I have written before about the really active, can-be-aggressive small child in several back posts of varying nature, but I had a few thoughts I wanted to share today. ( Please be sure to note I am dealing here with fiery temperaments, not especially with children dealing with sensory or developmental issues affecting behavior).
If you are struggling with a six year old who still seems rather “stuck” in immature behavior that involves physicality, I want to encourage you tonight. It doesn’t seem as if people really talk about this at all in parenting resources; it seems it is well- assumed that tantrums or any physical response to a limit is over by age three.
From what I have seen, six year olds can definitely still have a hard time controlling their hands, their emotions, their reactions, their physical responses and such. To those of us involved in Waldorf Education, this seems like of course! Has anyone ever read the book “Ramona The Brave” by Beverly Cleary? Here is a passage about fiery Ramona, six years old and in first grade at school, when she becomes completely angry at a classmate (for those of you who have not read this book it is a paper owl and Susan had copied what Ramona had done to make hers, which is why Ramona is angry in this chapter):
‘”Ramona slid out of her seat. Her chest felt tighter. Her head told her to keep her hands to herself, but her hands did not obey. They seized Susan’s owl. They crushed the owl with a sound of crackling paper.
Susan gasped. Ramona twisted the owl as hard as she could until it looked like nothing but an old paper bag scribbled with crayon. Without meaning to, Ramona had done a terrible thing.
“Mrs. Griggs!” cried Susan. “Ramona scrunched my owl!”
“Tattletale.” Ramona threw the twisted bag on the floor, and as Mrs. Griggs approached to see what had happened, she dodged past her teacher, out the door and down the hall, running as fast as she could, even though running through the halls was forbidden….She ran as if she were pursued by Susan, Mrs. Griggs, the principal, all of Room One, the whole school. She ran from her conscience and from God, who, as they said in Sunday School, was everywhere. She ran as if Something was coming to get her.”
(When Ramona eventually asks her parents not to make her return to Room One after several more things, her father tells her she must return and to buck up and show her parents her spunk, which actually makes Ramona feel better and gives her determination to do better because her “spunkiness” has been recognized and there is recognition she can use that quality for good).
Anger is an acceptable emotion. But being aggressive is not acceptable.
And the piece that is frequently lacking for parents is how to handle all of this. I am just a mother, and I can only tell you what other mothers have told me.
I do think there could be two separate issues here – one is dealing with the Ramonas of the world – fiery, hot, remorseful when it is all over (or perhaps a mix of remorseful but still a bit angry or feeling like they needed to do something in the name of justice and fairness, LOL) and those children who have truly deeper issues. Therefore, I caution you to look carefully at your own child, and determine things with your health care team if your child is on the spectrum of developmental delay in some regard, leading to explosive or difficult behavior. In these cases, I am not certain what I have to say here will be helpful as I am not a behavioral therapist or a psychologist.
If this is a child who has a true sense of disrespect for his or her parents and is consistently physically lashing out to the parents or other adults by biting, hitting or such at the age of six, I do feel outside counseling help may be warranted. It may not be that this is not “fixable”, but it may need extra help and the parents may need new help setting new patterns into play. I would wonder all sorts of things about that child, about the home life, that only someone in real life could investigate, evaluate and help with… This is not something to be figured out over email, over a blog, a forum, or a message board. This is something that a trained professional needs to be involved with for the behavior to change. And I think it is important to seek that help, because whilst human beings certainly always have the potential to change, what many parents have told me is that the patterns that are established when children are little still can be a “default mechanism” during times of stress as the child grows. So, I think seeking out someone who is respected, who is trusted and someone whom you can meet in person is important!
But, for those of us truly living with the simply fiery ones who get completely upset, and kick something (and maybe break it!) or who still throw themselves on the floor, I think there is hope. What I have seen and heard mothers say that has worked well are several things:
The most controversial one that parents talk about is holding their tantruming child, or even laying their body across a child who needs that gentle physical help to come back to themselves. Some may think five and six year olds may be too old for this, but I don’t necessarily think so . I think this one can be helpful for some children to come back but also insanely tricky because the parent really has to be calm and gentle and be able to say calmly that they are there to help the child calm down – and be able to do this with a child who perhaps is hitting at them or flailing around and still remain as calm as a stone. And, the child must be responsive to something like that and not have it escalate their behavior even more. No small order. So that one may not work for everyone.
So, in the moment is hard. Some children at age six can respond to humor or distraction, or a bit of flailing on the floor in another space where they are safe but not on top of people for a few minutes before a parent can step in and either hold them or try to sweep up in a matter of fact manner into a snack, a story or something else.
I personally feel very strong physically and emotionally comfortable about trying any of the above. At six or so, the child should be much easier to calm than previously. Sometimes at that age, a child will be happy to have a good ole’ fit on their own in their own room, their own space, under a table. I urge parents who are facing this to also think of a safe place where younger siblings could go if they are home alone dealing with this and have younger ones about.
If the child breaks something, then I feel he or she must fix it, pay for it, help Mom or Dad fix it, or not receive something they would otherwise get if they do not get an allowance to help pay for it. If the child hurts someone, I think they need to use their hands to do something nice for that someone, and also for a six and a half year old and up, I think they need to work for the number of minutes/ amount of time they spent having a huge fit that disrupted the whole family.
Rhythm is another strong aid. I find these children often have a lot of energy, may be extroverted in a sense, and without form and structure, their energy goes bad places. You need to be able to channel their energy until they can constructively channel that energy themselves. Six can be a more difficult age for this, because almost everything may be deemed as “boring.” Long periods of time in nature can be especially helpful and therapeutic.
All of the basics need to be looked at and re-examined: sleep, diet of good fats and protein sources, outside time, the stress level of the house, how many outside commitments is this small child under, and media levels.
Limits are important, and can be one of those fine line areas in terms of timing (not in setting the limit though, the limit still needs to be set!). Some parents have shared with me that they were slow to set limits in the early years, and this is the child that now responds so badly to them at age five and six; a “no” makes them fall apart now that they are older with disaster ensuing. If you know you are starting later with limits and limits sets your child off, you can still set the limit and not use words about it. I think I gave the example in another post that if all the children are fighting, then staying home is a good option. You don’t have to announce loudly to everyone that “now we are staying home because you all are horrible, terrible children who need to be hidden away!” but just do it. If comes up later, than you can say simply you were not feeling generous and we must be kind to each other. Curb your instinct to lecture and lash out. Some of these words can be delayed even to before bedtime if you need to bring it up.
But the fine line of this approach is this: after the child gets used to having some limits, then they do need to be set directly, because in life people will tell your child no,they will set limits and your child has to be able to take this without becoming angry or aggressive. A child may outgrow this sort of thing to an extent, but again from what I am hearing from parents of children with older children, again, is that this pattern did seem established in the ages of four to seven and did not just dissipate with time. It took work on the part of the parent to help that child. Also, I think what happens over time with these children if the adults are not careful, is that the adult does not want to set or enforce limits because that will lead to a battle, so what happens is instead of the child adapting to the limit, the child’s behavior ends up shaping the adult’s behavior. And this is a true problem that needs to be tackled, because that child may grow up and expect the world to adapt to them and what they want without any consideration for the others, for limits of the law, or other things. Not trying to sound dire here, but it is problematic. A trained family therapist or psychologist could also be helpful in this sort of situation as well.
Which brings us to community. I think children like this need a community of adults to help them and you as the parent,need to be mindful of when you are actually stepping in to be helpful or if you are just shielding your child and being a barrier between your child and what should be handled by the child’s teacher, or the adult the child was talking to. At six years of age, this child should not need so much rescuing from you in their interactions with others. Let them be. What they learn may be beneficial, and this is important work for the child to do. Homeschooling families will need to really look and make this a priority – who else does your child have to show respect and listen to besides you? And if an adult asks them something, do you step in and navigate the whole thing for the child?
Be encouraged. You can guide them and help this child grow up to use their gifts of passion, perseverance, sense of justice in positive ways. But do not shirk from doing the work. Your child must learn to deal with frustration and limits in a constructive way. You can do this, hang in there!
Just a few thoughts I have garnered from my conversations with mothers and my own experience with the physical child…
Yet another uncannily well timed post! Thank you! Do you have any advice for a 6 YO (in two weeks she’ll be six) who still impulsively acts out at her younger brother (who will be 4 in a few weeks)? Little things like walking by him and giving him a pinch or push for no apparent reason while he is playing and not bothering anyone. Everyone has told me that this can be typical sibling behavior, but I was an only child for 13 years and really have no reference point for this. I’m constantly horrified at this even though I realize I am probably over-reacting. She is not a bully, plays well with her brother more and more as he gets older, and gets along supremely with other kids. Phew! It’s just exhausting to have to repeat myself over and over that we don’t hurt people, especially those who love us so much (as he does her). This behavior earns her, consistently, time on the step away from her brother. Am I over-reacting? Do I react in some way *every* time she does this, or do I need to back off and sort of ignore the behavior? My husband said he was physically impulsive as a kid, and that it was actually hard to control those impulses. I have a hard time with this, as I was always a very in control kind of kid. A total goody-two shoes (I am still a stickler for rules). LOL. Any advice is welcome. Thanks so much!
I am an only child stickler as well, LOL….I think though for someone that young that behavior towards siblings is normal, but limits are still needed. I actually would work toward more occupying her through rhythm, work, being outside, work toward praising the things she does for him that are positive, and work toward showing very little emotion over it, no more than lint on the floor or when a child is potty training and they miss the potty and it is like, Oh well, I am sure you will get it next time. Showing that you have faith in her ability to learn to control herself.
🙂 There are many sibling posts on her under the family life tab, I believe some of those back posts also addresses sibling relationships/aggression/picking on each other.
Great Carrie, thanks. We started First today and, at the end, my son (6.75yo) said he loved it and then noted aloud to me that he didn’t hurt his younger brother the whole time! ie, the rhythm and structure gave him the boundaries/comfort/stimulus/love that kept him whole during this time! Gordon Neufeld uses the term “Stuck kids” – I highly recommend his online classes for anyone looking for intensive parenting coaching/learning!
Love this Emily! Happy first day of first grade! Glad it went well!
To add for Erika, some Neufeld ideas – also as Carrie says, he teaches not to work on the problem in the incident. Out of the incident, focus on attachment/connection – touching; holding – even by 6, a lot of kids aren’t held in laps much if at all anymore; connecting about sameness – same color eyes, same interest in xyz. And of course, like Carrie says, the physical work and rhythm is all amazing and to be sure some is one-on-one with the older child…
One of the problems my (just) seven year old is having relates, I think, to his sense of justice/fairness. I saw the beginnings of this at our local pool this summer. There was a play area within the shallow part of the pool with slides, spraying water, etc. There was always a line of kids waiting to go down the slides, but no lifeguards were monitoring the area, nor were any adults allowed on this equipment. So, certain kids would keep skipping to the front of the line, so my son got sick of it, and I noticed him put his arm out to stop the skippers. So the skippers would push him to get past, and he would push back. And then, when it was his turn to go down, he would wait for the previous person to get completely off the slide at the bottom, before he would begin his descent. The other kids would start yelling at him to “GO!” sooner, but as far as he knew, he was doing the right thing, so he kept waiting. SO again, the kids would start pushing, and he would push back. I would suggest just going to a different area of the pool, and sometimes he would, but sometimes it seemed like he wanted to go right back up there and set things right. Now he has just started first grade at a Waldorf school after being homeschooled, and it sounds like the same thing is happening. Some kid shoves him for some reason, he shoves back. I can’t be sure what is causing the initial shoving, but I have never seen my son be the initial agressor, it’s only when he thinks he’s standing up for himself or trying to do the right thing. I’m having a hard time with how to advise him on this, as there is such a fine line between standing up for yourself, letting things slide off your back, being a doormat, etc. Of course, I’ve already told him to tell kids “stop” if they are hitting ar pushing, but what if they don’t? And if there is no adult right there? Any advice on how to help him deal with these kinds of situations?
I don’t think I have any exceptionally wise words here. Seven year olds have a sense of fairness, that is common for seven, and I think adults really need to step in to help groups of children who are younger manage themselves and model and show how to do it. At the school? Surprising! Fairness and learning to control oneself are surely marks of seven year olds (and six year olds).
I think you are doing a great job, it is a hard thing to abstractly advise, better to advise in the moment in the situation!
Thanks for this post! My just-7 year old is feisty and some days he just completely loses it on his brother. We have been working on his temper ever since we realized he did not actually have a developmental problem, just a feisty, stubborn personality. I have had to explain to several teachers that “yes, he is capable of doing this work. He just doesn’t want to or doesn’t see why he should have to do it that certain way”. Other teachers have just “got” him immediately and had no problems handling him.
My husband is very good at calmly pinning him down until he calms down. I can’t manage it, so I send him to a safe room (usually my bedroom which only has our bed and a wardrobe) to rant and rave until he is calm, sometimes three or four times in a row.
We also find that a limited media diet, good food, time outside or bike riding and having some snuggle time every day help him immensely. My latest hurdle is that his friend who is in his class brings lots of sugary, highly processed food to school and shares it with him, which does terrible things to his temper, attention span and general mood. I’m still trying to work out what to do about this . . . .
In any case, thanks for the reassurance that we’re not alone.
Thanks Jill, that is exactly the kind of child I was thinking of in writing this post! THank you for sharing!
Thanks for this post Carrie! We have been dealing with a fiery, loud, energetic and angry daughter for years now. She is 10 and her temper turns on a dime. She has had bouts of aggressive behavior over the years and has been deemed ‘healthy and bright’ by a family counselor that we have been seeing for months.
However, I am afraid that counseling has not helped her handle her emotions at all. From what I can tell, there has been nothing traumatic in her past that would cause her to be an ‘angry child’. I truly think it is a tempermant that has gone to the extreme.
We homeschool and she has 3 younger brothers who are very cheerful, calm boys. I feel at a loss as to how to go about handling her outbursts (which now include disrespect and swearing). and wonder sometimes if I’ve done something to cause her to feel angry.
I know this is a lot to throw out there on your blog but really respect your opinion and would love to hear another outsider’s perspective on this issue!
I meditated on your situation overnight and will email you.
Hi Homegrownwife, I’m wondering how your daughter is doing now. I have a 6 year old who sounds very similar. I’m hoping to hear that some of the anger has dissipated over the years. Best wishes! Katherine
Hi, I am wondering how your daughter is now. I have a 6 year old who is aggressive and hits and is impulsive. She is always angry it seems and we have been seeking help but to no avail. Did you find something that works? I need help.
Well, that was a passage from a book about Ramona (author Beverly Cleary). So although I have three children, it wasn’t about any of them. However, six just developmentally is sort of angry and aggressive for the most part, but it sounds as if you have concerns that your child’s behavior is above and beyond typical child development. What does your child’s pediatrician say? Does your child have any diagnosis such as ADHD or being on the spectrum or sensory processing issues? Sometimes it can be hard to find answers regarding that when they are so young.
I think the main things that would support any situation for this age is to look at the work of The Explosive Child (book, there are parenting classes as well): https://www.amazon.com/Explosive-Child-Sixth-Understanding-Chronically-ebook/dp/B08NP52GTW and have an extremely steady routine! NO screens with a strong routine of waking, physical activity, rest , activities such as free play with things that are not electronic, more physical activity, early dinner if possible and early bedtime with no screens in bedroom. If you try this for 21 days it typically helps, along with getting the help you need if there is something going on and learning how to manage the actual outbursts. You absolutely cannot be angry back and that takes work. If you need support, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please see all the back posts on rhythm on this blog – just use the search engine box at the top and a million posts will pop up, and also if you search six year old there are many more posts about normal development.
Hope that helps and wishing you many blessings,
I am so happy to have read this post. Although I’ve read the Gesell Institute notes on six year olds, sometimes I need to hear the same information 10 different ways before I really digest it. Our six year old has been fiery-tempered from the moment he could grunt. My own difficulty is that his hard-headedness has brought out latent hard-headedness in me, and sometimes I feel like I have two fiesty kids to calm – me and him!
You hit the nail on the head with suggesting active, outside time, but his need for energy-releasing activities and my ability to provide outlets for him are not always in sync. I also have a nearly-2 and 4 year old, and I find meeting my 6 year old’s needs and the other children’s needs sometimes takes more energy and creativity than I have. I am certain, however, that I need to focus more on this. Thanks for giving me so much food for thought!
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My 6 yr old was suspended today for punching her teacher, when I asked her why? she told me the teacher was making her do something that was to hard…. but she told her uncle Dana that the teacher would not let her go outside…. and this is mins after she had just met with a psychologist at her school…. I have been told by her the kids pick on her…. but I mean with all the stories I dont know what to do… I am at wits end….
Oh, Kathy, so hard…
What did the psychologist say? Does school really stress her out? Would taking a break from school and homeschooling be possible for a time to take her out of that environment where she is in trouble? Is she in the right grade level? Wrong grade levels can also create a lot of anxiety for a child. I highly recommend the books “Your Six Year Old” by Bates and Ames, (The Gesell Institute) =very cheap used on Amazon and “Simplicity Parenting” By Kim John Payne. It may also be worth talking to your pediatrician and employing a family counselor outside the school environment.
Very well written and helpful article. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. I find my daughter falling in second (fiery, energetic) group. The puzzle we are struggling with that she is best behaved at school and in front of others but completely different personality and angry and demanding at home and more so with her mother than me as I believe she has been late in setting the limits and when she has she has not stock by it. I also think my daughter who I think is extremely bright perhaps even specially gifted has figured out our different approaches in dealing with her wrong doings and behaves completely different in presence of us. So 3 exhibits of behavior, outside, inside with one us and inside with both of us! I appreciate any thoughts or advice on how to best handle confrontations. Thanks balazagi
Six is a tough age in terms of it being a watershed time for development, so first of all I think you can expect improvement with age. I recommend the Gesell Institute’s books “Your Six Year Old” “your Seven Year Old” etc. for information about the developmental differences from age to age and what to generally expect. As you mentioned, boundaries can be the other important piece of this puzzle. Sometimes children hold it together really well for those outside the family because they feel safest inside the family. Sometimes because of the way education has changed so much children have a lot of stress at school at an early age and basically come home and fall apart. Sometimes the family needs help to set appropriate boundaries in a healthy way, either by both parents talking and getting on the same page or by having the parents go and speak with a family counselor, which is usually very helpful to have an outside eye to help bring things together. I wrote a post recently about boundaries here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/04/03/boundaries-for-gentle-parenting-why-how/ and there are also many other posts under the “Discipline” header at the top of this blog and also the other posts on the six year old filed under the “development” Header.
The third piece of this is that there are also innate differences in the relationship between mothers and daughters and fathers and daughters — the Gesell Institute books detail this fairly well. That could be another piece of the puzzle.
And finally, the fourth piece is understanding that six year olds need a lot of doing. They need real work, a lot of time outside playing, time to bike and hike and swim and not a lot of screen time. This can be a tall order but I often find parents willing to work from this very physical body kind of angle, along with earlier bedtimes, low or no screen time, whole foods, and boundaries often have a different child by the end of a few months of this. Three to four hours of play outside a day is not too much for a six year old, and many would be happy to be outside all day if they could. 🙂 I don’t know if you are here in the States or one of my readers from around the world, but summer is approaching here in the States and often can be a time to start a new parenting plan that includes many of these features that could be extended into the school year. I recommend the book “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne as a helpful guide in this.
Hi – I stumbled across your blog while looking for answers to the tantrums of my six year old daughter who started school early and is the youngest in her class. She is bright and confident but gets into frequent temper tantrums ( they don’t last long) which she says she cannot control. She also apologizes a hundred times for getting angry and I must acknowledge her apology with a “Good girl” kiss. I work from home and am very busy at times but I or my husband who can never shout at her, cannot even tell her something in a rushed, hurried tone. We must always be nice to her – otherwise, she says we are angry and she cries until I assure her I am not angry, just rushed and needs her to move fast. It is so frustrating at times. She used to be more aggressive when angry but that has now turned into this. We have a very loving atmosphere at home – there’s a big gap between her and my son who is fifteen. She prays everyday that Jesus will take her anger away. Her teacher tells me she is perfectly behaved at school. What should I do? Thanks a million.
First of all, big hugs…Six can be a really hard age, and I think especially when a child’s emotional life is sort of lagging behind how “bright” they are in school. It can be a lot to really hold it together all day at school when everyone is older, more mature, and possibly even more physically adept. How does she do socially in school? Does she have friends at school or is she left out? Sometimes showing up and just watching a recess time can be telling. I would talk to her teacher more about her placement in school. It would not be the worst thing in the world to repeat a grade now and be the oldest in the class. (please don’t throw something at me through the screen! LOL)
I would go back to basics — strong, strong rhythm where she is doing lots of practical work with you in cleaning, baking, cooking, gardening, sweeping, polishing. Is she sitting down to color or paint or play with salt dough or playdough a few times a week with you? Working from home is tough if your little one has no structure during that time and is left to her own devices. Is there anyway you could find a mother’s helper to be with her during the times you are working at all? Six is still pretty small!
Outside of a steady rhythm of chores and some sit down work with you, I also suggest the elimination of ALL screens. Screens are like opening a portal into our homes and into the minds of our children and it is not what is on the screen, it is what that screen does to the brain. Also, enough sleep and a diet of whole foods (not processed) is important. She really needs a good four hours outside a day in physical pursuits — bike riding, running, hopping hopscotch, playing kickball, tossing a ball, climbing, playing in the sand and the mud. The physical component is really important.
I would encourage you to read the book “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne (not Christian, but a good read for what you are going through nonetheless). You may also want to try “Making God Real In An Orthodox Home” by Fr. Coniaris (you can tailor to your denomination) – it has important tips for slowing down, about screens, about how to bring God into your home through the way your family is structured and through the way you set up a slower pace that glorifies God.
Many blessings, hope that helps — please take what works for you and your family. Talk about it with your husband and pray about the changes your little daughter may need in order to feel more centered about things. 🙂
Hi, my name is Carrie too. Wow, this article was exactly what I needed right now. I have twin 6-year-old boys (turned 6 three months ago), and they have always been little hot-heads, but not too over-the-top, because they have always been little angels in pre-school and now in Kindergarten. Lately they have been very whiny and fighting a lot, but my main concern is their out-of-control rages at times. Sometimes one of them will get so mad that he will hit or shove or kick the other, and last night one of them got mad over taking turns at playing a game and pushed the other one so hard that he hit his head on the edge of a TV screen (the aggressor got a time-out). Fortunately the “victim” wasn’t hurt, but it upset me, and a friend suggested they need counseling, because a couple of weeks ago the other twin got so mad that he broke his Halloween mask. I did fix it for him with superglue, but I told him if it broke again he wouldn’t get another one. I like your suggestion of making them work, or taking away allowance, or doing something nice for the “victim”. I also like the suggestions about activity and sleep and whole foods and screen time. I think part of the problem is they are still adjusting to Kindergarten and don’t get naps anymore. They go to bed at 8:30 but maybe I need to move that back a half hour. I really noticed they get more aggressive when they are exhausted, and they are tired so much lately.
My problem, though, is that I am a single mom who works 40 hours a week, and then I come straight home from work and have to attend to their needs. Sometimes I go straight through from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with little to no breaks, which puts me in a bad mood, and then my temper comes out, and I model bad behavior for them, such as yelling or criticizing. This is what it’s like for me Sunday through Friday, with my only break on Wednesday night when they go to their dad’s house. Do you have any suggestions for making time for oneself while still keeping them active? I know it’s a little bit of a different topic, but I don’t always feel like I can follow the great suggestions I keep reading without giving myself a break, I am just too overwhelmed.
Hi Other Carrie,
Glad to see you write in! Whole foods, and an earlier bedtime is really important. I don’t know what time you get home or what the afternoon routine is like after school, but I would suggest NO screen time at all. NONE. Whole foods, and bedtime definitely by 7:30. I am sure they are tired if they are in all day kindergarten and then some sort of after care and no nap. It would be nice if they could go to the park or do something physically active outdoors in the afternoons, but I really do understand you are working and may not have control over that.
That is so hard – working 40 hours a week plus full time parenting with no help! I think the best way, honestly, to gain some time for yourself is to set an earlier bedtime. They need it and so do you! Go upstairs, cuddle with them, listen to their day, have a cup of warm milk and honey or tea or whatever,tell them a story, sing a lullaby and lights out. I think the thing you can do best is to slow down with them, so they feel like they have this gift of unpressured, unhurried time once a day. The other way to keep children busy is to have a sand box or even a very large under the bed storage box of sand that you can put on a tarp and let them play. It is very releasing to small children to have something like that to play with.
The other things I always suggest is a rhythm and routine to chores in the house. What do they have to do to help in the house? Set the table, unload a dishwasher with you, pick flowers for the dinner table from the yard, water plants? This is another great way to capture energy but to also send the message that meaningful work counts!
You are doing a great job, you have a busy life! Give yourself a hug, take what resonates with you from here and leave the rest behind. Start small, and you will see great progress!
Blessings, thank you for being here,
Hello Carrie, I have a 5 year old (will be 6 next month) and he has been wonderful at home. He seems well behaved around us, he has never thrown a tantrum, seems to be strong willed, and always wants to please. Last year in pre-k and this year in Kindergarten, (only when he is at school) he shows his ‘fiery’ side. I volunteer for recess at his school and I see a totally different side to my son. This scares me, because we have a wonderful family life and my husband and I “talk” out any problems with our son and we are not the ‘fly off the handle’ family so to see our son scream at other children totally awes me. It started in pre-k when another student was pushing and tripping him, starting arguments, and saying hurtful things. Our son was getting to the point he told us he didn’t want to go to school any more. Other children in his class were picking up on how to “make bad choices” and it soon became a rash. I felt that since this was our sons first real encounter with a large group of kids, he was getting the wrong lessons taught to him. We tried to talk to the school and they kept telling us “we have had other complaints about the child and will do what we can” in the mean time I have seen our sons enthusiasm for school go down the tubes. This other boy ended up changing schools by kindergarten, and I was hoping for a better Kindergarten year. Here we are in to the first quarter and I have noticed when other kids tell him he can’t do something; he thinks they are being mean and he then gets angry. If he is interrupted from trying to explain a situation he screams and gets so mad. We have tried to teach him to “use his words” and he will, unfortunately after he has came unglued. I have tried telling him when he gets upset to: stop/ take a deep breath/ and count to ten and then walk away. He did have a few good friends at school and now he is finding himself playing with whoever because he has came unglued so many times. How can we help him if this ‘fiery’ side only comes out at school and not at home or towards us?
This is so tough. I will really have to think and meditate on it over several nights and see if anything comes to me. It sounds as if his beginning school experience was rough due to a bullying gesture (try the posts on bullying on this blog, and also look at Kim John Payne’s work on social inclusion for schools – this could be a great thing to bring up if you meet with the school). Have you met with his teacher, the school counselor, the school psychologist? I understand you wanting to give him tools to use his words and such, and I guess that is needed in the school environment (I assume this is a public school?), but please also understand six year olds are really in their will and their bodies and they often really cannot stop well in the moment. I often feel the things we expect out of these tiny six year olds are really ahead of where they are developmentally. To get a really good grasp of the six year old, I recommend reading Bates and Ames’ “Your Six Year Old”. I know this doesn’t help this situation in saying that! So, I guess I am wondering where the adults are in all of this to help him diffuse before things get out of hand, because it sounds to me as if his social and emotional regulation is a bit lower than what you or he would like, and the adults at the school need to step in and help him. It sounds as if a lot of this is happening during the free play part of his day? Is the teacher really present with him? What does he or she say about the situation? How is it being re-directed by the adult present? I am also wondering if/ how pressured your son feels at school academically and if part of this behavior has to do with that. How long a day is it? Is there an option for a half day kindergarten?
The other option, in all of this, is, of course, to look at alternative forms of education. I am a big proponent of Waldorf Education. Is there an option to homeschool at all?
Also, always go back and look at the basics – healthy food, rest, sleep, no screens, lots of outside time. Can you help him socially by inviting friends over from his class after school to play? How does he do with one on one play? Is it the group that is overwhelming? Does he have any sensory challenges that make the group or people in his space more difficult? How are his physical abilities?
These are just questions to get your brain thinking a bit outside the box about this situation…I don’t know if any of those things are helpful or not, please do take what resonates with you. I can tell you love your son so much and that this is really hard and frustrating on you.
You are welcome to email me privately – my email is at the bottom of the About page, and we can brainstorm some more together. I am sorry school is not being a very positive experience for him.
Thinking of you all and many blessings,
Hi I have a six year old turning 7 and he is having a really really hard time at shool. He intial reaction to another kid doing something to him he doesnt like is hitting them and I really dont know what to do to help him stop. At home he throws fits and yells sometimes but we put him in time out and whatever need be and then he calms down and everything is fine. He is mostly good with his little brother, they fight sometimes but nothing out of the ordinary. When we take him to the park he is good with the other kids too. He also has a problem doing work in class but when he is at home he can get his whole packet that is for a week done in 20 minutes no problem. I dont know what to do to help him and I am at a loss. He is getting in too many fights to where he may get kicked out of his school and I dont want to see that happen.
The first thing I thought of is that it sounds as if he is overwhelmed by school. I don’t know what grade he is in, but is that a possibility? Is he young for what grade he is in? Is the school a good fit with the amount of work? Would a different school environment or homeschooling serve him better at this point? Does he sleep well, get enough exercise, does he eat a healthy whole foods diet? Does he watch a lot of screens – and if he is on screen a lot, those screens need to be cut out completely until you get to the bottom of this. Are the boundaries strong enough at home and what do the teachers do when he hits? Does he have sensory processing challenges or challenges with auditory processing or attention in a noisy classroom? Have you met with the teacher to see if he or she feel he needs an Individualized Education Plan or other specialized learning help, especially if he is having trouble getting work done in class? Does his pediatrician think he is developing normally, normal muscle tone, etc? Sometimes going through a checklist and really observing your little guy and seeing what those questions trigger for you can be very helpful. I would love it if you could keep me posted as to what happens.
I have many back posts to point you to depending upon what you and the teachers feel is going on.
Many blessings, I am glad you are here reading –
HI IM SONA HERE
I HAVE A SINGLE KID 6YR HE APPEARS TO BE FRIENDLY WITH OTHERS IN FRONT OF ME BUT HIS MAAM IN CLASS KEEPS ON COMPLAINING THAT HE IS ALWAYS HITTING HIS PEERS OUT OF FUN N FOR NO REASON ,ASKING THE REASON TO MY CHILD HE SAYS HE GETS ANGRY. I HAVE TOLD HIM TO COUNT OR PRAY IMMEDIATELY BUT IT DOES NOT WORK…HE IS IN ATTENTIVE TOO WITH HIS CLASSWORK.STAGES COMING WITH CONTINUES DAILY COMPLAINTS WHICH HAS MENTALLY HARASSED ME AWAY..AM I WRONG IN HIS UPBRINGING OR A LITTLE BEING POSSESSIVE WITH YR ONLY 1 KID IS WRONG ,I FEEL LIKE A LOSER A LOSER PARENT ..PL Z HELP…I FEEL ALONE I HAVE NO FAMILY HELP.PLEASE.
Sona, please see the answer to Monica below as she is going through the same thing. Always go back to basics – the use of any SCREEN (TV, computer, hand held device) must be GONE until this is resolved. Plenty of outside play in natural spaces. Go back to sleep and diet…. please make sure your child’s diet is clean – no dyes, no additives as this can set off many children. A check up from the pediatrician should also be helpful. The book by The Gesell Institute entitled, “Your Six Year Old” will help you get up to date on the developmental level of a six year old. Work with the school to come up with a behavior modification plan. They are there to help you and your child. Work toward strong boundaries at home with behavioral expectations and arrange playdates where you are THERE and PRESENT. You should start each playdate with baking or making something where you MODEL appropriate behaviors – taking turns nicely, waiting patiently for your turn, using please and thank you. Then they can play, but have a watchful eye and step in as needed. If you feel you need more help then these simple steps, I suggest family counseling. Family counselors often work on sliding scales and will work according to your income.
Many blessings, for more please go to the blog header and click on “Development” and “Discipline”
I have a 4 year old that will be 5 in March. She is very energetic and enthusiastic. She is very outspoken and loves others. The problems lies with me saying “no”. She does it anyways or hits me! … She also has a little sister (2yrs) that she constantly messes with (antagonizing or physically hurting). Today was terrible because she was so aggressive and hyper to be honest. I have gotten to a point where I raise my voice constantly because I’m so frustrated with her. We do whole foods (rarely any sugar) but still do a lot of TV. It’s my go-to. I’m pregnant with number three and need more ideas for inside things to do. I cried tonight when I was telling her how sad I was that she disobeyed me all day long. I DO need more parenting books because THIS isn’t working. We prayed before bed and I know thus helped calm her spirit. Please help!
I get more mail about four and six than all other ages. What you are describing is perfectly NORMAL for
four years old! It doesn’t mean that you don’t guide it, but it does mean that the behavior is normal.
Four year olds need a lot of physical exertion to be pliable and tired. Screen time makes all of it
worse, because they are sitting and the brain waves that TV causes is almost like the brain waves we have when we are asleep. It is drug-like for small children. I know you are pregnant and tired and exhausted. It sounds like what you need is a good rhythm of in and out breath. How much work do you do in the home by hand – cooking, cleaning, baking and kneading, sweeping, etc? These are things a four year old can help with and imitate. Do you have a play corner set up? I recommend to you all the back posts on the four year old: https://theparentingpassageway.com/category/development/age-four/
Here is a post on meaningful work for toddlers, but it could help stimulate ideas for you: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/28/guest-post-meaningful-work-for-toddlers/ and this post about work and play: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/01/29/work-and-play-eight-facets-of-a-healthy-family-culture/ and here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/25/helping-young-children-to-play/
It really is not about you entertaining all day, but showing your children work, working with your hands, and helping to set up and stimulate creative play. Play and work are what small children do. I highly recommend the book, “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer as an introduction with lots of ideas to read. And, of course, there are many back posts on this blog. If you also search “sensory” in the search engine in the box on this blog, many posts with ideas for getting out physical energy inside will come up.
I hope that helps. Feel free to email me privately if you need to talk more.
The other issue with “NO” and doing it anyway… you have to be physically right there when you are asking something so you can physically help her or steer her into what you need. Distraction works great to redirect, but sometimes when we are super tired, we just want obedience and almost can’t think of a creative way to do something! Speaking to small children in images, pictures, nursery rhymes, is often more effective than “Please do this”. Sometimes “May” can work as well, but really at this age, rhythm is discipline. If we always put our shoes here, then there is no arguing about where the shoes go….It takes time to develop rhythm. Also rest in our rooms is really important for everyone after lunch, especially when pregnant. Sometimes with four and five year olds, I think we get in this place where we have to be “on” all day long to entertain, watch, cajole, etc. and we forget part of what children of this age of learning with our supervision and guidance is how to play without bothering anyone else at all. 🙂
I am glad I found this post. It describes my son fairly well. He will be six in a few days and is just finishing Kindergarten. He has always been an energetic little boy — early walker, runner, jumper, etc. but a late talker. He excels in sports and loves physical and outdoor play (bike riding, playground, hikes). He struggled at first with the structure of school, but once he settled in, he has done very well. His diet is very balanced with very little processed food.
He has never been a particularly good listener with myself and my husband, but has done well in school and Sunday school.
He has a brother who is 4, and another who is 3 months old. His relationship with our middle son is pretty typical. They play well most of the time, but antagonize each other. It can occasionally get physical from one or both boys (shoving, hitting).
He was very excited for the impending arrival of his baby brother. Up until this point, he had been good with him. Talking to him, wanting to hold him, proud to show him off…. However, today he pinched him hard enough on the cheek to leave a mark. This happened while I was getting our middle son out of the car for preschool. What do you make of this?
I know our routine has changed, and that these changes likely have not been easy on him. And with nursing a baby, I cannot always be at their beck and call when they want something. This morning he wanted paints after I had sat down to nurse the baby (he was happily playing with Legos when I started nursing). I try make sure they are engrossed in something or give them an activity (not screen time) while I am feeding their brother. We have also tried to make sure both boys have some one-on-one time frequently.
I’m swimming a little after today’s “event” and am worrying myself that I need to seek help for him. Mostly, because he inflicted pain on a defenseless baby. Your thoughts are appreciated!
I would keep on eye on it but I would say this is completely normal. Six year olds, especially energetic ones, do not have forethought and really seem to do things just to see what will happen. That being said, you will still need to reinforce over and over that it is his job being bigger and such that he is a knight, and a knight’s job is to take care of those smaller and defenseless. Give him every opportunity to shine and find the good he does. Six can be a hard age. For further reading, I suggest Bates and Ames’ “Your Six Year Old” readily available used for very cheap or through your library, also the book “You’re Not The Boss of Me!” edited by Ruth Ker (I think). There is also a book called, “The Art of Rough Housing” that might be helpful. I have had six year old little boys I have set to manually juicing oranges for snack and other chores by hand, and just to know it takes a lot of repetition and physical expenditure. He really needs your love, you are doing a great job, and just keep thinking of ways to expend his physical energy. Keep an eye on him, guide him, know something like this may happen again, and guide him with love. You are doing a great job and this is no reflection of what you are done or not done!
Love to you Carrie
PS. If you go to the header bar and find the one that says “Development” every age is on there from prenatal through age 13, so if you look under the six year old tab, there are quite a few posts about the six year old.
Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for your response, Carrie. I am looking into the books that you mentioned and have talked to him about his need to protect the smaller and defenseless. It really does seem to me looking back on it now, that it was just sort of an impulsive thing, but we are definitely keeping an eye on things. Thank you again for your help!
Hello again dear Carrie
Just re-reading this thread for maybe the fiftieth time! Our six and three quarter year old is displaying really unpleasant behaviours, she has been for some time. I get that its partly her age, six and four year olds, right?! But she doesn’t seem to show remorse for any of it and absolutely refuses to help make amends. In fact she refuses to help with anything around the house at all. How do I get her to do that? She is impossibly persistent! I have tried taking her, guiding her hands, she wriggles and runs away and hides. Tried saying we won’t do X until that thing is tidied, and she will sit it out. She is frequently mean and aggressive towards her 3yo sister, hitting, kicking, taking and hiding whatever she is playing sweetly with – and she will run after me, hitting and kicking, when I am trying to set a limit. She really is wild! I find it difficult not to lose my own temper and shout.
I’m going right back to basics – sleep, food, rhythm, quality time together, and asking Granny to stop the screen time she’s letting slip in!!
But any tips on how to get her to help out around the house would be helpful. Particularly in instances such as when she has made a huge play scene with every item from the kitchen then refuses to tidy any of it away…
Thank you so much darling! All Love to you and your family,
Hi Red, First of all big hugs. I know this has been going on for awhile. And whilst she is still imitative, she is really moving into a stage where you must be a loving, kind, very calm authority. But an authority you must be. Most six year olds respond to the idea that there are rules and yes, that there are consequences. Does she respond best to you or your partner? Does she behave this way with Grandma?
It is hard for me to tell how serious things are since I am not there and I have seen the gamut over the years…This could indeed be normal six year old sibling difficulties, as they don’t tend to clean up well nor play well with siblings..they tend to be responsive physically. What are the consequences when she is physical with you or her sister? There has to be some!
If she has made a huge play scene and will not clean up then her play would from now on not involve the kitchen things (that I presume you need?) and also she would have to have all her play outside where a mess is not as likely to matter (if that is possible, just throwing out ideas). I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, just that is the way it is. I asked you to clean up, you didn’t, so that privilege to do all that is gone. All toys would be put up, essentially in boxes where you control them. I know that sounds unpleasant, and it may not resonate with you, but I know that is where I would be as this has been going for quite some time.
It is partly the age, but this sounds a bit beyond that. Does she have any developmental delays in language, was she born premature, has she recently been evaluated by a health care provider, does she have a sensitivity to certain foods, dyes, etc? Is she really getting enough rest and time at home? Is she more extroverted or introverted? When is she at her best? What makes her at her best and the most pleasant days?
And yes, she may really need a rhythm that strongly has two hours or more outside in the morning and afternoon. And not just standing there — swimming, biking, hiking, crossing logs over a stream, etc. And no screen time at all right now.
And I would love her, and hold her, and tell her all the things she does right. Tell her when she is being nice with her sister. Tell her when she is using kind words. Try giving her a look instead of words. I would hug her and tell her all the wonderful things she is and does and how your family is wonderful because of her.
I know what I said sounds harsh, but I want you to really think about how to approach this with her. It sounds like she is holding a lot of power, but not in a good way. Does she do better with your husband? This is liable to be better after the 6/7 change, but I have seen some children like this and it really took until being past the 9 year change to want to be helpful and kind in their family role. I don’t say that to sound discouraging, it is just what I have observed in many families over the years. In the meantime you have to figure out the best way to handle this until then, and what will help her and help your family be the best it really can be. It is not okay to be mean, disruptive, and ugly in the family. She is calling out to you for help, and now we must do that. She needs to know what the expectations are, and that this isn’t a game, it is just being part of a family. She may feel shut out in some way compared to her younger sister, she may have a personality that is just more challenging, but either way, it is part of her job to learn to be in your family, just like she would learn to be part of a class at school. Everyone’s needs matter in a family.
Please do email me if you want to talk more privately. email@example.com
Blessings and love, take what resonates with you,
The other thing that came to me overnight is to really…I don’t know what your spiritual tradition is, but to really…. pray about this, ask the angels for help, really pull on the spiritual to help you figure out the puzzle pieces. Ask for strength and guidance from people who know you and your daughter in real life. Are there any wonderfully wise women who know both of you? What do they say about this? It is hard in one sense for me to give much more than general thoughts or advice for you to ponder as I am not there and have not seen your daughter in person or your life…So hard to know what is really out of bounds and what is normal, other than this seems as if it has been going on for a long time and you seem frustrated, so I think it is time for a different approach..
Just thoughts, take what resonates with you
PS. Have you read “You’re Not The Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” edited by Ruth Ker.. That describes a variety of situations in the classroom setting but it still could be helpful. I also think pedagogical stories could be helpful and just overall keeping things very simple and calm. She is telling you she is not feeling peaceful, so what can you do to increase her peace?
Carrie, you’re an angel! I deeply appreciate you taking the time to write such fulsome and useful responses – as ever! Thank you for helping me realise I need to step up here and do something. I will also send you a private message. Love to you! Red xxx
What a resource you are to many! Thanks for time you take to pour into your writing and especially the people who read it.
My six year old is very much like the other children spoken of in the comments. I struggle because I have a new baby so I feel very spread thin. We have an incredible backyard with gardens and treehouses and over a half acre to play in. We purchased this home for the yard, so our children could grow up outdoors! Here’s the problem…my six year old (and sometimes my three year old) refuse to go outside unless I am by their side playing with them. I don’t understand this at all! My kitchen is all windows and overlooks the entire yard, so I can always view them if i’m cooking or doing dishes or catching up on work. I dream of my children being outside most the day with me coming down with snacks or to read a book or jump on the tramp, then peacefully returning to my work indoors or the baby who needs me.
Is this just a developmental issue that will eventually go away, or do I need to keep encouraging independent playtime outdoors? I know my kiddos, especially the six year old thrives when she’s active, but getting her to be active outdoors is like pulling teeth right now!
Hi Carrie, I just discovered your blog after googling information about angry, restless 6 year olds. I’m having a really difficult time with my daughter who will turn 7 in late November. She is intense, very persistent and has always had an impulse to do things very deliberately that she knows are against the rules. We are in a place now where she seems very restless, and very angry and aggressive when she doesn’t get her way. And she will do destructive things to get back at me. (My husband works a lot so it’s mostly my daughter and I) We are working on sticking to limits despite her loud protests, and we are trying to praise her when she is sweet, cooperative and helpful.
Her behavior doesn’t make sense to me. I understand the concept of normal developmental changes, but she seems so extreme. I fear that she and I are a personality mismatch and that that is, in part, driving this. She is a loud extraverted tornado who needs a lot of interaction while I need quiet and solitude. She is demanding and pushes and pushes, and I end up snapping and getting angry which perpetuates the cycle. I need to pray for a miracle!! That’s how I feel right now! I don’t understand how we got here! Thanks for reading!
Feel free to email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org – I don’t know your situation, so I have questions…is she in school? Only child or siblings? Has she had any health problems that might affect her behavior – ie, prematurity, ADD/ADHD, sensitivity to food dyes? How does she sleep and eat? How much media and electronics does she get? What is the rhythm of your home like?
Six year olds are often extreme, so barring anything that your health care team feels might be going on, this could be part of her personality at this time. So, the question becomes how to support this – how much physical activity does she get? She may need up to four to six hours a day of physical activity – hiking, playing hard, being in nature and also work around the house that she likes. What is she demanding and pushing for? Again, this could go back to rhythm.
Where are your breaks? Do you have or could you hire a teen to be a mother’s helper and entertain her a bit while you get time for your introverted self? Part of the child-parent relationship is as they get older we have to learn to respect each other as people, and while this is something we work more on in the teenaged years and your daughter is really young, right now boundaries is part of how we respect each other as a family. You will probably be continually working on this throughout her young life.
Please hit the “development” tab and go through all the posts under the six year old. I think those could be helpful to you.
And please do feel free to email me privately.
Blessings, glad you are here!
Carrie – I am taking my first Psychology course in my MS-Counseling degree. I found your article when I searched for an answer to a homework assignment – “How would you handle an inappropriately aggressive 6 year old?” You provided workable solutions that I have incorporated in the care of my 4 year old granddaughter. Thank you!
Wow, thank you, Joi!
Hi Carrie – I tried to read most of the above incase you had already addressed an issue like mine but didn’t see one. My son is a 6 year old, 1st Grader, Only Child. We had a very rough year in Kindergarten and now the bad behavior is continuing in 1st grade. He is disrespectful to his teacher and will do the opposite of what is asked or flat out refuse to do things. The school and I are both focusing on the positive days and not trying to give the negative too much attention. He has incentives and does not get screen time on days that he has not done well. Then at home is my major concern. When he gets angry about something (I tell him to turn off tv or if I make him do something he doesn’t want to do) he is unable to control himself and allows himself to get so worked up that he calls names, I’m officially the meanest mommy ever and he has called my mother stupid once. After the name calling he tries to run away from home. He says he wants a new home and new family. He runs at full speed out of the house and down the street. Luckily we live in an area that has low traffic volume but still this is dangerous. This has now happened four times. Each time I’ve tried a different method of reacting. Doesn’t matter if I stay calm or become stern he refuses to listen. Out of safety reasons I have to chase after him.. if it was safe I would like to just ignore the behavior to see if it would go away. I’ve looked up counselors but haven’t made that step yet. We have a set schedule we stick too, a balanced diet, lots of sleep. 😦 Any suggestions?
It sounds like there are separate things going on to me…one is flat out energy, one is the lack of impulse control that leads to the behavioral stuff, and one is how he cannot hear authority or fit into the routine of school. You sound like a concerned parent, and I can only ask questions. I don’t know your boy, I haven’t worked with him and you are the expert on HIM.
1. Have you seen his pediatrician? Has his hearing been tested? Does he have auditory processing issues? Does he have sensory issues? How is his gross motor and fine motor strength?
2. Does he have a plan at school beyond ignoring the bad behavior? For teachers, staff, schools that need help, I suggest the former principal who runs underthethinkingcap.com . I just took a course with her and she had some great ways of working with children such as your son.
3. How much physical activity does he get? Most six year old boys could use four hours a day of really moving, pushing, pulling, climbing, hiking, balancing.
4. Does he do any chores around the house WITH you? Not you telling him or asking him to do something that he will refuse, but doing things together. Baking one day,including cleaning up. Same day of the week. Modeling one day with salt dough, including making the salt dough. Having the chance to do woodworking, art, having a great story read to him. NO SCREENS until this is resolved. He needs to feel he is part of the family, he is part of this team, we work together, we do positive things together. Does he have ANOTHER adult outside of the family that he looks up, can spend time with DOING something practical? That can help as well.
5. If you know something like running down the street is in reaction to you saying no, and if this is what happens when you say no, then you need to have a plan. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, right? So, I would have two things in mind –
I would not ask him just verbally to do anything for afar. If you ask him something, you have to be right there and physically, with your hand on him, help him along gently…If he has to put on his coat, you are not using words, you are holding out the coat and helping him put his arm in and humming a little outside song. You can see back posts on this – look at “speaking pictorially” in the search engine box of this blog. He needs you to have the movement piece, it sounds like. Not just the words. Is he a kinesthetic kind of kid? Most young children are. The second thing I would think of, is when he needs to hear no, and children do need to hear it, how does he need to react? Does he need a place to cool off? Could you have different activities you could talk about ahead of time, make a sign to hang up, of what he COULD do to cool off.
7. So, what is going on at school? Does he need a different school environment? Alternative school, homeschool? That totally may not resonate with you, and it may not be feasible, but if his emotional maturity is way behind his academic ability, he has to get evened out so to speak, and sometimes a different model can be helpful. Because if kindergarten was not successful, and first grade is not successful, what is it going to be like as he moves up in the grades? I am not saying it cannot change, and I am not a psychologist or anything else, but it doesn’t seem to me he is finding school engaging. Just sounds like a battle of wills at this point – how can he learn if he is always in flight or fight mode? I just wrote a post not too long ago on this — look up emotional regulation in children in the search engine box or scroll back through the most recent posts. It should be there, and it talks about nourishing the primitive brain to calm it.
8. The words – ignore. Ignore. Ignore. He could also say he is going off to meet giants, he could say he is flying to the moon, he could say he hates his mother. Give it zero weight.
9. Home? Warmth, schedule/rhythm. warming food and clothes (underlayer of silk/wool could be nice depending if you live in a cold area and sometimes that helps behavior quite a bit). Emotional warmth? Does he have brothers/sisters, is Dad involved or your partner?
10. I suggest you read the Gesell Institute’s Your Six Year Old, you can find it library or used cheap (bates, ames, ilg are the authors I think). Also, the book “You’re Not The Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” edited by Ruth Ker would be very helpful.
11. Get support for yourself. A counselor, a friend, whatever it takes so you can feel in charge of this. He is not in charge, you are but he is trying to tell you something about school, about himself, how he is seeing the world. He needs your help.
Hope that helps, feel free to email me at email@example.com if you need to talk more.
AJ- PS. Also, always grade placement, is first grade where he needs to be? Is he a young six?
I am a Waldorf homeschooling person, but in a Waldorf School setting, many six year olds are still in kindy with no academic demands yet until first grade. Completely different model, but it does point out there are different schools of thought about what young children should be doing…not saying that is the answer, but grade placement is something to think about, especially if kindergarten didn’t go well behaviorally.
Hi there, I’m not Carrie, but wanted to suggest a couple of things. I read a book (it’s a part of a series) called Your Six Year Old http://www.amazon.com/Your-Six-Year-Old-Louise-Bates-Ames/dp/0440506743. Reading it helped me to put into perspective and relax a bit about some of my daughter’s behaviors which, I found out by reading this book, are quite normal.
The second thing that had helped is to focus on connecting with my daughter. It sounds simple enough, but when you’re constantly trying to manage the behavior of another person, making a connection can be difficult. Aha parenting.com gives suggestions for how to do that and is overall a great resource..The more connected we are to our kids, the more they want to behave for us. Finally, I can suggest this book http://www.amazon.com/Kazdin-Method-Parenting-Defiant-Child/dp/0547085826 which focuses a lot on ignoring bad behavior and giving incentives for good behavior. I also think it’s critical to adopt a totally neutral, calm response to whatever bad behaviors MUST be addressed, like your son’s running out of the house. Go get him, of course, but do it matter of factly. Also give consequences only for stuff that’s really over the top (and you can decide how to define that. For us, it’s calling us names or being really destructive). Finally, as the book about 6 year olds suggests, I do think it’s an age thing, so hang in there!! My daughter just turned 7 and I have seen her turn a corner in part, I think, due to just getting older. But she has always been a challenging child so I don’t expect her to ever be super easy.
I hope some of this helps!! My daugher is also an only child, by the way, which creates additional challenges, I think. Good luck!
Thanks, Katherine! Great suggestions!
You’re welcome! I also wanted to add that the suggestions you gave to me over the summer (which was a very difficult period of time for us with our daugher) helped a lot. Getting her outside into nature as often as possible was an important step, as well as honoring her need to have a mixture of down time at home AND activity/social time with others outside of the house. (getting that balance right helped a lot) I also got a whole lot out of the book Simplicity Parenting which you recommended. I feel like that book is a must read for so many American parents! (AJ, it could help you with your son, too!) Anyway, thank you very much, Carrie!!! I’m grateful!
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Carrie is there a book you could recommend for a 7 year old boy, one that has a boy as the main character like Sylvia in the 7 year Wonder Book. Is there a book for parents on the 7 year change?
I don’t know of any children’s book like that. For parents, I recommend “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation”, edited by Ruth Ker and available through Waldorf booksellers.
Hope that helps,
Thank you so much Carrie! This book is wonderfully amazing. It is helping me through a very difficult time for sure.
Thank you for being here, babyplayer.
Blessings and joy,
This is what I am going though with my child. It got so bad that I cannot sleep, started drinking and I am now in outpatient rehab. I feel like dying.
I am so sorry that you are going through all of that. May you have a season of healing, and may outpatient rehab provide the health care team that will help you.
So, my 6 yr old was doing well, had arguments with friends at school, but did well at navigating conflict. September is a first for a non Montessori learning environment. In 3rd week of school, Thursday, my son was kicked in the face by a bully. The next day he was told to move himself to red..at this directive he left the room, banged on doors, smacked and kicked staff, and spat on them. Everyday in October he would have these outburts where he would just hit a child for no reason. When reprimanded he would began to kick, spit, amd call names. He did get better being able to make it through 1 or 2 weeks without an episode. However, he continues to hit and kick classmates, he has bitten, kicked students and staff. He has a therapiat, yoga coachband accupuncture physician. He diesm’t do this at home, at church, or even with his sport coaches. Parents are tired of him hitting their kids, did assessments, he is fine and at 2/3rd grade academic level. Any suggestions on how to teach him to ecpress his amgwr appeopriatelt, amd to releasr the anger. I have taken away things, punched him, etc. Again, he does not present like this any place but school and it seems he can not get his emotions together once angry at school.
HI Mother of 6 year old,
I would talk to the OT at the school and see if your son could be observed and if there was anything the OT team could help with. Usually there is a sensory gym or something available for children who might need a break when things are spiraling out of control. I would be in dialogue with the teachers, and the school guidance counselor and the principle of the school. Has there been a team meeting of this sort where you have met with everyone in one place to talk about what is going on? This document might be helpful in meeting with staff: http://www.interventioncentral.org/sites/default/files/workshop_files/allfiles/anger_cycle.pdf This is a slideshow that could be useful for parents and teachers: http://www.sbbh.pitt.edu/files/Powerpoint%20Presentations%202524%20Spring%202010/Emotion_Regulation_Scanlon_Christina%20L_Study_Guide.pdf There needs to be a plan as to how to handle his outbursts, recognize his triggers and what could help him, and how to manage the outburst and post-outburst period. The documents I linked above will help provide a concerted effort.
I understand you are at your wits end, and that he is very smart, but I certainly would NOT hit him. You are trying to teach him tools of emotional regulation. I also would not take things away once he gets home since there is not much of an immediate connection to what happened at school. HOWEVER, I would take things away to make his environment as calm as possible but not as a punishment. He might need no screens if he has access to screens, he might need a super steady routine and less after school things to do in order to decompress from a stressful school environment. He might need more unstructured time just to be outside in nature. I strongly suggest you read “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne and see if you can calm his environment, extra curricular activities, his nutrition to be whole foods and to really make sure he is sleeping. He is only 6, which is a harder developmental age, and the school environment is different for him and obviously stressful. It is always important to remember that just because his “academic” level is on 2nd or 3rd grade certainly doesn’t mean his emotional regulations system is, or the way he handles stress. He needs you to love and connect with him, be his guide, and help get him on a steady path along with a team at school.
If you want to email me privately, I am at firstname.lastname@example.org. The other person you might consider a consultation with is Connie Helms, who may have helpful suggestions for you: http://www.conniehelms.com/about/
Blessings and peace, please do let me know if I can be of further assistance.
My husband and I have taken in a 6-year-old girl. We were friends with her mother (who lost her kids to CPS due to neglect), but due to her mother’s recent actions, we no longer consider her a friend. In order to keep her oldest daughter out of the foster care system, we agreed to take care of her. We don’t know if this is temporary or permanent yet. The girl has a habit of throwing violent temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. It has gotten to the point to where she is going to damage our home. She throws herself down on the floor or couch and just starts kicking, not paying attention to what she is actually kicking. Our sheetrock has been pushed to the brink of breaking. We have tried to hold her down to prevent damage to both her and the house but that just makes her anger worse. In her previous home, she has kicked holes in the wall, broken windows, flooded bathrooms, and much more. We want to help this child but can’t afford to fix damages she has caused to the home. Any tips?
If you can I would scoop her up and bring her to a safe space either outside or a safe space you have created in your home (mats) . She sounds like she needs professional help, but I imagine that would be complicated if you are not the legal guardian? Are you the legal guardian at this point? If she attends school, i would talk to the school team and see if resources are available there. In the meantime all the healthy things you can do – lots of outside time, structure and boundaries, modeling how we handle frustration, a tight rhythm to your home and how the day goes with not a lot of loose time, teach her how to cook and do other things with you, no dyes at all in her food or drink, Whole Foods not processed for her diet, soothing bedtime routines, early bedtimes, reassurance you love her, and talk to her simply, very simply about the simple rules of living together. All feelings are okay but all actions are not, we are kind to ourselves and each other. This has to be a super confusing time for her, you may not know the full extent of what she has suffered, she probably misses her mother or if she doesn’t may feel guilty about not missing her mother and she must miss her siblings. I do, again, highly suggest professional help at school and through family counseling. You may also get good tips from other families who have taken in children -whether foster families or counselors used to working with foster families. Blessings, Carrie
No, we are not legal guardians at this point. The state gave temporary custody to her grandfather, but because he works extreme hours he wasn’t able to stay at home and take care of her nor get her to school, and he would have had to quit his job to do so. So it was either he gave her up to the foster system or we took her. We have been telling her that it is ok to feel angry, but it is not ok to take that anger out on us or the house. She is confused and I feel for her. She’s angry at her mother but doesn’t understand that you can feel angry at someone and still love them. She’s afraid to admit to being angry and worries that if she is honest with her mother about her feelings that her mother won’t love her anymore. We do have some structure, and a routine every night before bedtime. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me and my husband, as we don’t have children of our own. We want to get her into some sort of counseling but we don’t even have the legal right to take her to the doctor let alone a counselor. The girl is also a habitual liar and that just adds to the pile of behavioral issues we are dealing with. It’s horrible wanting to help so much, but being powerless in obtaining the help this girl needs. Her mother just had another CPS meeting with a social worker last week. Now she can only have scheduled supervised visits with her children. Prior to this meeting, she was able to see and talk to the kids whenever she wanted to. So, something must have gone wrong. It’s all a big mess.
Yes, sounds incredibly messy. I think the legal end of it needs to be sorted out so this child can get the help she needs. It sounds very complicated. Is the grandfather the legal guardian? Perhaps speak to the social worker/CPS workers involved in the case? Surely they will know resources….
I am so sorry that this is so challenging.
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Glad that was helpful!
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My 10 year old granddaughter/ who makes A’s /& has no medical issues has. TWIN BROTHER.
She has begun to become physically aggressively/ kicking him hard while swimming etc
Her latest “ hitting him in face / poking his eye” was in front of her parents & me. Het brother’s eye was red. He was crying.
THIS IS THE SHOCKING PARtT/ when her mom in a calm voice says/ “ Why did you do that…. Poke him in eye” SHE WHIRLED AROIND AND SCREAMED AT HER MOM/
“ DO YOU THINK I HIT HIM
IN THE EYE ON PURPOSE?!!! DO YOU!! DO YOU??!!!”
And she stalked out room.
Parents did nothing.
Her father says, “ She’s a hitter.”
She did not show remorse or shame or regret for unprovoked attack ( slapping both hand on his face/ wiyh such force/ her finger poked his eye.
She had outbursts tantrums from agev4-7
& parents used talk i// NEVER HIT, shanked or violence. Parents opposed to “ hitting children” which makes her behavior more perplexing.
Parents did NOT model anger / wiyh hitting, spanking.
Oh, that seems so upsetting and especially because it’s a dynamic between an older child and also possibly due to a twin dynamic. I wonder if some sort of play therapy would be helpful here to have her model her frustrations and learn how to handle her frustrations better, modeling empathy. But, yes, having consequences and restitution for her poor behavior that caused someone else harm is very important. We can’t hurt people.
Sometimes nine and ten year olds need space from younger siblings, and while I realize they are the same age, perhaps there is an unvoiced need for space away from him or developmentally she may be a bit ahead of him. You can try my posts about the nine and ten year old by clicking the box along the top that says “development” and a bunch of posts will drop down by age. Nine year change is often a big developmental leap and can be a very, very hard year (biggest points of change are typically 3, 6/7, 9, 12 and 15/16 with a lot of blustery, aggressiveness at 4, 6, 8).
I hope that helps!
I’ve only read the articles about strong willed children and angry six year olds and I do think it’s great info. However, I don’t know a single child who wouldn’t ask immediately why upon an event or family outing being canceled. It seems like she’s insinuating that you don’t talk about why you canceled it due to the behaviour, you just cancel it and move on with the day. That’s not reality though. Lol. The kids would be grieving and screaming for an answer and begging for a change of heart. I think it’s unavoidable talking about the why when it happens.