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It may be difficult to consider, but even preschoolers will require discipline from time to time.

When disciplining a 5-year-old, you must remain respectful of their growth and yearning for autonomy. When they want to be more independent, it can be difficult for them to master what they want to do, and this frustration often leads to misbehavior.

This is also a time in their development when they will be testing boundaries and acting out to elicit a response from their parents or teachers. Add a new routine and the start of preschool, and it’s no wonder many 5-year-olds find it difficult to adjust to their first experiences with the school.

Remember that this is a difficult age for a variety of reasons:

  • Children are beginning to understand their independence
  • They may be experiencing separation anxiety due to being away from home for the first time
  • Adapting to the new personalities at their school may be challenging and anxiety-causing

While most preschoolers understand right from wrong on a basic level, they cannot always make good choices. Yes, they know the rules and consequences for not following them, but they are still not developmentally advanced enough at this age to follow through appropriately.

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Challenging Behavior

Lying is often used by 5-year-olds when they seek attention or are trying to avoid getting into trouble. They may even be experimenting with their imaginations too.

Begging is a tactic commonly used with whining that many 5-year-olds use when trying to get an adult to change their mind and allow them to do something. It is vital to shut down this behavior immediately. Trying to cajole them or play along can make them believe that this is an effective behavior, and they will continue to use it. Don’t ever let a child annoy you so much that you give in to their demands!

Saying no to every request you make is another challenging behavior. Even children who are usually very helpful may start to say no to everything you ask them to do. This can be a sign that they are developing further independence, and they could also be testing your limits and boundaries.

Temper tantrums are another way that a 5-year-old can test your limits. Without developed impulse control, a tantrum can occur when they feel challenged, frustrated, tired, or just plain out of sorts.

Try These Effective Disciplinary Strategies

Every disciplinary action should be appropriate for the child’s unique personality, as one size does not fit all when correcting child misbehavior. Use both positive and negative consequences, and be sure that the student understands the cause-and-effect relationship between their behavior and the outcomes that it produces.

Let Them Know When Their Behavior is Appropriate and Good

Use genuine positive reinforcement, but be careful not to go overboard. Tell them you appreciate their good behavior and why in specific terms. For example, when they put their nap mat away without being prompted, you can thank them for following directions and taking responsibility, and following the classroom rules.

Utilize Time-Out

Have a designated spot in the classroom for a time-out. A chair away from the group is usually sufficient. Don’t give multiple warnings and allow students to continue with their inappropriate behavior. Tell them to go to time-out following the first infraction. After staying in time-out for the required period, discuss with them what they did wrong and how they can avoid the same mistake in the future.

Implement a System of Rewards

Create a treasure chest in the classroom to be used in correlation with a reward system. When children are given stars or stickers for good behavior, allow them to turn in these stickers for prizes. Appropriate prizes in the treasure chest can range from small action figures to colored pencils and stuffed toys. Make the reward system fun, and let the children feel pride about earning their prizes.

These strategies are effective in helping to manage the often challenging behaviors of 5-year-olds!