Is this "normal" behavior for a 5yo? - Mothering Forums
 
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#1 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 06:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DD2 was 5 1/2 in December. For as long as she has been able to, she has expressed herself physically when angry or frustrated - hitting, kicking, biting, pulling hair, etc. She also has rages in which she is just completely out of control, screaming and violent. These rages have varied in frequency, but have increased to an almost daily occurrence since she turned 5 1/2. They can last 20-30 minutes. After, she is usually calm but unwilling to discuss what happened.  My response to them has varied (including some things I'm not proud of when I let my frustration and fatigue get the better of me) but usually what I try to do is hold her so that she cannot hurt me or anyone else and talk to her calmly. This is getting harder as she gets bigger (currently almost 55lb). I only hold her as hard as I need to stop her from hurting me, but she usually screams that I'm going to make her throw up or that I'm choking her. If I ask her if she's ready to be gentle or to stop hurting she says no; if I let go she will either turn around and hurt me, or try to run off to get the person who triggered her rage (usually her sister).

 

She is a strong-willed child. She will rage against limits and consequences, or just refuse to follow them. For example, if I say we've had enough chocolate and put it away, she will climb to get it when I say no, and tantrum when I physically stop her. She does not respect boundaries , e.g. stopping something annoying when asked, taking food off someone else's plate, taking "fair" turns with something (like equal time holding the baby or having a book read to her, etc), respecting "I'm angry/frustrated/sad and need time alone" (from her sister or me), and so on and so on. She also refuses to do things when asked, such as folding/putting away laundry with me, taking out and washing her lunchbox, 5-15 minute cleanup of a disaster room with the rest of us

 

She also lies frequently - both inconsequential things and things she thinks might have a consequence. I try hard to avoid coming down too hard on her, especially when I see that honesty was hard for her. But sometimes the avoided consequence is not getting to do the thing she's not supposed to do - the other day she had a Silly Band and hid it on her person, then lied about putting it on her dresser, because she knows they're not allowed at school. I tried several times, gently, to have her give it to me or put it away, but she kept insisting that she didn't have it never did admit it before she left for school. It's just a Silly Band now, but the thought of this attitude and approach 10 years from now is terrifying.

 

When she is not out of control angry or obnoxious, she is very sweet, loving, sensitive, kind, and a joy to be with. It's like she's 2 different people, and switches back and forth on a moment's notice.

 

I'm working through Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline right now, and plan to read The Explosive Child next. It's really helping with MY reaction to her behavior. What I'm trying to figure out is whether I should just keep on this direction, waiting for her to grow and gain impulse control and empathy as I lovingly enforce limits with her. Alternatively, if I think her rages and defiance or abnormal, I'm considering pursuing either counseling for the two of us, or hunting down food sensitivities, such as dairy (which would be a difficult sell for my husband). I'm just back and forth on this so much, and would love some other moms' insights. Thank you if you made it this far!


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#2 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 06:38 AM
 
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My son gets out of control when he's exhausted but thankfully that is not often. How is her sleep?

What happens if you separate her when she's raging? The idea of restraining someone when they're raging makes me feel rageful smile.gif As in - if I imagine raging and someone holding me it makes me more angry. Have you tried telling her to come back when she's calm?

Overall it doesn't sound typical to me. I would talk to the pedi and see if you can get some professional advice. It may even be a dynamic between the family and some new tools might help. How is she at school?

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#3 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 06:50 AM
 
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Tantrums can be normal for some 5-1/2 year olds, but that does sound beyond normal to me.  I guess I'd probably contact the pediatrician and try to find out what's going on.

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#4 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 06:56 AM
 
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My son gets like this at times too.  It happens when he hasn't had enough downtime, is hungry, exhausted, or maybe hasn't had enough cuddles...but definitely not every day.  Does her day allow for down time?   The lying thing is common at this age as well.  My response is that I am not upset but it's important to be honest with me so I have all the information, or something to that effect.  If my son was hiding something I needed or a toy, etc I would ask why-maybe he doesn't want his brother to have it, etc.  Then I would go from there.  I would encourage you to look at food sensitivities, Mama, especially if you have a suspicion.  Dairy-free isn't so bad.  :)   Mary


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#5 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 07:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sleep is not too bad, but could be better.  We are really trying, but it has been hard lately. At school she is wonderfully behaved and shows no signs of these problems. We do have a new baby, and I'm sure some of it is stress due to changes. However, she is all about the baby, doesn't mention any negative feelings about him even when asked, and this has been going on much longer than that. I'm trying hard to protect down time in our days, but it is difficult sometimes.

 

She will not go into another room, or even sit on the couch, then come back when she's calm. She will instead continue physically attacking me or her sister. To stop it, I either have to hold her, or close her in the bedroom with me holding the doorknob on the outside. Maybe I'm misreading, but the forced isolation seems worse. If there are any other ideas, I would love to hear them.

 

I could try our ped. I've in general avoided discussing behavior issues with peds because as a group I don't think they're very supportive of GD/PD and not using reward/punishment/time-out system. However, ours is a pretty nice guy who has been supportive of other things like BF'ing toddlers, so maybe I'll give it a try.


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#6 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 07:57 AM
 
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The frequency and intensity you describe sounds outside of normal 5.5yo behaviour to me (though yes, 5.5yos can definitely rage and tantrum!).

 

I agree with a pp that I'd try having her spend time alone to calm down, as opposed to restraining her.  Is it possible to set up a space that would be safe for her to be in while she's raging (safe for her, and pretty bare, ie. without a bunch of stuff she could destroy)?

 

Is there any pattern to when this kind of behaviour occurs or what might trigger it?  Things to look at would be sleep, sugar, dyes, dairy, gluten.  You also mention that she has an older sib and a baby sib.  Do you get many chances to spend one-on-one time with her?  Is it possible to try to schedule that in a little more often? 

 


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#7 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 08:01 AM
 
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I've in general avoided discussing behavior issues with peds because as a group I don't think they're very supportive of GD/PD and not using reward/punishment/time-out system.

Is it possible that system isn't working? It doesn't work for every child (would definitely NOT work here. My son especially needs very clear rules and consequences). If that is your deal then that might really be a contributer.

re: time alone. I have had to hold the door shut for my son (not anymore). I see it as setting a clear boundary. Especially at her age she should know without doubt that violence will not and can not be tolerated under any circumstances. She may also be lacking the tools she needs to calm herself down if she hasn't been given the opportunity to develop them. My son will now go in his room and play his harmonica or even just lie down and take a nap if I put him in there.

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#8 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 10:02 AM
 
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Have you tried supplementing with fish oil? Some children respond really well to high doses of DHA and EPA. I look for at least 1,000 units of each for my fish oil. It is worth a try.

 

Talking to her when she is not raging about how she is acting and how it effects her and you might be helpful. I would not ask a Ped. for behavior advice I would talk with a counselor who is GD or AP friendly.


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#9 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 01:44 PM
 
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I wouldn't ask a ped for behavior advice either, but i think it's worth a ped visit to rule out a physical cause.

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#10 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 02:51 PM
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I think this is not in the range of typical behavior for that age, especially if she does this at school as well as home.  The kids who still act out physically really stand out once they get to school age, especially if their acting out like you describe is a daily or even weekly thing.  I think if you feel that your approach is working now then you should keep on with it.  It sounds like things have escalated though to daily acting out and that may warrant outside help.  A pediatrician may be able to help you find a good psychologist to work with in helping your dd learn to express herself more appropriately. 

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#11 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 03:27 PM
 
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You have just described my ds at age 4.5-5 yrs and then some. I don't know if it is a coincidence or not but at the time of his behavior at it's worst we had also just had a new baby. Although several months prior to that we had also recently moved and he left his long time daycare situation to stay at home with me. He is currently 5.5 yrs and we are seeing better behavior at home, still alot of defiance but not nearly as much aggression or total loss of control. Also like you described the behavior was not typically about the baby. It was usually something trivial like 'we set the table before he got a chance too'.

He is very similar to your dd in that he is a great kid at school, a total teacher pleaser. Never acts out, talks out of turn, etc. He's also very reserved in social situations.

 

I found Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's books very helpful, can't think of the titles off the top of my head (she has about 3). I appreciated her insight on personalities. I had know ds to always be introverted, shy etc. But I realized what we had been doing by holding him, carrying him to his room, restraining him, etc was about the worst thing we could be doing. No wonder it always made it worse. I can't say I really know what has helped....it's been a long stressful process. But we started leaving the room and sometimes the house if necessary (walking down the sidewalk) and would continually repeat that we were not going to let him hurt us and that it wasn't okay. I'm sure there were times that an outsider would think we weren't handling it and taking control. But everytime we tried to actively control him by forcing him to his room for example it was soooo much worse. Leaving him in his room and forcing the door shut didn't work either, too much restraint I guess (we have a nice crack in the door from the trash can being hurled at it). Obviously if he got completely out of control there were times we would have to restrain him. I can't tell you how many bite marks and bruises I had during the worst of it......ugh. I really feel for you mama. We also read the Explosive Child and I felt like that was helpful too.

 

We would talk about his feelings during times when he wasn't upset ( I think we got this from Kurcinka as well). We never really got too much from him. But I do think it helped him to hear us offer suggestions about what he could do when he was angry (breathing, counting, thinking of things he liked, going to his room to rest). This WOULD NOT work while he was already upset. It was wonderful the first time we realized he had gone to his room when he started screaming and getting angry.

 

We tried some dietary changes at the suggestion of some people here. We didn't do a total elimination diet, but cut back on dairy for awhile and cut out his vitamins (natural, but did have some sugars and "natural" flavors" I'm not sure we really saw any major changes there.

 

I know some people may say this behavior is abnormal. But honestly mama from my experience of talking with other parents about similar behaviors we were seeing, I think it's still in the realm of normal imo.

 

Oh as far as the lying. We are totally seeing a lot more of that here too. Usually not about a lot of serious stuff but definitely exploring the idea of lying and "kidding"

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#12 of 16 Old 02-16-2011, 04:24 PM
 
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OP, Your dd sounds like my oldest ds.  We homeschool but DS is also enrolled in a Cottage School for K that he attends 3 days/week in the afternoons.  He has always been quick to anger and frustration, even name calling, throwing/knocking things over, fighting with his brother.  He also has some anxiety in social situations, especially new ones.  This past fall, coincidentally when DS was 5 1/2, he was having horrible outbursts.  These included him attacking me and me having to send him to his room or hold him if he refused and kept coming at me.  I also felt like DS was two different people because at other times he was his sweet self.  I have to say that after he became more comfortable at school these outbursts have significantly minimized and he no longer attacks me like that.  He is still quick to anger, name calling and fights his brother but it is nothing like it was last fall. 

 

Perhaps this behavior in your dd is a combination of her personality, her age and the new baby.  I saw that you mentioned your dd doesn't say anything negative about the baby but my ds never really said anything negative about school nor did I have a hard time getting him to attend.  He also behaves very well at school.  You are not alone OP, hugs to you as I know how difficult it is to have your sweet child turn into someone you don't recognize.

 

Let me know how things go, feel free to PM me.  I still consider taking DS to a therapist to help him manage his anger though he is much better than he was 6 months ago.

 

SJ

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#13 of 16 Old 02-17-2011, 07:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies. I tried again putting her in her room and holding the door shut yesterday, and her rage only lasted about 5 minutes. Then I went in and rubbed her back while she sat silently. (Interestingly, her attention then went to things we discussed when she calmed down from her previous rage - eg how to take the door off the hinges to replace it, and imperfections in the wall. Her fingers traced these in the same order as we discussed them the other day.) So I'm not sure yet if that's a better method for calming down, or if she just didn't have as much anger inside after getting out so much the previous time. It feels wrong to me, because she really protests as soon as she knows I'm going to put her in her room alone. I can't tell if it's a genuine need/fear, or if it's a "manipulative" type of thing. For me, being alone and upset is a terrible thing, but I also remember when she was 2, she would calm down from a tantrum much faster if I gave her space. It's almost as if my presence is hyperstimulating for her when she's upset. It's just so against my instincts to provide a loving presence when she's upset, though.

 

It pretty much would have to be holding the door closed after putting (forcing) her into her room. She will not go to her room of her own accord, and if I try to put myself in another room or leave the house, she will fight to follow me. I may just try to be consistent with this approach for a bit, and do it as lovingly and calmly as possible.

 

As for rewards/consequences system, I'm conflicted. On one hand, while I'm pretty certain it would fix the outside (behavior), I'm concerned that it wouldn't address the inner causes of her upset at all. Perhaps adding in family learning of non-violent communication (which we all could use) could give her an appropriate outlet for her feelings.

 

OTOH, I was thinking today that the anger response could be addictive, in a way. It feels to me that my yelling, etc is a lot like my sugar addiction. The more I yell/binge, the more likely I am to do it in the future, and more often. When I try to resist for a while, sometimes I am successful, but unfortunately sometimes I eventually break down and the ensuing yelling/junk food extravaganza is much worse than it would have been had I given in earlier.

 

In that case, a reward system could break that cycle for her, allowing her brain to become used to the new way of doing things (not yelling, hitting, or kicking).

 

Thank you, too, for the moms who have been there. I appreciate the book suggestions.


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Thanks for the replies. I tried again putting her in her room and holding the door shut yesterday, and her rage only lasted about 5 minutes. Then I went in and rubbed her back while she sat silently. (Interestingly, her attention then went to things we discussed when she calmed down from her previous rage - eg how to take the door off the hinges to replace it, and imperfections in the wall. Her fingers traced these in the same order as we discussed them the other day.) So I'm not sure yet if that's a better method for calming down, or if she just didn't have as much anger inside after getting out so much the previous time. It feels wrong to me, because she really protests as soon as she knows I'm going to put her in her room alone. I can't tell if it's a genuine need/fear, or if it's a "manipulative" type of thing. For me, being alone and upset is a terrible thing, but I also remember when she was 2, she would calm down from a tantrum much faster if I gave her space. It's almost as if my presence is hyperstimulating for her when she's upset. It's just so against my instincts to provide a loving presence when she's upset, though.

 

It pretty much would have to be holding the door closed after putting (forcing) her into her room. She will not go to her room of her own accord, and if I try to put myself in another room or leave the house, she will fight to follow me. I may just try to be consistent with this approach for a bit, and do it as lovingly and calmly as possible.

 

As for rewards/consequences system, I'm conflicted. On one hand, while I'm pretty certain it would fix the outside (behavior), I'm concerned that it wouldn't address the inner causes of her upset at all. Perhaps adding in family learning of non-violent communication (which we all could use) could give her an appropriate outlet for her feelings.

 

OTOH, I was thinking today that the anger response could be addictive, in a way. It feels to me that my yelling, etc is a lot like my sugar addiction. The more I yell/binge, the more likely I am to do it in the future, and more often. When I try to resist for a while, sometimes I am successful, but unfortunately sometimes I eventually break down and the ensuing yelling/junk food extravaganza is much worse than it would have been had I given in earlier.

 

In that case, a reward system could break that cycle for her, allowing her brain to become used to the new way of doing things (not yelling, hitting, or kicking).

 

Thank you, too, for the moms who have been there. I appreciate the book suggestions.



I also had a hard time leaving ds in his room or walking away from him in the beginning. Like you I thought the best approach would be to be with him and help him through his anger. But after putting myself in his room with the door shut (to help him stay there) and having toys and who knows what else thrown at me. I knew this wasn't working because after toys get thrown at my head I tend to lose it myself. It was interesting for me also to listen to ds as dh handled it. Maybe because I wasn't in the middle of it and wasn't trying to control my own anger. But once dh took ds to his room and I guess dh wasn't leaving and was trying to get ds to calm down. All I heard downstairs was ds shrieking "get out daddy" "you need to get out daddy". I'm sure as the parent in the midst of it he just didn't hear that it may have been a plea , which now I see it probably was.

 

I know that if I lose my cool it really does make it worse. It can be tough. It was for me especially if he was trying to hit me and I was holding the baby (watch out for mama bear!) or if he hit/bit me then I tend to lose my control.

 

Ds had a meltdown last night. We've not seen this for several weeks and the only thing I can think of was that he had a really long day at school (goes to school with dh) and had an early day a couple of days previous. He totally lost it for a good 20 minutes because I threw a scrap of scotch tape in the trash!!

 

If you think she needs more sleep I would focus some extra effort there. Is she in all day kindergarten? I know for our guy, he loves it, but it does make for a very long day!

 

Also I don't know about the "addictive" part of anger. But I do think that it can be habitual espcecially if they aren't given any new skills on how to cope. I think this is where some of the books helped me was to realize that ds didn't really have a lot of other skills to cope with that anger. Talking to him about alternatives to what he can do, when he wasn't all worked up, was huge here.

 

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#15 of 16 Old 02-28-2011, 10:48 AM
 
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My very intense DD was not violent, but used to scream/rage/get totally physically OOC at times. It's quite rare now but was still happening at 5.5, for sure. We did find that sending her to her room and, yes, holding the door or locking it (no flames, please--this was for short periods and we were right there) helped. I used to try holding her but it did NOT work--made her angrier. No amount of empathy, emotion naming, etc worked either.

We also worked on a list of things she could do to help her calm down. She loves to read, and actually, picking up a book and switching gears often worked, even when it seemed like she could not possibly transition to that.

Does she get lots of outdoor time and exercise? That helps DD.

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#16 of 16 Old 03-01-2011, 07:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, everyone. Sleep seemed to be the big issue. I'd been not getting dinner made on time since the baby was born, which led to missing bedtime often. I worked hard to change that in the last week, and the rages have disappeared. Still having other problems, but it seems easier to work on our relationship now.


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