The Behavior of a Five Year Old: Frustrating

Over the past few weeks CootieGirl has developed a habit that is driving Denis and me up a wall. It has gotten to a point where I dread waking up in the morning, or coming home from work, because I know it’ll happen again.

She directly disobeys orders, waffles in decisionmaking, whines, and then throws a tantrum. Lovely. She’s going to be in kindergarten in the fall, and at this point I keep telling her that she cannot behave like this because she’s is old enough to know better.

Here’s how it normally goes in the morning:

1. CG wakes up and when we ask her to pick out her clothes for the day, she refuses.
2. We ask her again, telling her this is her last chance to make the decision herself and pick out her clothes. She refuses.
3. Denis/I pick out her clothes and order her to put them on.
4. She refuses.
5. We remind her that if she disobeys she will get spanked, and tell her again to put on her clothes.
6. She claims those aren’t the clothes she wanted to pick.
7. We remind her that she had her chance to pick out her clothes and when she disobeyed we picked them out for her.
8. She begins whining about the fact she wants to pick out new clothes.
9. Denis/I leave the room in frustration, telling her to pick out her clothes and get dressed then.
10. We enter the room to find CG sitting on her bed in the exact place we left her, staring into space.
11. She is told that she directly disobeyed an order, what the punishment is, and summarily gets spanked .
12. She cries and protests and says she’ll be good.
13. But she still doesn’t get dressed.
14. So at that point we tell her that if she’s going to act like a baby she’ll get treated like a baby (or some version of that), and we get her dressed by force as she lays/stands limply, still crying.
15. Once she’s dressed, we explain again why she got spanked, what we expect of her in the morning, and why her behavior is unacceptable.
16. She becomes clingy and whiny again and moves on to the next issue to fight about: shoes.

Later, rinse, repeat, ad nauseum the rest of the day (but apparently NOT at school since we rarely get notes from the teacher about misbehavior or not listening to her teacher).

It’s driving us nuts, people.

I’m confident that it has resulted in the few accidents involving the potty over the past few weeks. There’s SOMETHING going on with her and this is how she’s expressing it. But it literally has come out of nowhere since we got back from Disney. Because before Disney we didn’t have this problem.

If this is a new development stage, dear God in heaven, I hope it’s a short one. I know it can’t be her need to assert her independence, because it’s not like we put a damper on her independence. I give her the opportunity to pick out her clothes – she just doesn’t accept the opportunity until I lose patience and pick them out for her because we are now running late. So I just can’t tell just what the issue is so that I can deal with it and come up with a solution.

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If you liked that post, read on...

The Timeline of My Night on December 5th, 2007

Checking In on October 21st, 2012

A Rude Awakening on October 12th, 2009

Catching Up on June 13th, 2009


  1. Make her wear her night clothes to school… any additional accidents and she returns to diapers until she can control it. I agree, she is old enough to know better. Tough Love Jane, Tough Love.

  2. Why don’t you get in the habit of picking out the clothes the night before so when she gets up they are right there and she doesn’t have to make a decision when she is still waking up. But until she gets into a normal routine I wouldn’t allow her to change her mind (or yours) about the outfit. Next, I would set aside a time for mom and CG to go out for a time alone, unannounced, maybe for a picnic or something, a time when you can sit, uninterrupted and secluded to try to get her to open up about how she is feeling these days, about school, home, her relationship with her dad and CB and just sit and have a conversation with her. I know she is very young but she is also very smart and very sensitive. It would be worthwhile to take the opportunity to dig into what’s going on in her little heart.

  3. I was going to suggest what Marmie suggested about picking out the clothes the night before. Make it part of the going to bed routine.

    The time out with her sounds like a great idea, too.

  4. She does normally pick out her clothes the night before. Last night was an exception because of something that happened last night that is coming up in another post. Her bedtime routine was very short due to misbehavior last night. Literally put her in PJs, into bed, lights out. Nothing else – no prayers, no storytime, no music, no nothing.

  5. Can you restrict the outfit choice to one of two things: A or B? Maybe she’s feeling overwhelmed with possible combinations. (This is how my husband helped with wedding planning – I weeded things I liked to A or B and then he felt like he had input, but it was already stuff I liked). Also, I agree with PJs to school if she won’t get dressed. That won’t happen twice. And yeah, absolutely choose the clothes at night. Even if last night was a loss of priveleges, you could have included outfit picking as a privelege loss and shown her which outfit was picked out for her to wear in the morning.

  6. Beth – I do limit her choices. For instance today is art day at school, so she has to wear ratty clothes. so I picked out her worst pair of jeans and then told her to pick from three shirts I laid out that I didn’t mind getting messed up during art time. So she only had to pick from those three shirts. Everything else was already selected.

  7. Hm, sounds like maybe it isn’t really about the outfits or the choosing process. But whatever is bothering her or frustrating her, she is probably way too young to articulate it.

  8. Yeah, sounds like some one-on-one time with Mommy is in order?

    Could be that something at school is bothering her? Or with one of her friends? Or at church?

  9. I would do what you can to break the cycle or the habit that she’s gotten into. Maybe dress her yourself without offering her the chance…in the bathroom or after breakfast, something different to shake things up a little. The old sticker chart is useful for breaking/making habits too. It must be a phase or a symptom of something else that’s going on with her.

  10. I feel for you. My daughter is 5 1/2 and acting the same way right now. She is driving my husband and I crazy. One thing that we have started which has helped a little is starting an allowance. She gets 25 cents for each chore that she completes with satisfaction. The drawback is that if she acts inappropriately we take a quarter back — for example, she refuses to get dressed in the morning, we take a quarter. At the end of the month, we count the money, teaching her a lesson about money, and she gets to go to the store and buy a toy with this money. When we started, we took her to pick out her own piggy bank – which has easy access to money — and also browsed the toy section so she could set her eyes on something she really wants. It only took two or three times of taking money, before she began to comply to our wishes. The program is not full proof, but it has helped a little.

    Good luck — Know that you are not the only parent experiencing this.

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