How to discipline a 5 year old is challenging. This is because young child’s ability to understand good and bad behaviour is limited.
I am going to help you address that in this article. I am going to show you what else you can do. If that interests you – which I imagine it will since you read this far – read on…
Two Important Situations To Consider When Deciding How To Discipline A 5 Year Old
One of the biggest challenges I found with discipline was this…
What worked at home, didn’t always work we were out and about. This is probably because at home the child can receive a quick and consistent message that reinforces what they are doing as wanted or not. When you are out and about other factors come into play. This could be as simple as you are talking to someone and not totally aware of what’s happening.
What the child learns from that is what you do at home, isn’t necessarily what happens outside the home.
To help you I have given you 3 ideas that give you different options for different scenarios. These options give you different tools for different occasions and will help you with different ways of how to discipline a 5 year old.
Before we go on though I want to define discipline. For me, discipline is a positive word. Discipline is like “training”. It’s very different to chastisement or punishment.
With that understanding in place here is…
How to discipline a 5 year old when you are at home
When you are at home time-outs can be an effective form of discipline. Here a child is sent to their room or quite place in the home for a time.
There are some concerns about the use of time-outs. Some child psychologists suggest it can damage a child’s development. They say that a child under the age of 5 will struggle to understand why they are being sent to a room. They also say a child certainly won’t understand it if a parent removes all their toys from their hands and forces them to sit still and be quite. Done often, time-outs can leave a child under 5 feeling disempowered, confused and more angry according to experts.
I agree with these specialists in part. Understanding for younger children might be more difficult. What children as young as 3 understand is that repetition. If they behave in a set way and that way is not acceptable, they will have a consequence. In the case of timeouts the consequence is a few minutes of isolation. As we are social creatures, even brief isolation for a child can work wonders – but it must be brief. More on this below…
There are two factors I think are important when you consider how to discipline a 5 year old: Circumstances and intention. For example, if a child is highly agitated and you put them in a room and close the door, you can hardly expect them to suddenly calm down. That said, if you remove a child to allow them time to find their balance, it can be much more beneficial.
What I’m saying is this: if the intention behind a time out is to punish, the effects can be negative. However, if it’s done to support the child the child can reap the benefits.
A “Time-in” is another consideration when it comes to how to discipline a 5 year old. Here the child can get a hug and a few words about how they are expected to behave.
Another alternative is for the adult to take a time-out! I know that sounds weird, doesn’t it?
This is something I have done and surprisingly it works a treat for me.
We’ve all been there…
You’re tired. You’re busy. You’ve asked your children to behave and they don’t. The tension mounts and…
But here is some food for thought…
What cause you to snap? Was it the kids?
Or was it the pressure – the tiredness, the stress and busy-ness?
When I know it’s me I give myself a time-out. When I realise it’s my mood that was a big factor I have a few minutes of quite time in my room.
With practice, I also became more aware of when I was about to snap, so I could take action before opening my mouth…
And giving yourself a time out is actually quite lovely. I close the door. Put the music on and just take as long as I need to find balance. Then I go back. if I need to speak to the kids about there behaviour then, I do, firmly, but without snapping. And I get what I want from them.
How to discipline a 5 year old when you are not at home
When you are out at a shopping centre or a restaurant a time-out isn’t going to be option. Of course, you can threaten a time-out later, but because the time-out will happen hours later a 5 year old will struggle to connect their behaviour with the consequence. You could take the time to give a child a time-in. here the challenge is that when you are out, you are busy. You may even be frustrated or embarressed.
And here’s another challenge…
If your child gets wise to the fact that when you go out you find it hard to discipline them, they may begin to “play up” without too much fear of any consequence.
I gave considerable thought to how to discipline a 5 year old. I did this because – like you – I wanted to be able to go and enjoy the experience. What worked best for me was this…
I found the best course of action was to draw them close to me and speak directly into their eyes. I would say “NO” in a stern voice and sometimes a very light tap on the back of their hand with my index finger and then directly tell them exactly how I expect them to behave. It was enough to get me the result I needed.
That said, when it comes to how to discipline a 5 year old, I’ve never been a fan of any kind of smacking. Even a tap on the back of the hand didn’t feel good, so I wanted to improve that. Another method I tried was to exclude the child. Here you use a similar method to a time-out. It involves taking their hand and drawing them behind you as you walk.
How to Discipline a 5 Year Old Using Natural Consequences
When you are thinking about how to discipline a 5 year old you may consider natural consequences.
Here’s an example…
Say your child pulls down a bedroom curtain when they are in a rage. When you use natural consequences you have them be part of the “fixing” process. If they draw on a wall, you have them help clean it. By the age of 5 children are starting to understand more about the cause and effect happening in their life. But we have to be careful not to have an expectation that’s above their ability. We also need to make the consequence fit the crime. What I mean is: there is no point banning them from TV because they bite their brother.
A lot of parents offer rewards to their children for good behaviour when they are out. This can work. But what do you do when it doesn’t?
And this leads me nicely onto what I feel is the 110% solution…
The third way of how to discipline a 5 year old
When you suggest a reward to your child for good behaviour you will have thought ahead. You will have thought: what enticement will help my 5 year old to behave? And this, I feel, is a great start. But you can do much further…
The suggestion I’m about to make often bypasses the need for discipline.
Put yourself in a child’s position…
If you are going to a restaurant with family or friends you will know that dinner will likely take up to 2 hours. It’s going to be impossible for them to sit still for that long. Their bum will go numb. Sitting still is boring and they might get tired and grouchy. So, if you expect them to behave like angels, sorry think again.
The fact is you will need to partner your children in order to make the restaurant experience a happy one. You have to consider their needs as well as your own.
By all means take some pencils and a colouring book, but think beyond that. Is the restaurant you are going to child friendly? If it’s not can you go to one that is? Do they have a play area where you, your spouse, partner or other guests can go and play with the children before and after dinner or even between courses? Be okay with letting them sit on your knee after dinner or walking then through the restaurant. Dedicate some time to giving them as much attention as anyone else at the table.
When you are considering how to discipline a 5 year old, keep in mind that discipline is “training” not punishment. Keep in mind that your child is learning about life at this young age. They want to explore everything, including social situations. They want to learn what you can do and what you can’t.
So when it comes to how to discipline a 5 year old my advice is this:
1. Doing these two things will do away with the need to hand out discipline to your 5 year old.
A) Think through situations in advance whenever you can from your 5 year olds perspective. What can you do that will make good behaviour easy.
B) If things happen and you need to react to them because you didn’t consider something, think about how to stop this same scenario occurring next time.
2. If you have to hand out discipline use a time out whenever you can. Be consistent with your methods though or the technique can become less effective. Use the same room for the same amount of time, followed by a level-headed explanation of what went wrong and what is expected.
3. When a time-out is not appropriate, as a last resort, speak sternly to your child. Look directly at them and be firm. Tell them what you expect from them. Rather than telling them “Don’t do that.” This give them a “call to action” which is easier for them to follow.
4. Avoid smacking at all costs.
So there you have some more ideas on how to discipline a 5 year old. I’m not for one minute saying I’m right with these. I’m also not claiming to be the expert. What I am doing is very honestly sharing with you what I’ve experimented with. I’m also sharing what worked and didn’t work.