15 Dec
When Will My 5 Year Old Have More Impulse Control Than Naomi Campbell?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have bred two adorable little boys (a 5 year old and a 9 month old) , but it seems that my older one has grown quite the temper and attitude. He knows right from wrong but is very impulsive. If someone looks at him funny at school or, worse, makes a comment about his hair/clothes/artwork, it’s on like Donkey Kong!

We have had numerous parent-teacher meetings about his behavior. We have tried positive reinforcements (which sometimes work). The issue is that in that moment when he has a choice, he consistently makes the wrong one. As for the reason of these outbursts, he says (with prompting) it’s to garner my attention. I’m not sure if I buy this, as all of this behavior is at school, and I’m clearly not hanging out there snuggling with the baby.

I attempt to split my time with them equally but I’m breastfeeding the baby and my husband is in the military. Thankfully, there have been no threats of tossing him from the preschool…yet. So we basically have 8 months to get this behavior curbed before kindergarten. What do you suggest?


Tired Of The Calls From Daycare


Dear Tired Of The Calls From Daycare,

Does your son also yell disparaging remarks at those he believes to be beneath him? Does he fly into a rage if the paparazzi get too close? If so, he could be suffering from Christian Bale syndrome. I believe this can be cured with a few hugs and some humble pie. However, if your son does not meet the symptoms associated with this terrible thespianic affliction then it’s possible it could be a combination of things.

First, it seems your son may be having trouble adjusting to sharing you with his baby brother (totally natural). Perhaps, instead of your splitting time equally between them you could try and do things that involve everyone (easier said then done, I know). Focus on activities that will help him enjoy, and find pride in, being the older brother. As children get older, they find the idea of responsibility alluring.

Second, communication is key. When he feels angry, sad, upset, frustrated, etc, it’s important for him to have both the vocabulary and safe space to express these negative feelings. Encourage him to stamp his foot (this allows him some physical release) and say what is on his mind, even seek out a teacher and express this to her/him if he feels like his peers are not listening (they’re 4 and 5 so most likely they aren’t). Most violent outbursts happen because a child doesn’t know how to correctly express himself/herself or they don’t feel as if they are being heard. To help this along, read a few child-centric books about self-expression and anger with him. This will also give you both another opportunity to bond and open up a discussion. A few books I can think of: Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt and When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…by Molly Bang.

Third, be involved and be there. It seems that you have this already, and in spades. And, honestly, this can be the hardest one for some parents. Don’t give up on the positive reinforcement you have started. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t work overnight. I know it’s rough but keep with it and it will get better, I promise. Also, remind yourself you are not alone; all parents will face some type of developmental issue that seems insurmountable.

If he does start to show signs of diva drama and method acting madness then it’s time to call Christian Bale’s PR rep STAT!

Good luck,

Tonya, TMH

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11 Responses to “When Will My 5 Year Old Have More Impulse Control Than Naomi Campbell?”


Comment by Bethany.

One thing that sort of works with my 3 year old son is doing hand claps and screams. When I see him getting to that rage point, I say “Big hand claps!!!” and then we both clap our hands furiously for a few seconds. Then I say “Now yell three times!” and we give three quick yells at the top of our lungs. He doesn’t always go along with it, but when he does, it releases most of that boiling-point rage he’s feeling, and when he doesn’t feel quite so overwhelmed, then we can talk about it. Also, if there’s a good karate program for kids in your area, it might be worth it to sign him up. Good Karate doesn’t teach violence, it teaches self-control, confidence, and discipline. I taught it for years to kids as young as four, and it helped so many of them with everything from ADHD to anger issues to
shyness. He may just really need the physical outlet and the confidence boost so he can deal with criticism (constructive and otherwise). And yes, ultimately, this too shall pass. Good luck!

Bethany Reply:

Oh, and I meant to say that if the hand clapping/yelling thing works at home, then maybe see if one of his teachers is willing to keep an eye out and practice it with him at school when she notices he’s getting angry. It may take time, but eventually it’ll become a habit for him when he gets mad and then when you hear him clapping or screaming, you’ll know it’s time to intervene.


Comment by Stephanie.

Christian Bale Syndrome!? Love it! I’m pretty sure my almost-two-year-old’s got a serious case of it, too.


Comment by Plano Mom.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. My son was also “very determined” – my southern lady way of saying he was a royal pain. We just came across Alexander’s story the other day, and he told me that book helped him understand that it’s okay to have a bad day, but he can’t expect everyone to indulge him in it.

Tired Of The Calls From Daycare Reply:

Our son’s name is actually Alexander, so we definitely have this book already. 😉


Comment by mtwildflower.

Something to consider….how age appropriate is your child’s pre-school/daycare?

If there is a lot of seat work that requires him to sit and color quietly, you might think about placing him elsewhere. Kids this age need to learn through play and really ANY seat work for a kid 5 and under is really NOT appropriate.

He also needs a lot of physical activity, which is hard to get this time of year especially if you live in the northern part of the US and anywhere in Canada. If your Aussie….you’ve got outside play pretty much made right now. Take advantage of it. I know my kids get really aggressive and hard to deal with when they have had little exertion…hence the running indoors, climbing up the walls and general destructive tendencies when it comes to their bedrooms. Take advantage of those Mickey D’s play lands if you must. If you live in a place where there is an indoor pool or a kid’s gymnasium, take him at least 3 times a week. It will really help.

Tired Of The Calls From Daycare Reply:

He’s school is actually amazing (tons of outdoor spaces, places to climb, run, they do a lot of play-based learning). I cannot imagine a better place for him. You were right about the activity, though. During our last conference with the teachers and admins, we all realized that his most aggressive behavior has been since he fractured his ankle! He has a ton of energy that he is unable to get out because of the injury. Normally, we go to an outdoor museum, go to the Little Gym, run around the house – all stopped 2 months ago. Thankfully, the ankle is almost completely healed. But in the meantime, we are getting a physiologist consult and trying to find other ways to harness that energy.


Comment by this side of typical.

granted my situation is a little different because my son has Autism, but i *DO* know a thing or two about tantrums… *ahem*

the handclap comment is pure genius, IMHO

the key is to get him to use his words as much as possible. If you can get him to express what he is feeling, it gives him a better grasp of what is going on inside of him. Sometimes these little guys don’t know why they’re getting so mad, so this helps.

but find a routine and ALWAYS do it when you see him escalate. Like the handclap thing or i give my son “squeezes”(deep pressure massage on his arms, legs and back)–but really it’s finding what works for your son and then rolling with it. The key is that when he sees you being uber consistent, he will KNOW you are involved.

hope that was helpful!


Comment by kokopuff.

As much as I love the handclap idea, I’m pretty sure your son will drive his teachers crazy if you teach him to clap and scream when he gets frustrated. A squeezy ball he can mush the crap out of is much more appropriate for the classroom!


Comment by Emily.

Good advice. Also, since your son probably always hears ‘you have to wait, mommy is nursing/feeding/changing/etc little brother’, to make sure that you voice the times when little brother has to wait. So he feels valued and prioritized as well. ‘Little brother, you have to wait, big brother needs a snack’, etc.


Comment by Tired Of The Calls From Daycare.

Just thought I would send a quick update on my little demon…err…darling son. I mentioned in a previous comment that he had a fractured ankle. Well, as it turns out, it was also infected! The poor bugger has been running around for months in pain without us realizing. He had surgery over the new years weekend, so we are hopeful that 1) he will have a clean bill of health very soon and 2) he will stop acting like a possessed psychopath. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions!

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