Effective Discipline Techniques for 5-Year-Old Children

Time-out can be an effective discipline strategy for 5 year olds.
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Disciplining a 5-year-old requires a combination of skill and art. By the age of 5, a child’s personality will shine through as he develops a greater understanding of himself, his relationships and the world around him. New skills and talents often begin to develop and it can be a year filled with wonderful developmental gains.

A 5-year-olds budding development, however, presents unique parenting challenges in terms of behavior and discipline needs.

Most 5-year-olds seek more independence than they can safely handle. And, many of them enjoy experimenting with new behaviors to test their caregiver’s reactions.

Typical 5-Year-Old Behavior

Most 5-year-old children have an understanding of right from wrong. They can follow simple rules and often aim to please adults. They don’t understand adult logic, however, so they sometimes struggle to make healthy choices.

Kindergarteners develop interests in forming relationships with their peers and usually prefer same-sex peers. They want to fit in with other kids and might tease others who don’t conform. They can also be bossy, which can make it an especially difficult time for sensitive children.

Although they should be developing improved impulse control, they’ll still need a lot of work in this area. They might yell, say mean things or exhibit outbursts. They often test rules and limits but should start developing a better understanding of the direct consequences of their behavior.

Best Discipline Strategies for 5-Year-Olds

No matter which of the five types of discipline you choose to use, discipline should always be tailored to your specific child’s temperament. Here are nine ways to discipline a 5-year-old effectively:

  1. Set Clear Limits – Establish clear household rules and set consistent limits.  Prevent behavior problems by keeping your discipline consistent and follow through with both positive and ​negative consequences.
  1. Offer Limited Choices – Kindergarten-age children need help learning how to make good decisions. Offering limited choices to teach your child problem-solving skills. Ask, “Would you rather clean your room before or after dinner?” Either choice is a good answer as long as it gets done.
  2. Give Clear Directions – Before giving instructions, gain your child’s attention. Most 5-year-old children get really involved in imaginative play or watching TV and have difficulty paying attention unless you have their undivided attention. Place a hand on your child’s shoulder or gain eye contact before you attempt to give directions. After you give instructions, ask your child to repeat back what you said to ensure he understands.
  3. Praise – Provide lots of praise and encouragement to promote good behavior. It can be helpful to children of all ages, but for 5-year-olds, it really gives them the confidence that they’re on the right track.
  4. Teach Alternatives – When you’re child misbehaves, teach him alternative ways to get his needs met. If he throws a toy when he’s angry, teach him how to manage his anger. Rather than simply punishing him for misbehaving, help him make better choices in the future.
  5. Time-Out – When you’ve said “No,” and you’re child doesn't stop, a time-out can be an effective consequence. Place a 5-year-old in time-out for 5 minutes. By this age, most children can tolerate serving time-out in a chair or other quiet area.
  1. Natural Consequences – Natural consequences can be effective as children can really start to grasp that their behavior is directly linked to the consequence. If you’ve got a 5-year-old who insists on doing something his own way, if it’s safe, give him the chance. Allow him to face the natural consequences if he makes a mistake.
  2. Informal Rewards – Most kindergarten-age children love opportunities to earn rewards. Instead of threatening consequences, try spinning it as an opportunity to earn a reward. So instead of saying, “You can’t play outside until you’ve cleaned up your toys,” say, “As soon as you clean up your toys, you can go outside to play!” Phrasing things in the positive can make a big difference in the way your child responds.
  1. Formal Reward Systems – Create a formal reward system if your child is struggling with specific behaviors. Sticker charts or token economy systems can be effective ways to target specific behavior problems.