I have a sweet but headstrong 5-year-old kid. He is usually well behaved and when that is not the case I handle it. But when he is experiencing some kind of physical discomfort - he could be tired, hungry, needing to poop - and something upsets him, it gets really difficult.

On the one hand, he does stuff that really should have consequences, like hitting me or throwing things at me. On the other hand, I know he is having a hard time controlling himself and he cannot be reasoned with at that very moment anyway.

Is there any merit in punishing a child after they have calmed down? Just talking about it will upset him, maybe more than punishment. This indicates he knows very well he should not be doing such things.

2 Answers 2


Even many adults get cranky when they are hungry or tired, so I would not expect too much from a 5 year old.

I'd suggest you let your kid know that

  1. you know he is tired/hungry/..., but
  2. this is no reason to misbehave and you don't appreciate their current behaviour.

As long the misbehaving doesn't put your kid or someone else in danger, I would not punish it, but try to fix the root cause as good as possible. Maybe even think of changing daily routines to allow for earlier snack or more sleep, if necessary.

  • Would not suggest punishment but what about talking about it? Mar 31, 2019 at 11:19
  • 1
    Talk about it? Sure. But don't wait too long. Same goes for punishment, if you wait too long the child will either forget what he is being punished for or just not understand why he is being punished so long after the fact.
    – user20343
    Apr 1, 2019 at 15:41
  • 1
    Exactly this. The best course is to anticipate the behavior and prevent it, especially at this age range. Prevention goes a long way for a happy parent-child relationship! Also, talking about it isn't really productive if you're not going to follow through with it.
    – poweratom
    Apr 5, 2019 at 22:31

You must start using immediate and known consequences which cause him stress, not you. Bad behavior needs to be corrected and have consequences without regard for how tired or hungry a child is. Grace has a place, but it should not be the norm. In fact you can't teach and show them grace until after you have effectively set the precedent for consequences that they know will happen.

Immediate and known consequences are part of teaching them control. In reality they can control themselves, it just takes effort that they don't realize they have in themselves until they are forced to do it.

For issues dealing with aggression it is advised to enforce consistent non-physical consequences.

Be Consistent

As a parent you must be consistent, irregardless of the social situation. As an example, there were many times my wife and I alone tried to do grocery shopping and because a child was acting out we had to leave our cart and go home to deal with the behavior immediately. It sucked, but the kids learned rather quickly that we meant business. And what a great lesson when the kid wants their favorite cereal and we don't have it because we couldn't do our shopping!

Be Non-Physical

Aggression issues cannot be solved by aggression. Sure, you can be stronger and meaner than your kid and gain a temporary upper hand until they grow up and leave. But as a parent our goal is to make them better people, not make them pretend to be better. All Pro dad has this list of ideas, I have not gone through and evaluated them all.

Use Consequences

Basically this means that the child must not like what you're doing. There is a balance and art to finding how to put pressure on your kids. First, be steady, don't flip flop around. Most of the time they will pretend your consequence doesn't bother them, but it does. However, if you see that a consequence has stopped being effective, then adjust.

this professional resource says a lot of what I think is important.

What are consequences? Consequences are the positive or negative results of behavior. Everything you do in reaction to your children’s behavior is a consequence. However, consequences are more than imposing consequences on children when they do something wrong; for example, turning the television off when siblings fight about which program to watch.

Consequences have a larger purpose, which is helping children realize that their behavior has an impact, and they should allow children the opportunity to think about what they did. Ultimately, you want to help your children realize that their behavior has consequences and that they need to consider possible consequences before they act.

Consequences don't have a primary focus on 'conversation' or 'understanding' as perhaps an adult at work might have to speak to HR about something. Consequences do require conversation and understanding over time, but don't confuse the two. Consequences are natural or imposed and have a direct impact on the child. After the consequence plays out, then a conversation and understanding can happen and be useful and successful.

From the same resource

Your imposing consequences just stops the activity so you can point out the impact of the behavior and what better options your child can pursue.

The conversation doesn't stop the activity, the consequence stops the activity and then enables the ensuing conversation which creates an opportunity for growth.

  1. Undesired Behavior
  2. Consequence
  3. Cool down
  4. Conversation

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