Raising a Kindergartener

People ask often which age of raising kids has been my favorite so far.  That’s such a tough question because each age has it’s ups and downs.  Some years, yes, there are more downs than ups (anyone remember Gracie’s terrible twos????), but for the most part, there is always the good with the bad.

Five years old, though.  Man, it’s rough.  Why does no one tell you that?  Maybe it isn’t that way for every child, but it is kicking the Brown House in the pants lately.  There is this attitude all the time, and the arguing.  OH MY GOSH WITH THE ARGUING!  I didn’t think I had to deal with that until MUCH later, but it has, unfortunately, arrived.  And there’s complaining – nothing is ever good enough, fun enough, fair enough lately.

If raising babies was physically exhausting, raising kindergarteners is mentally exhausting.

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I’ve been giving some thought to that.  Why is this so hard right now?  And I’ve got a few theories.

First, Bean’s whole world has expanded exponentially since he started kindergarten.  When he was in daycare, his world was relatively isolated to all things toddlers and preschoolers.  It was a world made to protect him from things.  Now, though, school has opened him up to all kinds of things.  On one hand, I love that.  I love that he is exposed to different kinds of people and situations.  I see him growing up so quickly right now.  But on the other hand, some of the things he is exposed to are not what we would prefer.  TV characters, movies, even the way he speaks now seems too old for him.  I hear him using phrases like, “Whatever, Mom,” and my first instinct is to wrap him up in a baby blanket and hide him in our attic forever.

Okay, actually, my first instinct is to “jerk a knot in his tail,” as my Grandma says.  But a very close second is to lock him away forever to protect his innocence.

Bean is also stretching his wings a bit.  Which is natural and healthy.  He’s able to do more, so he is trying to do more.  But sometimes, he isn’t as ready to do as much as he thinks he is, which leads to a lot of temper tantrums and arguments.  And he has no problem throwing out the, “But so-and-so’s mom lets him watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…”  Yeah?  Well, I bet so-and-so doesn’t wake up with nightmares after he has watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles either.  So there.

I know that in today’s world, kids seem to grow up quicker than when I was a kid.  But I’m just not on board with that.  He’s only five.  Bad guys still scare him.  He still sleeps with a nightlight and Mr. Bear.  He cries when he is tired.  He asks me to kiss his boo-boos when he gets hurt.  He is just too young to be growing up too quickly.

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All of this causes some tempers to flair around our house lately.  Bean gets mad because we put him in his place.  We get mad because he keeps pushing the boundaries.  I try to be patient and remember that this is perfectly normal, but being normal doesn’t mean that we allow the behavior to continue.  The two biggest problems we have had are speaking disrespectfully to Chris and me, and pitching temper tantrums.  For either of these things, we have a very rigid set of consequences.

Speaking respectfully is a top priority in raising my children.  We speak to our friends kindly, but we speak to adults with respect.  We do not tell Mom and Dad no.  We do not argue.  We do not speak unkindly or with an attitude.  When those things flair up, Bean is immediately corrected – every, single time.  We get down to his level (just like when he was a toddler) and we say clearly, “You are acting disrespectful to me.”  And then we try to very concisely explain the infraction.  We don’t want a long, lengthy discussion here, but he does need to know what he has done because this is something he has to LEARN.  It isn’t only a disciplinary action.  He has to learn what respect is, and we have to teach that to him using words he understands.  Usually, that goes like, “Michael, you are acting disrespectful to me.  We do not tell Mom no.  Do you understand?” in a very firm voice.

Bean is a pretty good kid, even on his worst days, and so usually this is enough to set him straight.  But every now and then when he is feeling froggy, he will continue with the behavior, and then he is sent to his room.  He has to sit quietly on his bed until we come to get him.  When we get him, HE has to explain what he has done wrong this time.  And then he has to apologize specifically for that behavior.

The other issue of temper tantrums has been trickier to parent because it is a change in our parenting philosophy.  When he was younger (and with Gracie now), we felt like if you were in time out, then we didn’t care what you did – pitch a fit, cry, yell – we were ignoring the behavior until you settled down and came out of time out.  And that worked for YEARS for us.  Still works with Gracie.  You cannot have our attention until you are behaving.

But for Bean now, he’s too big to be pitching temper tantrums at this point.  He has to start to learn to control those outbursts.  And so, ignoring the temper tantrum when he is mad is no longer effectively teaching him.  And that’s where we have struggled.  Finally, we have found a consequence that seems to work the best for Bean.

This is our Temper Tantrum Jar.

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Bean loves his piggy bank more than anything else.  He hoards his money!  He collects it everywhere and any chance he can get it.  Which is why we decided that, for Bean, paying a fine with HIS money would be a consequence that he remembered.

Now, whenever he pitches a temper tantrum, he has to go to his room.  And then, when I come up to get him and he apologizes, he has to go put a quarter in the Temper Tantrum jar.

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And, oh man.  It kills him every time.  Every time he just frets and frets about separating with that money.  But that’s why it is such an effective consequence.  Because now, he stops and thinks before he gets too upset.  It doesn’t stop every tantrum, of course.  But it has cut back on them significantly.

Five-years-old is tough to parent.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out-of-sorts in my parenting.  Taking care of babies came naturally to me, and so did raising toddlers and preschoolers, too.  I just sort of naturally took to those stages of parenthood.  But this one makes me scratch my head more.  Am I doing it right?  Is this the right thing?  Am I handling this the right way?  Am I raising a kind, caring, responsible child?

I don’t know.  Who does, I guess.  But even with all the temper tantrums and attitudes right now, I like to think I’ve got myself a keeper.

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12 Thoughts to “Raising a Kindergartener”

  1. AndreaC

    Oh my word. Bless you for writing this!! This is pretty much EXACTLY what is going in in my house. I cannot put into words how badly I needed this today. Thank you!

  2. Sarah S

    umm… all those questions “am I doing this right? Am I handling this the right way?” etc….?
    well, they don’t really go away as they get older. Just bigger. And the worry that comes along with them gets bigger. But, BUT! You get to see glimpses of who your kids are going to be when they are adults and see them really develop into their personalities and that part is amazingly awesome.

  3. Arden

    Oh man, I remember when the kids I used to nanny went to kindergarten. All of a sudden it was, “What happened to the sweet angel who used to snuggle up next to me and read books? Why has he been replaced by this little monster who’s constantly telling potty jokes and speaking back to me?” I think you’re right– kids are exposed to just so much more stuff in kindergarten and it really causes their behavior to change for a while there. I’ll be thinking good thoughts in your direction– hopefully it’ll be a phase he grows out of soon!

  4. Alex

    I read a parenting blog and the author, Valerie, has even given this phase a name: “kinder-tude.” So if it’s any comfort, it sounds like this is a really common phase! I admire the way you’re handling the disrespect and timeouts. My 4-year-old started preschool this year and is giving me a preview of his kindertude lately too – ooh boy.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I have a 5 year old kindergartner as well and speaking disrepectfully and regular little outbursts (not full blown tantrums but mini ones) when he doesn’t get his way or has to do something he doesn’t want to have become a very common thing at our house. Way too common. And it is hard and frustrating and even scary. But I am so encouraged knowing it’s not just my 5 year old AND I’m so thankful that I now have a new idea for an effective consequence.

  6. Brenna

    When my son started kindergarten I noticed these things too. He started coming home and telling his sister “only BABIES do that” and other things I had never heard him say. He even learned the “there’s a place in France where naked people dance…” ditty. I hated that he was being influenced by things beyond my control and the attitude that came with it. It took a little bit, but he learned that disrespect like that was not allowed in our home…period!

    As for the tantrums, I have a bit of a theory about this. Some kids really need to feel like they have some control of their lives and decisions. They start school and suddenly almost every minute of their day is managed by someone else. They are no longer able to choose “Am I going to play legos or blocks right now?” Most kindergarten classes have some center time where the kids are given a little more freedom, but even then it’s usually very structured. If FL is like our area of the country, they only have 20 minutes of recess a day for free play, which is DEFINITELY not enough for young kids. I noticed my son had his hardest days when he came home from school and had to do a bunch of things he didn’t like and I didn’t give him any say or choice in the matter. Now, there are times that it just has to be like that and he needs to accept it. However, I’m learning that we have less tantrums if he feels like he is included in some decisions is given a little more control over certain parts of the evening. I don’t know about you, but even as an adult, when I feel like I am losing control of my life (parenting, job, housework, etc…) I start to get pretty worked up. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to my husband, but I just start to feel kind of crazy and irrational and I have difficulty shrugging things off or always rolling with the punches. I need to feel like there are still some parts of my life that are up to me. I think many kids are the same way. I found this to be true with my son. When I included him more in our evening plans and gave him some time that was his to control, things seemed to go a little smoother. My son is 7 now, and this is still something that we work on.

    1. Katie

      This is such a good thing to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Lee Ann

      Brenna, this is great! This is me … a 52-year old woman! When I don’t have “my” quiet time, time to make my own decisions, etc., I get cranky and disoriented. Thanks for putting this into words!

  7. When my son started kinder we started dealing with “the mouth”. Tantrums have never been tolerated at any point in our house. I shut yhose down from the the time he could talk so he didn’t even try, but oh my gosh, his mouth. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I mean the things he would say. Then I watched as the kids in his relatively small class spoke rudely and disrespectfully to their parents and not once were they corrected. I was shocked that they were allowed to do that, but I also saw where the idea was coming from. It took a while, but it did improve. Of course, the first few weeks of first grade were a bit rough, but it didn’t last.

  8. Yeah… I just sent this to my husband because oh my gosh the Kindy attitude. SO ANNOYING. I think Brenna is right on. I feel like I’m relating to my son a lot more, and see a lot of his struggles as classic things that all of us have to deal with. He wants alone time, he wants to do what he wants to do, he wants to feel like he’s in charge (we’re having a lot of,”who’s the boss, here?” convos). I think of all his neurons firing from all the new things and it exhausts me. I am struggling, though, with the disrespect. And with the thought that he’s at school 35 hours of the week and we have to spend so much time at home fixing the things he learned at school. I think it’s also probably most jarring for the first child. Some of their peers are the 2nd, 3rd or 4th kid, so they’re already pretty familiar with some of this. My son was never telling poop jokes, but now my 2 year old thinks they’re hilarious because she sees her older brother telling them.

    Anyway, not quite sure how to work through this yet, except to just keep correcting over and over and over again. The hard work of parenting. I miss my little preschooler so much, but I do love my boy. Just glad to know this is not uncommon and we’re all dealing with the same things.

  9. Becky

    Katie, your instincts seem sooo right on with your kids! And this is no exception.
    The patient, thoughtful, loving, and kind manner in which you and Chris are raising your kids has always been a help to me with some of my own parenting struggles.

    Thank you for sharing and always being so honest. <3

  10. Shauna

    I have a boy and girl the exact same age as yours and I often find their behaviors mirror what is going on in your house. We are having the exact same problem with our kindergartener who is generally a really good kid (his life isnt fair, nothing is fun, his toys are boring, sassing, temper tantrums etc). Its been driving me crazy, so I am glad to hear this may be a normal stage.

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