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Your 5-year-old now
Most 5-year-olds have outgrown the tantrum stage. But that doesn't mean they're done pushing your buttons. Defiance — sticking out a tongue or refusing to clean up a mess — is a normal way for children to test how far they can go.
Handling defiance requires walking a fine line. While you don't want to let your child get away with disrespectful behavior, you don't want to give it too much attention either. Yelling and harsh punishments often lead to more bad behavior.
What helps most: having defined limits in the first place. As much as kids may rail against the rules, they take comfort from their structure.
Make sure your child understands the rules in advance, then point out transgressions matter-of-factly. And try to be understanding. If your child is having trouble following a rule, talk with him about it. Maybe you need to tweak the rule — or your expectations.
Reduce the number of opportunities for defiance. Where you can, offer choices. "Do you want to put your shoes on here or in the car?" Give ample warnings before transitions to new activities. Ease control over things that truly don't matter. Will the earth stop spinning if he wears the same shirt to school three days in a row?
Be sure you notice when your child is behaving well and praise him for it. Your goal, in the end, is not to make him behave out of fear but out of a desire to do the right thing.
Your life now
Try not to be abrupt about announcing bedtime. It's a rare child who will drop whatever he's doing, or rise from the TV mid-program, and go straight to his pajamas without a fuss. Five-year-olds do best with a reminder that bedtime is coming, followed by a relaxed transition to bed. Rather than ending the day with a bang, make it a quiet time in which you can all relax and reflect on how the day went.
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