe. I am convinced this approach turned things around (he’s 22 now and just a terrific person).Hugs and love to you who are struggling.

  16. I love what meggiemoo said “…my emotions don’t have to have anything to do with his emotions, and he’s far more likely to get out of whatever funk he’s in if my emotions remain level. He’s allowed to feel all of these big feelings; he’s not allowed to forget his manners in the midst of it.”I’m not there yet – but I am dealing with a 3.5 YO right now. Man oh man.
    But for more data points – Many of the 5 year olds in our world started kindergarten this fall and are still having exhaustion/meltdown issues at home.

  17. It is, ever mercifully, a phase. One, in fact, we were just entering in our house a year ago w our 5y4m old son, and which lasted for a good 2-3 months. Lying, foul language, name calling, lashing out at peers, MAJOR separation issues, big sleep disturbances, jealousy of then-1y old sis…you name it. We pinned it on a lot of things, but it was defintely the roughest extended period of time we’ve had parenting that child. The wonderful news is, it passes. We just have to love them (sometimes tough love them) and hope it passes quickly. We had the, um, *advantage* of Christmas being smack in the middle of it. And while this phase managed to rob far too much of my personal joy, we did leverage the whole personalized video email message from Santa saying he’d been naughty and had better shape up. (This is SO not like me — I actually feel guilt even invoking the name of the guy in red, but I remember telling my husband that afternoon that even artificially (lies) induced peace was peace in my book. Hang in there and be kind to yourself – it does get better!

  18. My daughter is 4.5, filled with sweetness and fits of disagreeableness. She can be so considerate, and she can be so very inconsiderate. It’s helpful to read the comments and remember that during the bad times we’re not necessarily seeing the emergence of a permanent unpleasant personality.The comments about reading interest me. I used the Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons fairly successfully as a reading tutor for years, and I’ve failed spectacularly with it with my daughter. She DOES NOT LIKE the book. She doesn’t like the repetitive lessons, and I get concerned about the “funny looking” letters (like the joined th) and I rush past them. My girl likes to pretend that she already knows everything (she KNOWS how to read, she pretends; she just is CHOOSING not to), and I try to not to expose the pretense too harshly. It’s just not working well. But no big deal. She loves stories and books and I know she’ll learn to read.

  19. My daughter just turned 8 (8! Can you believe that? 8!) and we are going through a similar phase. And yes, we did go through it at 5 too. 7 was pretty good though, if that encourages anyone ;-).I’ll be watching these comments for ideas on handling the power struggles, outbursts, name-calling, slow as molasses-ness, etc.

  20. Oh my! I’ll be paying attention to this post, too! I’m already dealing with this with my 3.5 year old! Like someone else posted, it seems to happen when we ask something of him. It almost seems like a control thing. I assumed it had something to do with the fact he can’t speak too well yet. Maybe not. I’ve gone through similar phases with my 7 and 9 year old daughters, but it really doesn’t bother me as much. I think (knowing the women in my family) I almost expected it with them…It wasn’t if, it was when and for how long with my girls. My son has always been so sweet and easy going, it has taken me by surprise a bit! I am glad that there may be hope, however!

  21. we had a craptastic year of 5, starting at 5 years 2 months, some of which was connected to hellish kindergarten experience, combined with his disequilibrium in the fall which is usually longer than 6 months. I did not like 5. we’ve been working with a child psychologist to process the trauma of last year, and I must say, I’m seeing some progress & maturity at almost 6.5 (looks around & knocks on all wood available.)

  22. @alexis – could you briefly describe what approach you use to the sibling fighting that seems to be working for you?My 5yo (8/30) goes wild just before dinner (not hungry as he will fix himself a snack) and really bothers his 3yo brother – chasing after him and calling names. It makes dinner prep a really stressful time for me, and spills over into the whole bedtime routine.

  23. My older son was awful–just awful–to his little brother from about age 2 to, oh, say, last month, at age 8. Really. It was a drive-me-to-tears-nightly, baffle-the-therapists situation.But. The little one was sweet as pie, helpful as could be, and a total ray of sunshine. Until (wait for it!)…oh, say…last month. Little one is now 6, and has become back-talky, sulky, tantrumy, resumed wetting the bed at night, careless (lost the stylus for my phone and broke the cord for my iPod, both things he had used cautiously and well for 2+ years)…really, someone we barely recognize. We’re not sure what’s going on either. Our guess, if we had to make one, is that he’s disappointed in kindergarten. He hasn’t really connected with anyone there (though he’s been such a pill, I’m concerned that this could be why).
    Keeping them fed helps. And again hat tip to meggiemoo–speaking reasonably, if not lovingly, in the midst of their nastyness, can help. And out of the heat of the moment, I can usually say to them, “Do you like how you felt when you did X?” and that at least opens it up to whether they were muddled inside and feeling bad or whether they felt powerful and were grabbing for control. Sorry if this is disjointed, it’s late here. Great post & replies as always.

  24. Hi,Original questioner here. He’s exactly 5 1/2.
    Although he is in Kg, where we live it is a different “system”–he is not mixed in with big kids in a big building. Kg is a standalone year and he went in knowing more than half of his class because they were in 4 yo nursery together. So far less transition on that end than a lot of 5 yos. Teacher is very good. The idea that this is something social is confusing for me–although my husband says a lot of this is him “figuring things out–this is how boys are.” (?)
    Equality and fairness is a big issue for him: being invited to the same # of bday parties and playdates as his sister, etc. Getting the same amount of water in his cup. Not having to feed the dog MORE times. And so on. Impossible to achieve, of course.
    Part of it, for me, is that up until recently he was easy to distract from the tantrum/snit and we could get things accomplished. Now not so much.

  25. For K, the original poster:You’re right…fairness and equality are huge at this age, as are the rules…knowing them, breaking them (!), consequences. Not sure if this applies to you or not, but Kindergarten in our US school requires much more from my kid then his preschool did in terms of independence, consequences, etc. They give the kids a color each day depending on their behavior (not my favorite system, but there it is).
    If you haven’t read “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” run to your nearest bookstore/library. I recommend buying it–I tend to need to refer to it about every 6 months. That book and “Playful Parenting” influenced my parenting more than anything else.
    Touching on what a PP wrote, I feel like this age is all about putting a toe into the waters of the “big kid” world and then running as fast as they can back to being a little kid. So a ton of “I can do it myself!” combined with whining: “Can you wipe my butt/tie my shoes/zip up my jacket/write my homework for me???” It’s a delicate balance between meeting your kids where they are at the moment while encouraging them to progress. And sometimes it looks completely different day to day or minute to minute.
    More then anything, get down on your kid’s level when you can (metaphorically and literally). Try to remember what it felt like to have zero power, be told when to wake up, what to wear, what to eat and when, what to do all day, when to go to bed…. It’s hard to be a little kid. And hard to be a parent! :o)

  26. I have 2 that I have dealt with this problem with. My oldest is now 17, but now I’m dealing with it with my 5 yr old too. The best lesson I learned was to not react. The more I kept my tone neutral, stated the rules & consequences of not following the rules, then calmly followed though with consequences the quicker those cranky times passed. Not easy, I am feisty. I would often go in my room, or the bathroom and stomp, cry, or freak out under my breath but did it without their knowledge. I think seeking independence is a huge part of it at this age. I try to give lots of choices when possible, but am firm that when I ask you get a choice, when I tell you just do it. Just my own personal experiences, but it does get better! My 17 yr old is now a very nice young man 😉

  27. @meggiemoo, I do try to be cognizant of how little choice he has over the course of his day and let him control as much as possible–what to pack in his school lunch, which clothes, shower or bath, which pajamas, etc. And he has plenty of down time in the afternoon for free play/running around the yard–no extra curricular activities until 1st grade (and then just 1, I think).

  28. My survival strategy for these stages (and we have been hit hard!) is to not let the kid set the tone for the family. We, the parents, are the ones responsible for that. Of course, we are not super human and we do get sucked into arguments and fights, but on the whole, I try to send out calm, happy vibes especially clearly when one of the kids are in a funk. Keep expectations down, but don’t let the moody kid sabotage for the rest of the family or for themselves. If an outing is planned, then go through with it regardless (well almost) of behaviour. Also, make sure that you get some good times everyday: start the day by curling up in their bed to read a book before the morning starts, tell some silly jokes or do something, anything!, to get some positive interactions. It makes a huge difference even if you end up fighting the rest of the day to be able to go back and talk about the shared laughs at the end of the day.

  29. In addition to the Faber and Mazlish book recommended above, the book “Between Parent and Child” by Haim Ginott was (IS) a big help to me. I refer to it a few times a week! Lots of wisdom and it’s helped me tone down or defuse my son (6.5) and his crazy/irrational blowups. I hate how this kid of mine gets so UNREASONABLE and worked up and rude(!) over the littlest things (little to me anyway). He also blames his bad behavior on his little sister (2.5), makes me nuts.Some things that have helped me: giving choices, I lay out the 2 options (both acceptable to me of course) then say “YOU decide”.
    As a PP mentioned, being permissive of feelings, but not misbehaviors is helpful to me, mentally, to sort stuff out. Also, I look (have to look VERY HARD sometimes!) for good behaviors, and tell him I liked how he did whatever. Or I write a note and leave it on his bed. Even something as basic as “Dear H, thank you for turning off the TV right when I asked you to before dinner. It was nice to not have to wait. I love you, mom”. The note things have been most helpful since he started reading though.
    And I read somewhere to stay Calm, Firm and Non-controlling when stating a rule or limit. Don’t make it personal, don’t use the words “always” and “never” things like that.
    As others said, the calmer I can stay when he’s in the throes of a fit, the faster it is over but when I’ve had a long day (or I’m PMSing) sometimes I go strolling right down crazy road with him and it’s awful! SIGH.

  30. I’m so glad I’m not alone on this! I thought my 4.5 year old daughter was just an early teenager. Thanks to all of you who are saying it got better. 🙂

  31. My nearly 5 year old is super emotional lately – freaking out about nothing, not having any idea why he’s crying and sad, getting super super mad when things don’t go his way. Or else he’s his normal sweet self. You’re never sure what you’re going to get. He’s been in and out of emotional phases like this so I think it’s just sort of a cyclical thing that’s probably part of growing up and not really knowing if you’re a big kid or a little kid… wanting more independence but not wanting to break away just yet.

  32. And here I was, just holding out for five (as we rapidly approach FOUR). Could someone please just say it gets better? At some point? I’m already at wits’ end.

  33. My 4yo “teenager” has started doing this a couple months ago-I’m sort of glad to see it’s not just me. I’ve gotten some new ideas to try from the comments so far (K-I hope something here helps you too).One thing I’ve tried that helps sometimes is to have daughter go to her room to count to a certain number. Usually 10 or 20; sonething she is easily able to do. Once she does that without screaming/wailing/stomping she can come out and we can calmly talk about whatever set her off. She controls how long the “time out” is by how long she waits to counts, I get a breather to calm down, and hopefully the 3month old doesn’t join in.

  34. No. This is some oddly-timed April Fool’s gag aimed at me. I dealt with it when it turned out that 3 was worse than 2; I’m now hearing that my 3yo may lose what little is left of his mind at 4, and now you’re telling me that 5 can be just as bad? (Putting hands over ears, lalalalalalalal…)

  35. My son’s a couple of months shy of 4 and he goes through periods like this too. It’s uncanny, but if I just give him a hug or say something loving in the middle of his hissy fit, he just seems to melt. All of sudden, he is a sad, sweet kid, telling me what’s bothering him, needing my love. Of course, I have to summon the patience and presence of mind to give him that loving in a moment when all I want to do is give him a timeout or yell. I don’t always succeed. But I try.

  36. For those wondering when it gets better, IME, there is no magic age when things get better or worse. It’s more like waves in the ocean…sometimes those breakers are knocking you down and you can’t catch your breath, and sometimes they’re warm, rolling mushy waves that are super fun.Each age for me (granted, I’m only up to almost 6 and almost 3) has had its ups and downs. I find 2- and 3-year-olds charming as hell, but I also love the more sophisticated conversations my almost-6 y.o. comes up with.
    And just to beat my metaphor to death, if you try to fight waves, you’ll get knocked down every time. Best to surf them when you can, and duck under them when you can’t. And yes, my DH is a surfer. Dude.

  37. My DD is only 3 3/4 years old, but she’s highly strung/temperamental/spirited/difficult/choose your adjective. Loudest baby on the ward and nobody can outscream her still. So I don’t qualify really, no 5year old. Anyway moody I definitely am familiar with.She started pre-school for a few hours a day last year and at the parent teacher conference the teacher said that DD was well, just moody. A friend said she’s not little Miss Easygoing and that about sums it up.
    Her friends cope with it fine, so she’s no outcast. Academically she’s holding up but temparamentally it’s a challenge and Reception, as in big school’s next year.
    Euphoria follows despair in very rapid succession and she comes unglued at transitions and the unexpected. She also can lose control of her bladder at such times which means puddles and floods of her tears. First week back at school every term is hard, and daddy away is a circle of Hades.
    The only thing I found that ” works” is as others have said so much better to keep my emotions out of it, no matter how hard that is. I don’t respond emotionally to her and any tune out stares and complaints and social pressure from witnesses.
    I do have boundaries on behaviour but let the storm break over my head and enjoy the sunny periods with the emotions. It’s made things so much easier. I used to walk on eggshells and get wound up.
    I also hire the sitter occasionally a la the Your one-two and further year old books. When DH is away. Otherwise I can’t keep my emotional even keel and operas are less dramatic.
    I can’t keep my balance very well anyway and wouldn’t be able to surf for sure, but @meggiemoo’s surfing methaphor is very apt.

  38. If people are still reading this far down in the comments, can I ask for advice?Our toddler is just about to turn 2. Our family style is certainly no hitting, and we try hard not to yell or lecture. No shaming.
    But our kid has turned some kind of developmental corner and suddenly it’s like we live with a moody teenager. Tantrums! Demands! Constant complaints!
    And I’m suddenly really out of my parenting depth. I would especially like advice on coping with tantrums. How they usually go is something like: child asks for water. Child sees me pour him a cup from the Brita pitcher. Child demands to pour it himself. On the couch. I say I’m sorry, but only grownups can use the pitcher. And remember our “water play only happens in the bath or outside” rule?
    (I am at this point still very empathetic. I get that it sucks to want to do something and be thwarted. Whenever possible, we do let him do the things he wants to do, or we offer an alternative.)
    Child says no! Pitcher! And proceeds to have a meltdown, flopping around on the floor like he’s dying. This can go on at varying degrees of intensity for five to ten minutes.
    It feels really crappy to me to just think about the “Just ignore it” advice, because he seems so genuinely upset. I can see that the emotional storms are probably really overwhelming to him right now. And not getting what you want sucks.
    So I’ve been mostly trying the “Stating how I think he feels” approach: “You’re so angry! You wanted to do it yourself! But mama won’t let you! It’s so unfair!”
    This does not work for beans. (My parents say that this also didn’t work on me, and I would sarcastically say “Um, yes, I KNOW.” so maybe it’s genetic.) It doesn’t soothe him at all. So I’ve backed off on that.
    I’ve been poring over old columns here about tantrums and doing my best to try the other ideas – like I think maybe Hedra (sorry if it wasn’t you) suggested that some kids just need you to offer a hug or just be a silent presence.
    So I’ve tried those things, but they don’t really seem to work. And my kid is pretty persistent. He can stay upset about the pitcher for a while.
    I guess my goals are mostly to help him learn to manage his own emotional flare-ups. I explicitly don’t want him to feel like he needs to manage them so I can feel better – that’s a trap we’re trying hard not to fall in. So if what he needs is to keep crying, that’s okay. But my gut is telling me that this is an unpleasant experience for him, and I also of course don’t want him to feel abandoned to his drama.
    Any tips? Feeling lost. Thanks!

  39. Cordy, in the particular example you offered, I would probably ask him if he wanted to help me pour the water in the kitchen and he could put his hand over mine as I poured, that kind of thing. I think at that age I could still distract him by asking which color cup he wanted, or asking him to go pick his cup out of the drawer. My son often wanted to feel included/helpful in some way. As for your bigger question of handling tantrums, I honestly feel as if the answer depends on your and your child’s personality and tolerance. For mine the thing that seemed to work the best was to tell him that he couldn’t have/do xyz and I know that made him sad or mad and if he wanted to talk about how he felt, we could. If not (he usually did not), that was ok, but I was going to leave because it was too loud for me. I’ll be over here and you can come over as soon as you are ready. So I guess I abandoned him to his drama, LOL, but a screaming, crying fit gets me all anxious and sometimes angry so I had to remove myself from the room or I could find myself right in the crazy with him, just making everything worse. If I left to the next room the tantrum often disappeared without an audience. Sometimes he just needed to let it all out for a few minutes and then he would come to me calmer and feeling better.

  40. I’ve noticed that a lot of little girls go through this phase around 5 and little boys around 6. One of my boys usually goes through these phases before the other even though they are the same age. So Zack hit it around 6, his brother has started going through it at 6.5. Hoping all will be done around 7. It’s a nasty, defiant, smartmouthed phase. Alternating with sweet angelic phase, but then punching the daylights of of a sibling when you aren’t looking. That kind of thing. May we all survive it.

  41. Cordy, we’ve had our share of tantrums, and they are AWFUL, but I know my daughter is nowhere near as tantrum-y as my niece was, who is now a lovely, happy, well-adjusted, slightly sassy, hard-working 20-year-old. She may have a stronger core than my girl, and that strength has served her well during some difficult family times. SO, my only advice is to protect yourself as much as possible (leave the room and mutter happy mantras), because your kid is probably going to be just fine! I know during our rare tantrums, I tend to start crying and get way upset, which definitely makes things worse.

  42. @Cordy, I don’t know that I have advice for you…just sympathy. My 7yo has that personality, where the tantrum becomes all consuming and then IT is the point and the original cause is lost. We tried a lot of ways around it, and found that it has to subside on her schedule and then we can reason around it. Offering sympathy/choices/distractions/alternatives did nothing.The “good” news is that she is more reasonable now; I can usually catch her before she winds up into something horrific. But you never know–just this week she had a 30 minute tantrum over lunch options. Shrieking. “I WANT X! I WILL NOT EAT ANYTHING ELSE!” I said, no, not possible, you can have Y or Z. X is not on the menu, or you can skip lunch entirely. Eventually she came around and agreed to eat Y.
    I managed not to lose my head–so that’s better than 5 years ago!

  43. @Cordy, it sounds like your son has a strong personality, like my kids (this is a GOOD thing, but it only really manifests as a good thing once they’ve gotten past the point of tantrums, ha). Tantrums are normal, developmental stages. You can try to avoid them by walking on eggshells, by giving into demands, by setting up your life so you say “no” as little as possible, but they will still happen. And they *need* to happen.Can you imagine having all of those emotions and no way to let them out? Little kids don’t call friends on the phone, go work out, etc., which are some of the ways grown-ups deal with their stress. Their way is to cry. Crying is unpleasant for us but important for children. I recommend two books: “Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry” and also “The Explosive Child”.
    In the case you mentioned, I probably would have let him try to pour the water (in a chair by the sink, or over the dishwasher door) himself, but the issue doesn’t really matter. Children will rage over any issue, no matter how irrational to us, because it’s about letting the emotions out, not that specific issue.
    My kids both need me to remain present, calm, but not touch or talk to them until they’re ready. Explaining their feelings when they’re in the midst of a rage isn’t helpful in our case. So when one of them starts a tantrum, I will remain nearby and busy, but alert for when the tantrum winds down. I generally say something like, “When you’re ready for a hug, I’m here.” I then repeat that as needed. Hope this helps!

  44. @Cordy by not getting emotionally involved myself I don’t mean doing nothing or wandering off. I’m present, like @meggiemoo described, and look out for her in terms of safety and warding off onlookers who want to give advice/tell her off, but I don’t get scared or angry or my worst tendency I don’t let myself feel helpless.I wasn’t born that smart, I’ve had lots of practice doing the wrong thing. My daughter is very distressed in the tantrum but touching her or talking to her about her feelings just adds to her overstimulation at that point and can give the tantrum a second wind.
    She visibly comes ” out” of the state and is then in need of hugs and reassuring words.
    I did eliminate a lot of pressure points when she was between 2 and 3. And so walked on eggshells a bit, but we still had plenty of tantrums.
    After three giving a choice worked better and that keeps on improving. She was about to go into major screaming meltdown at a birthday party last week because the song lyrics to ” Twinkle twinkle little Star” were changed but I could say we could either leave right now or she’d have to sit out the song.
    I had to repeat that again a minute later but we got through the party. That’s new.
    It’s exhausting for her, either having the tantrum/cranky shouting/ floods of tears emotional event but managing to stop the reaction takes even more energy for her.
    So yes, it’s natural and yes, she is learning to cope with her temperament as she gets bigger a little at a time.
    In the water and pouring thing from the jug I’d either make it a family tradition to only pour in the kitchen, over the sink and bring the full glass out. No pouring elsewhere.
    I have found with my strong willed little girl that having strict traditions everyone abides by avoids lots and lots of strife. If it’s a routine there is none of that I want you to do this. Your mileage will vary.
    And if you can, and the jug is nearly empty and not heavy have your little boy help to pour his own. Or get a small jug for the bath tub.
    We only eat and drink at the table the same way as in traditionally nowhere else. Only thing we don’t is popcorn for family film watching but that’s a recent thing.

  45. Very interesting. Thank you to everyone for your comments!I think I will try just remaining nearby as a calm presence and see how that works.
    It sometimes seems to me that his tantrums/emotional storms are making him more upset as they go on, instead of the Solter-style cry-to-release… which is why I have so far felt such an urge to somehow get involved. But I can completely see how me doing that might just add to the overstimulation and what I need to do is back off and let the storm play itself out.
    Again, I really appreciate the sane advice here. You are all awesome!

  46. The middle aged lady in this story had the best opportunity to save given her high salary job and increased net worth. For those in industry that have high risk in returning to the career field onceafter job is lost, then they need to find ways to financially sustain their life until they get back on their feet. A high earner like her should have been able to have equity in their home, have Roth IRAs, have high FICO scores and really good credit cards.

  47. Oh, I know this very well. My son is 5 1/2. He has quite the attitude sometimes but then he can be a perfect angel sometimes. You never know what you are going to get each day. I hope this phase passes quickly.

  48. “Merry Christmas,” she says, handing me a store bag with a nice new pair of scissors-the same scissors I’d just sold to her earlier. I honestly believe I went into shock. I thanked her profusely and she left and went about her day.

  49. The next scheduled performances, entitled “Ode to an Icon,” areThursday and Friday, November 10 and 11. Celebrate the 1937 opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. A tenor and three sopranos will present fabulous 1930s and 1940s songs that forever defined that era: Bye Bye, Blues, As Time Goes By, The Very Thought of You, In Apple Blossom Time, Bei Mir Bist Du Schőn and many others. The performances begin at 7:30 pm at the Golden Gate Club, 135 Fisher Loop on the Main Post. Seats can be reserved by calling (415) 447-6274. $10 suggested donation; $5 seniors.

  50. The Professore called again for the immediate adoption of emergency regulatory and registration provisions that have been proposed by the League repeatedly over the past four years. The draft legislation includes a new provision—”Juliet’s Law”—imposing fines or imprisonment for failure to report the presence of either poisons or daggers within 100 feet of an unaccompanied minor.

  51. Here I was hoping things were going to get better after rounding the corner on 4.5 in October. DS has been TOTAL Jekyll and Hyde lately… for past few months actually… and it’s wearing me DOWN. When he’s sweet, it almost brings me to tears, but the rest of the time he’s just nasty, manipulative, cranky, weepy, underhanded. It also brings me to tears! So ready for this phase to be over.

  52. Oh and – the out-of-control crying jags (his) where he can’t seem to compose himself, gets totally worked up over nothing, the more I try to help him out of it, the more it escalates. To the point now where I see his lip quiver and I think “Here we go…”. I feel so bad for him because it really does upset him but how can I help him snap out of it? More often than not I end up ignoring him after a lot of back-and-forth (“When you’re finished crying, we can talk”), whereas his Dad can talk him down no problem. Sigh.

  53. This may be a little late, and perhaps someone has already commented with this info, but apparently little boys around the age of 5 go through a testosterone surge which (obviously) can cause aggressive behavior. So, as us ladies often say when we’re PMSing, it’s the hormones!

  54. I am so glad I googled this, I was starting tothink my daughter was the only one… Just needed to hear I wasn’t alone… She will be 6 in February and is very intelligent and verbose. Which is why I think she gets so frustrated with the tiniest problems. She tries to be perfect, to a fault… She has had 20 minute meltdowns over not drawing something “perfect”. It is so frustrating that she wants to be treated like a big girl and a baby, I feel like I can’t win… I know I should control my emotions better but I makes me so sad to watch her get so upset. Sometimes it ia hard to she a light at the end of the tunnel… I do try and hold on to the happy times and snuggle and encourage her all the time, hoping it will stick… Thanks for the unseen support.

  55. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try “delousing” the closet in your own room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *