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Five-year-old fever: that's what her teacher calls it. I'm calling it (IN MY HEAD) the "F*** You Fives." Apparently this is something that almost all of her peers are going through; if I had a nickel for every time I've run into another parent who exclaims "OMG I thought I was the only one!" when they relate their horror stories and I commiserate... Apologies for the wall o' text below.

tl;dr: how do I get my 5-yr-old past these daily tantrums?

So she's having daily tantrums. Usually at night, but not always. And they are full-blown "I hate you! I want to punch you in the face! I wish you were dead" scream fits. This is not language we use in our house, btw, and the kids never watch anything other than toddler pablum like Thomas and other cartoons, so this stuff comes from another environment (school, most likely). The one thing that's in common for every tantrum is not getting her way: if her cousin can't come over, tantrum. If her brother doesn't want to share his favorite truck, tantrum. If we refuse to allow her to eat candy before dinner, tantrum.

What we've tried:

  1. We've taken away all electronic media and toys indefinitely, for both kids (and are definitely seeing an improvement in the 3-yr-old; going TV-free has been a boon for him, regardless of how this turns out).
  2. She gets between 11-12 hours of sleep a night and we TRY to ensure she has a good diet (she's very picky and we're vegan, but last visit to the pediatrician (about two months ago) her blood tests were just fine, even for B12). So yes, the doc says physically she's fine.
  3. We've cut out extra-curricular activities other than piano lessons, so she doesn't get too exhausted (we noticed an uptick in tantrums on the nights after tae kwon do, even though we were home 90 minutes before bedtime).
  4. When this happens, I do my DAMNEDEST to remain calm and unemotional, and try to talk her through this. "So where would you go if you didn't live here? Oh really? How would you buy a house? Where would you find food?" etc. If she's mad because someone didn't do something she thinks they should have (or vice versa) I try to ask her how she would feel if the situation was reversed (this discussion happens after the screaming has dwindled down).
  5. I will take her to her room if she's just out to scream, but that rarely works well; she pounds at me and kicks the whole way, and either comes blasting out of her room the moment I close the door, or trashes her room to the extent she's able/willing to (last time she threw her pillows on the floor, and some rocks she's collected).

We do have a (to my eyes, at least) rather tight schedule; the kids have to get up in time for one of us to take them to separate schools (no bus comes here, since she's in a magnet school), and she has homework (even in Kindergarten) most nights. We try to do a big chunk on the weekends, when she has time to focus, and she sails through it. She also has to read every night, and she balks at both those strenuously. (She doesn't like reading very much at all yet, unless she's in my lap at night, and for several reasons that doesn't always happen. Especially not THESE nights.)

Either I'm missing something, or I just need to find my own peace with this stage. Any ideas?

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Does she have any time to play, to be a kid? Kids need to be kids – having homework in kindergarten is robbing them of valuable time to do that. I'd be angry too. –  Dave Clarke Apr 27 at 11:24
    
Regarding 2, has she had her vision checked recently? If she's far-sighted or has trouble focusing, reading and homework may be particularly frustrating for her. –  lmi Apr 29 at 11:16
    
Yep, she's 20-20. But it was a good thought. –  Valkyrie Apr 29 at 11:17

3 Answers 3

The question is: is there something that really bothers your daughter enough to throw these tantrums, or is it just a phase thats over next month? You should try to figure that out. Sometimes there are very well hidden issues that are hard to find and even harder to find for the parents, so if this gets worse you might want to check with a psychologist. They often - thanks to their distant point of view - are able to point out issues very precisely and very fast. But don't get crazy on this, it might in fact just be a phase that happens for no real reason.

What I can see from here:

  • Your different style in raising your children might cause your daughter to feel left outside. Maybe she has troubles to find friends or play with other kids because of those differences. You might want to talk to her about how she gets along with others.

  • You need to have the authority (and the willpower) to make clear rules. If what she does is not acceptable to you, then don't discuss with her about it, instead state your facts. If she "threatens" to leave your home, just shake your head say "Stop talking nonsense". Don't open up for her to attack in any way. Your daughter is still in an age where she moves mentally only in the space you give her. Make sure that you are very precise on where she is allowed to "move" and where not.

  • Your daughter is angry for some reason and that anger needs a vent to come out. You should make sure that there is one outside of what you currently experience. You already said its better on days when she has her tae kwon do lessons, maybe she needs more activities where she can convert her rage into something else. You might want to look together with her for other activities that she likes. Maybe painting so she can express her anger visually? Or jogging so she can run-out her rage?

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Not really clear in "different style" here. Can you clarify? –  Valkyrie Mar 11 at 13:36
    
Vegan, no electronics, restriction of TV shows. –  TwoThe Mar 11 at 13:50
    
All I have to go by is her reported experience and those of her teacher, but she has about 15 different kids she identifies as "besties" (and probably more the other way 'round; she gets along quite well with her peer group) so I'm not seeing an issue here. Being vegan around here is a novelty but not something to cause her to be treated differently, and the restriction for electronics and TV has come about after the tantrums started, as we have striven to find any triggers and remove them. –  Valkyrie Mar 11 at 14:23

Some people swear by the "1-2-3 Magic" method (search on Amazon for the book) as a tantrum antidote. Good luck to you, although it sounds like you're doing lots of things right, and this too shall pass.

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We've tried this with her and her sibling. He responds well, she did at first but now will press to the punishment. Quite disappointing, as for a while 1-2-3 was indeed magic at our place. –  Valkyrie Mar 11 at 14:24

Some thoughts:

It could be that she is just at the point where reading is frustrating. It's hard/frustrating to wire the brain to turn squiggles on paper into sounds, and then into meaning. And you are forcing her to do this activity that she finds frustrating. It could be that her frustration is easily (and rightfully!) directed at you. If so, this will pass when she masters reading.

She doesn't hate you. She hates that you are making her read (or not letting her have candy, or whatever the trigger tonight is) and she has heard the "I hate you" from somewhere and is trying it out. Try telling her calmly that she doesn't hate you; tell her she's mad at you, and she hates reading (or whatever it is) because she is still learning how to do it and it is frustrating for her. On the rare occasions when my daughter (now ten) says, "I hate you!" it sounds vicious, like she means it, but she is really very scared/ miserable saying these words -- it's just that she feels so bad/helpless/mad right then that she thinks saying it will make her feel better; but in actuality it makes her feel worse. My saying, "No, you don't; you're just really mad at me because you want x; try telling me that... And anyway, I love you very much, even when we're arguing," is reassuring for her, without taking away her power to object to whatever it is I'm making her do/not do.

Does she get running around time? You say Tae Kwon Do nights are worse, but does she have some exercise, almost every day? Especially since things are so tightly scheduled?

Have you tried asking her why she's having these tantrums? Is there some new stress at school? Elsewhere? When my kid was five she started saying, "I wish I was dead" (which she got from a movie -- I knew that much, but still...). It was very worrying/upsetting until I finally asked her one night why she was saying that. A little persistence got her to tell me that her new nanny was behaving in a way we both thought was very unfair; I cleared the problem up and the "I wish I was dead" went away.

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