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.
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.
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.
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.
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.