How to Change a Five-Year Old's Attitude

Too often, parents use the phrases, "watch your mouth," or "change that attitude or else," when speaking with their child. The age of 5 can be tricky, the child is learning independence along with new friends and new routines, which may not be the best influence on their attitude. The introduction of school, and added responsibilities that come with being a 5 year old, can bring out nasty and resilient behavior. Work with your child, instead of yelling at him to adjust his behavior, and help change his attitude to reflect a respectable, well-mannered child.

Give consequences to your child who displays poor behavior. Appropriate behavior should be outlined to your 5-year old in terms and conditions that he can understand. Give him clear, concise directions, such as "do not put your feet on the table." Follow up with a consequence that will involve him if he does not listen, such as, "you will not finish eating dinner at the table." Children need to take responsibility for their actions according to Dr. Ruth Peters, a behavioral psychologist, and not blame others.

Praise your child for her behavior to imply positive reinforcement. Dr. Sears recommends avoiding the phrases, "good girl and good boy," because these phrases are directed to the child, not the action. Do not praise bad behavior.

Ignore behavior that is unacceptable, only if it is minor and mundane. Acting out is common for a 5-year old seeking attention; therefore, any attention that he receives is good attention for him, regardless if it is for bad behavior. Instead of focusing on his every bad move, ignore the small stuff and concentrate on the larger issues. For example, a small squabble with a sibling can be ignored; however, if it accelerates to a physical fight then it should reap consequences.

Motivate her with rewards to promote positive behavior. However, keep rewards simple and relevant to the behavior 2. For example, if she cleans her room and sits down for dinner on time, she can pick what she wants to drink for dinner. The age of five can be a very competitive age; therefore, it is important to set reward guidelines and explain how a reward benefits the child. Avoid large rewards such as a new gaming system if she completes all homework for one week. The child should not be taught that all good behavior will bring a material gift.

Negotiate with your child if the situation does not challenge your authority as a parent. A 5-year old may want to push weekend bedtime back by 30 minutes, and instead of saying "no" right away, give him the benefit of doubt, by listening to why he wants a new bedtime. If his reasoning is relevant, let him have the added time. However, set the rules to remain the same after his designated bedtime, and remind him of consequences if he does not adhere to the standard bedtime rules. For example, his new bedtime is 8 p.m., but if he pushes to stay up later, the consequence will be to return to the original time of 7:30 p.m.


Smaller, annoying bad habits will disappear with age and maturity.

Avoid constant criticism towards your child, as this may result in additional and increased negative behavior.