Congratulations! You made it through the earliest years, when children seem to need constant attention. Ask a lot of parents and they’ll tell you, in so many ways those first few years can feel like the most stressful phase of parenting! Of course, challenges come at all ages, and meeting the needs of kids aged five and six isn’t always easy. Below is some helpful advice on dealing with the biggest challenges during this part of your parenting journey.
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When a five or six-year-old child refuses to do what their parents ask of them, it’s often because they are now fully aware that they are an independent person who can make decisions and influence the world around them. While parents don’t want to be overly controlling, it’s vital to ensure that kids follow rules that are in their best interests.
The first step to getting your child to do as they’re asked is to make sure they are paying attention to you and understand what you’re asking them to do (or not do)! Before you deliver instructions, say “look at me, please” to be sure they are listening and are not distracted. Give them one instruction at a time, instead of a long list. Wait a few seconds for them to process it, then gently ask them to repeat what you said.
A lot of children have trouble knowing how to start a task, so you might want to break the request down into numbered stages. For example, if the task is setting the table, tell them to first wash their hands, then get the cutlery and other things they need, and then place everything neatly on the table.
Teaching children that actions have consequences is crucial during this phase. This doesn’t have to mean showing them that negative actions have negative consequences. There can also be positive rewards! Something as simple as getting a sticker on a sticker chart, or working toward the new toy they want after repeatedly doing as they are asked for several days or weeks. Don’t forget, the power of praise, compliments, and positive connections with their parent is a valuable short-term reward that goes a long way with kiddos!
Consistency is crucial, so you might want to create a list of written rules that children know they need to follow. Have a meeting with your child to explain the rules and the consequences of breaking them. Children this age are old enough to understand reasoning, so explain why the rules exist!
Family life is still the most important part of a child’s existence at this point, but at this age, they also begin to make strong friendships. It can be very difficult and sometimes painful for parents to feel as if their child is struggling to make friends and interact.
Socializing is something that is learned and needs practice. Set an example for your children by interacting confidently with people you meet. Smile, be friendly, and try to continue light conversation, which will demonstrate how talking, facial expressions, and body language build relationships. If you don’t especially enjoy meeting new people, set up a meeting with an old friend or someone you already know and bring your child along. Demonstrate basic social skills, such as how to ask conversational questions and follow-up questions.
Children also need to practice socializing by themselves. Arrange a playdate in a controlled situation with parents present so that kids feel more comfortable, and think of some activities in advance. Invite only one friend at a time, so it’s less overwhelming. Shy children often feel happier and more confident when they are dressed in fun costumes, pretending to be different characters. They may also interact more freely when they are doing something they enjoy, so do your best to base playdate activities around their interests.
Entering a new environment with hundreds of people is scary for anyone, so think how tough it must be for a five-year-old! If your child hasn’t started school yet, help them to feel comfortable and familiar with their new situation by practicing the morning routine a few times. Talk about what they are looking forward to and the positive things that school offers, including the chance to meet new friends, learn, and prepare for their future.
Once they start, you’ll no doubt want to know how it’s all going. But remember that your child will likely be a little overwhelmed by their new situation, and home is a sanctuary where they can wind down and forget about school. Try to avoid asking them for updates every day, especially just after they arrive home. Children are expected to follow rules all day at school, so they may push the boundaries at home more than they used to. Give a little flexibility within limits that you can accept. If behavior changes significantly, talk to your child or their teachers to find out why.
Having a close relationship with the school’s administration team and/or teacher will help you and your child. Attend as many of the parent-teacher meetings as you can, and do your best to help with homework as much as possible. You could also become involved in school activities, be active on the social media pages, or join school committees. All of these aspects may not be possible due to time constraints, but getting involved in a way that suits your schedule will be beneficial!
If behavior, socializing, and adapting are becoming difficult to manage, we are here to help.Find out more or contact Just Parent for additional resources!