Your five-year-old is growing up, their vocabulary is expanding and so is their circle of friends and circle of influence. For these reasons, it is really important to set the boundaries of behavior for your five-year-old. Why is that? Because five-year-olds can really act up, and cause a lot of havoc in the home and in the daily environment that they find themselves in.
Temper tantrums are always a factor that must be considered and dealt with. Temper tantrums must not be rewarded, but instead, through various means, must be made “not worth it” for the child to engage in. This takes time and persistence, but it is certainly worth it for you the parent.
The most important boundary to be set for your five-year-old’s behavior is to not allow the child to hit you under any circumstances. They must know that it is totally inappropriate for them to strike you. Of course there’ll be lots of times where you may secretly wish that that you could hit them, but that is not appropriate either: so the boundaries work both ways.
So how do you make it clear to your child that hitting you is not allowed and how do you keep it from happening? The best thing to do is: the first time this happens is to loudly and clearly say “NO don’t hit mommy!” (or daddy or whoever), and immediately put them in timeout. Put them in a longer timeout than usual, so that they know that this is a more serious offense than what they are used to.
Regarding timeouts, your child will tolerate them the best by far if you use an actual timer for the timeout. The best ones of all are timers that click or tick continuously as the timer is running, and then ring at the end of the time that is allotted.
So let’s imagine a scenario here: Your child has struck you, and you said “NO” very clearly and immediately put them in timeout in their room, closing the door and putting the timer just outside the door where they can hear it. You already announced that the timeout is longer than usual, maybe 5 min. instead of 3 min., for example, and then you set the timer and let the time run out.
Now during this time, your child may be screaming and breaking furniture in their room, (hopefully not), but if this is another behavior that you have seen them engage in before, then that is another boundary that needs to be set. If your child breaks their things or your things when they are angry, they need to know quite clearly that this is behavior that has serious consequences. For example, if they are in timeout in their room and in a tantrum they break one of their toys, that toy should not be replaced. This is a good lesson for them: actions have consequences-you broke your toy, and now you no longer have it to play with.
What your child may not realize is that during this time out, when they are screaming and pounding on the door and so forth, that you may very well be on the other side of the door in agony and wishing that it was all over with, but both of you have to go through this. You would like to end the timeout prematurely and rush in and be the “savior”, but that actually will in the long run be confusing to the child. They need to know that there are serious boundaries and serious consequences, and it is actually quite reassuring and comforting in a way to know that a punishment can have such a clear-cut beginning and ending time. If, at the end of the timeout, you reenter your child’s room and they are still exhibiting the same behavior as before, it may well be quite necessary to assign another timeout with another period of time and go through the whole process again.
You will be surprised, though, that when you’ve been through this process a couple of times, the child knows that if they calm down then the timeout will end. It really makes a world of difference to use an audible timer: they won’t like it they definitely don’t like to see that timer come out, but it is a whole lot better than just saying go to your room! And then coming back into the child’s room at some non-predetermined time to talk with them. Timed timeouts really work.
You would think that in an ideal world, that everyone and everything would enjoy the complete freedom, but that is not actually true. If you open up all the cages in the zoo, more often than not the animals will wander around and then go back to their cages is what they’re used to and where they feel most comfortable and at home. This is perhaps a negative example, but children actually find it quite comforting to know that they are our boundaries in their lives. Five-year-olds need to know that this is my stuff, this is my room, and even this is my timer in my timeout.
So don’t be afraid to set appropriate boundaries for your five-year-old’s behavior they actually in a way will thank you for it and you both will be richly rewarded with more appropriate behavior in the future.