Time surely flies by when you’re raising a child, and before you know it, your child is 5 years old. You might be a puddle of emotions, but at the same time, there’s a little itch that you just can’t scratch.
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Your child doesn’t seem to be listening to you anymore, and more often than not, you find yourself in a power struggle of sorts with them. Guess what? You are not alone.
As your child reaches their fifth birthday, they undergo a series of changes that are both physical and mental. And all that misbehavior, tantrums, and yelling will now make sense.
So what can you really do about it? Read on to find out just that and more!
Is it Normal For 5-Year-Olds to Not Listen?
Okay, let’s address the burning question first- how do you tell if your 5-year-old child has a problem with listening? Is it normal?
Well, it turns out, it is! Kids this age are still learning the rules of the society they are living in and although they're old enough to understand some simple concepts, they're not yet patient or cooperative enough to follow them all. To add to that, they may also be experiencing certain normal developmental changes that make it harder for them to pay attention.
Remember that 5-year-olds care very much about being liked, which can cause them to act out inappropriately when their peers don't approve of the things they say and do. This is why it's common for kids at this age to talk back, be disruptive, fail to follow instructions, and get into trouble at school on a regular basis—they're testing boundaries with people who matter most!
It can feel a bit too much at times, agreed. But what’s most important is to remember the fact that all growing children go through this phase. It is about knowing whether it is a developmental phase or something to be worried about that really matters.
Why Doesn’t My 5 Year Old Listen?
There might be times when even the teeniest of requests in the most gentle tone of voice can get ignored, and you can’t seem to be able to fathom the reason. It happens. It is not always easy to get children to follow instructions, even if you have set consistent boundaries their whole life…they will still go through periods of not following instructions.
And that’s not always the case. Sometimes, your child doesn't understand what you're asking them to do. Perhaps they are overwhelmed by the many rules at school, or may have an undiagnosed vision or hearing problem that makes it difficult for them to follow along in class, and at home.
So how do you know if it is something to worry about? Keep an eye out for any of these signs, that might be pointing to an underlying problem.
- Your child behaves aggressively at home and at school.
- Your child often interrupts conversations between other people.
- Your child frequently talks back to you or ignores what you say.
- You have trouble getting your child's attention and controlling what they say and do.
- Your child is irritable most of the time.
- When you correct your child they seem unaffected by it and act as if your words don't apply to them.
Keep in mind that there's a difference between choosing not to listen and not being able to listen based on where your child is in their development. It is completely okay for 5-year-olds to be more strong-willed and opinionated than they were at 4 years old, especially when they're just learning how to navigate their world.
If you feel like your child isn't listening to you, don't rush immediately to blame them or call them defiant—try to understand why they aren’t paying attention first.
How to Get My 5-Year-Old to Listen and Behave
If getting your kid to listen to you seems more challenging than ever, consider trying out these tricks to make it happen.
- Stop the controlling behavior. You know that you have your child’s best interest at heart, but they don’t understand that just yet. For the little things that won’t have a very strong or major impact on their lives, avoid being too controlling and let your child take the reign for just a little while. Trust that they can figure things out when they are given the chance.
- When explaining the concept behind important things that your child should absolutely be following, get down and establish eye contact.
- Even when you are bombarded with requests from your 5-year-old all day, try to find a way to say ‘yes’ to at least a few of them, if not all. Hearing “no” all the time (and saying “no” all the time) is hard on everyone.
- Keep your speech short and sweet, especially when you are explaining your ‘no.’
- When your child misbehaves or acts out, guide them about why it is not an acceptable behavior through a series of questions.
Why is My 5 Year Old Acting Out?
Truth be told, there’s nothing so specific about the 5-year-old mark that makes children want to act out. However, there might be certain aspects that children in this age group face or encounter, that may make them more likely to behave in a way you wouldn’t want them to.
- Growing children have a lot of energy and they do not know how to manage it. It is also typical behavior at this age for kids to be seen as defiant toward their parents and any other authority figure, but it is often them just trying to find their own way.
- A child's temper tantrums are also typical at this age, which is why it is also a good time for them to learn how to deal with their anger in an appropriate way instead of hitting or yelling at people. While it is important to provide consequences for bad behavior, it is important to understand that the best types of consequences are ones that are natural or logical. More importantly, consequences are not the same as punishment.
- Children belonging to this age group also have to deal with separation anxiety and peer pressure in various forms.
How Do I Handle My 5 Year Old’s Disrespectful Behavior?
Tantrums and attention-seeking behavior are one thing, and then there’s disrespectful behavior. Even the most emotionally strong parents can find their self-control slipping away when their child behaves in a way that we feel is disrespectful.
So how do you manage your child’s behavior without losing your calm?
Stick to Gentle Parenting Practices
Constant or harsh discipline is damaging to a child and not effective in the long run. Children can only do well when they can. Often times they need more support to help them figure out how to behave.
Don’t try to correct them when they are being disrespectful. Wait for a time when they seem to be ready to accept what you have to say, and gently explain to them why it isn’t okay to behave in that way.
Don't lose patience if this takes a long time because it will pay off in the end! If your five-year-old doesn't want you talking about how they're supposed to act (getting defensive is often a way children react when they feel that they are being corrected” then try doing this in a non-verbal way. Draw pictures of what is okay and not okay, or write them out with their name next to them.
Focus On the Reason
Another helpful tip is to make sure your child understands why you're asking them to do something. A reason behind the request helps them understand how it benefits them, even if they don't see it yet.
Help them connect the ideas with how their emotions impact their behavior.
Discuss what's okay and what isn't, when it is okay to say no, the difference between good choices and bad choices, etc. This should happen during times when your child is calm and ready to listen, like after dinner while having dessert together or before bedtime while tucked into bed.
Do the Small Talk
If there’s one parenting strategy that works (almost) every single time, it is this. Make sure you always take the time out to talk to your child about things. Remember that children want to be listened to too! They need a parent to be a good role model for them so they know what the right way is to behave in certain situations.
How to Discipline a 5 Year Old Who Doesn’t Listen
As much as we would like to just wave a magic wand and have our children be well-behaved all the time, that's just not how it works. Children are going to struggle with self-control and will push boundaries. Sometimes they will behave in ways that we may even consider rude or disrespectful. The good news is that you can take steps you can take right now to address your child's behavior.
Redefine the Boundaries
Keep in mind that your job as a parent is to set clear and consistent boundaries. Work with your partner or other caregivers in your child's life to decide what you are willing and unwilling to accept in your home. Make sure that you think big in terms of boundaries. For example, in our house, we don't hurt others. That means with our words or with our bodies. When we can focus on a larger boundary then we don't have to have a million rules because they are all covered under that one boundary.
Model Respectful Behavior
This seems simple enough, but I know it can be hard when your child is pushing your buttons. It is important for us as parents to model respectful behavior in front of our children regardless of if we think they are watching or not.
It's important to show respect to others, but also to ourselves. Children hear how we talk about ourselves (and others) and they internalize it.
Gentle Parenting Strategies That Work with Children
Gentle parenting is a popular and practical parenting style/strategy that focuses on teaching children the effect their behavior has on others. In this approach, kids learn through natural consequences and honest explanations of rules instead of punishments or reprimands.
This approach to child-rearing rewards cooperation reduces fear and builds self-confidence. It also helps parents recognize that even though kids make mistakes, it’s important not to label them bad; but rather show patience and understanding.
Parents understand that they are role models for their children. They know they need to walk the walk if they expect their children to do so too! Children who grow up under gentle discipline demonstrate compassion for one another and are able to express appropriate anger when necessary. They also have a strong sense of self because they receive consistent limits from their parents.
While there is no one size fits all approach here, there are many gentle discipline strategies that are employed by families across the globe! Kids test boundaries (that is how they figure out the world). This is why parenting techniques centered on respect work best to help you set limits while staying connected with your child.
Here are some gentle discipline strategies that you can implement and make a part of your parenting journey.
Set Clear Rules & Boundaries
When setting the rules, be clear about what you expect your child to be doing/not doing. Also, focus on what will happen if the rules are broken and why are the rules so important. Then, just stick with it. Children test limits, so go back to your boundaries time and again if necessary!
Let Your Child Experience the Consequences of Their Actions
This one’s super important. Through examples, explain to your child how every action they perform has a consequence. Focus on how their disrespectful behavior or pushing around their sibling can negatively impact their relationship with everyone, and why, in contrast, it is always a good idea to be well-behaved, gentle, and thoughtful in their approach.
When you explain how your child’s behavior affects you and those around him/her, it helps them become more empathetic people as they grow older.
By offering options and allowing your child to choose from two alternatives, you give them back a bit of powder. They can choose what to do, and this little step can let them feel more valued and appreciated. Let them know that you're on their team! Children feel empowered when we give choices instead of orders – yet another awesome gentle parenting tactic!
Let Them Take Responsibility
Another incredible way to gently discipline your child is to let them experience the consequences of their choices, both good and bad. If you give a child a sticker every time they get something right, they will start to believe that there is no reason for them to take responsibility because mom or dad will give them what they want if they just behave long enough!
Conversely, if you immediately jump in to clean up broken crayons, help your children get dressed when they get frustrated putting their clothes on, or take away the TV/electronics when your kids throw a tantrum, your child won’t understand the natural consequences of their actions, which will, in turn, make parenting more challenging.
Model Gratitude & Kindness
If we want our kids to be kind and grateful, we need to demonstrate it ourselves! This can be as simple as saying “thank you”, smiling at the cashier or helping a stranger out, or doing a little act of kindness. Remember that children learn by example!
Be Patient & Consistent
Kids thrive in consistency and predictability! Consistency teaches children that there are consequences for their actions which gives them boundaries without feeling too restrictive or limiting.
It may seem like you are getting nowhere with your efforts, but just stay calm and keep going. Take it one day at a time and strive to build and strengthen the connection with your child.
How to Build a Stronger Connection With your 5-Year-Old
If all you’re feeling like you’re getting nowhere with getting your five-year-old to behave, remind yourself that it all comes down to your relationship with your child. Instead of attempting to hurriedly correct your child’s behavior, focus on improving and strengthening your relationship with him, and it will all fall into place.
But how exactly do you do that? Well, here are a few tips to help.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the human touch. There’s a lot those cuddles and kisses can do to strengthen the bond between you and your child. Do it often.
- Take your time to listen to your child. Always. If kids feel like they are heard and understood, they will be more open to your ideas.
- Play is an important part of your child’s development, so tag along! Set some time every day where the two of you just chill and play. No lectures, no instructions. Just pure fun.
- Be available. Tough, especially if you are juggling work and parenthood, but try your best to make it happen.
- Establish family time rituals. It could be a movie every weekend or a pizza cookoff every month or even just an ice-cream run on a Sunday.
Team up gentle parenting practices with love and affection, and you are more than halfway there to get your 5-year-old to listen and behave- without the yelling!