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My 5 year old son is really kind, smart, he's an excellent communicator, and he's even tough when it comes to bumps and bruises. Overall he's a great kid. However, he really struggles with making concessions. He consistently throws a fit when he doesn't get his way or things don't go as he planned.

For example, yesterday we had "game time" and his younger sibling asked if we could play a matching game, then my 5 year old is immediately in tears crying that he doesn't want to play that game before I've even had a chance to respond. This type of scenario plays out over and over again. There are many cases where he could just talk to us or his sibling but he just gets set off so easily. He's sort of a control freak but a 5 year old can only have so much control and this just sets him off throughout the day, everyday.

He was in preschool but we took him out when covid hit. We are sending him back soon and he starts kindergarten in the fall. I'm a little concerned that this behavior will ostracize him or make it more challenging for him to make friends.

What can I do to help him be more adaptable and resilient? How can I help him control his emotions so that his default isn't an emotional outburst?

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This is pretty common in this age, and we've definitely had similar issues with both of ours. Part of it is that they can't see the long term very well - right now is the only time to them, and so it's hard to understand putting off what they want now because they don't feel like they'll ever get it. That makes compromise hard, and also makes it seem like a really big deal that they not get this one thing.

Part of it, too, is that they don't have the vocabulary to describe how they feel, hence the big outburst. And part of it is that they don't have control over so much of their life, that they want control over what they can take.

There's no short term fix, other than giving them space when they have these outbursts to calm down and process things, and handling it right. Handling it right means not directly giving them what they are having the outburst for - but also not reflexively shutting them down. Let them calm down, and then talk over the issue with them. Make sure they understand why sometimes little sibling needs to have a say in what they do, and that there will be a next time when they'll get to pick. But also see if there's a compromise that helps them get what they want. Show them the process of working this out, and they'll learn how to do it themselves in the long run - and they'll also learn in the long run that it's not the end of the world to give up a little.

In the long run, giving them emotional vocabulary is very important to helping with this sort of issue. Giving them the tools to negotiate for their wants, and giving them lots of space to do that in - areas they control, or at least can ask for their wants and needs - gives them practice.

I wouldn't worry too much about what happens in school here. Part of the reason for the big outbursts is that they feel safe with you - so they feel safe having an emotional outburst. In another environment they'll likely be more reserved, and hopefully learn entirely different ways of handling things. That's not to say there won't be times they have problems, but they will probably be different problems, and likely they'll help with this - because they won't be in an environment where they're primary anymore. They'll be in an environment with a bunch of peers, where having an outburst just doesn't do anything.

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  • Thanks @Joe for the helpful feedback and perspective! – just-a-dad-1 Feb 23 at 19:15

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