5 Going On 15: Disciplining A Child Who Has ATTITUDE

I won’t name any names, but one of my five year old girls has the attitude of a PMSing teenager. Full on smart mouth, eye rolling, arms crossed, giving me the are-you-a-complete-idiot look, drama queen attitude. I am dreading the teenage years if this is what I have to look forward to. Seriously, I need to call my mom and apologize if I was half as bad as this one is. So as I always do, I reached out to my favorite Facebook group to bitch about the attitude issues and plead for help. Turns out I’m not the only one with a five year old who has major attitude. It seems that this is a pretty typical issue, which of course made me feel better. I figure if we are all going through it, chances are that there are many of you dealing with it too! I wanted to share the advice and suggestions I got for disciplining a child who has attitude from women who have either been-there-done-that or who are dealing with it now.

Do you have a 5 year old who acts like a teenager? These tips from real moms for disciplining a child who has attitude will definitely help!

Tips For Disciplining A Child Who Has Attitude

My friend Kate says: Shut that down immediately with consequences. It will only get worse. Now that my kids are 8-9 I make them stop whatever they’re doing and look me in the eye. Then I ask, “do you realize how rude that was? Would you talk to [best friend of the moment]’s mom that way? Do you think it’s appropriate to talk to ME that way?” And these are rhetorical questions. Not sure how I’ll handle it when they’re Tweens (because I have no illusions that they won’t continue to throw the sass here and there)… But for now, consequences (which were all they would really “get” when they were 5) and calling them out for bad behavior seems to work.

My friend Val says: Ooooh. See I think this is fun. It’s like Survivor. Time to change up the strategy. Mom’s in charge and here comes the proof. Strategy time. A) identify the behavior you want to stop B) identify something your child values C) in a calm discussion, announce that If A happens, she will lose B. D) wait for it to happen and when she does it… “a www man…this is so sad. So sad. You are going to lose B. Maybe next time we won’t have that problem.” 

My friend Jennifer (in response to Val) says: I totally did that with (her daughter’s name) once. And I put the thing on the mantle so she had to walk by it and see it all the time until I decided to give it back. It was pretty awesome. The only thing Dr. Phil ever said that made since “deal in their currency.” Whatever she likes/dislikes, use that. With my daughter we mostly just had to send her to her room. She HATES to be alone/isolated. When she would start I would say, “do you want to go to your room?” and she would stop.

My friend Katie says: The idea of “their currency” is one teachers use too.

My friend Laura says: I took away (her son’s name) Nintendo DS after a few warnings. He was running around and hiding in a Walmart on me. After a while, we talked about it. “But mom. My DS is very important to me. ” I totally rocked my answer. I said: “I know it is. And that’s why it was a good thing for me to take away when you weren’t being good. Because you’re very important to me. And I need you to be safe when we’re shopping. So now you understand how important these rules are. “

And when we are all at our wits end, we always ask ourselves WWDGD? What would Dr. G do. I call her the Child Whisperer. She’s given me  advice that I’ve shared here on talking to kids about sex and how to stop yelling at your kids. She even wrote a book about child behavior and how to handle discipline, which clearly I need to read again. Side Note: This is a fantastic book and you can use it as a guide whenever you need help with discipline. I highly recommend it!


She always has the best advice. So here’s her advice on disciplining a child who has attitude: She doesn’t get to disrespect you. Ever. You know why? Because you don’t want her to ever put up with being treated that way by someone she loves. So your modeling of how a woman deserves to be treated starts now. If she can’t treat you respectfully, then she loses TV time (because of the influence), friend time because she can’t treat others that way (and when she says I wouldn’t treat *them* that way then reflect back to her the implication that her mother is somehow of less value than a friend?!?!?), loses sibling time because you can’t trust her to treat family respectfully… you get the idea.

There was also discussion of how successful the Love and Logic approach is for discipline. I’ll definitely be checking it out!

So last night I sat down with all of the kids and laid down the ground rules and that if A happens, they will lose B (each kid has a different B). I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

I’d love to hear all of your tips and advice on disciplining a child who has attitude! It really takes a village to raise kids, doesn’t it? For more tips on parenting, check out my Parenting and Family board on Pinterest.


  1. Phil Schifley says:
    These are really lame tips, most of them based on shaming and deprivation, which have both been disproved as the most effective forms of discipline. Positive reinforcement and steps that reward good behavior and discussions about the bad get you further. Every parent here simply mentioned how the discipline makes them feel. How they now seem to have the authority and the power. That's not productive parenting. That's just the parent claiming a win. This won't get you a better behaved kid. It'll just help you sleep better.
    • No offense, because that does work for some children, but I would love for you to try the whole "positive reinforcement and steps that reward good behavior and discussions about the bad" thing. They do not work for my child. Every child is different, and every child learns differently. If that works for you then great, I'd rather do it that way too. But don't call what works for someone else lame, THAT is lame....
  2. Phil, most people don't agree with your progressive, "the child's feelings are king" approach to parenting. Personally, i cringed asi read your comment. Good parents create boundaries for their kids to help them safely navigate the world while teaching them how to be functional members of society. One thing you missed is that the post mentions "dealing in a kid's currency". For some kids, words of praise are all that's needed. I was one such kid. For others, you must "speak their language" in order for them to understand that - in this world -actions have consequences. It's not abuse, it's not lousy parenting, and it's not unproductive to help your child come to see the natural order of the world in the loving environment of home.
  3. I can't help but address Phil's comment too. My first thought when reading your comment: Phil has no kids and no (or very shallow) experience with children in general. Like MAHW said - every child is different. Second thought: actions speak so much louder than words, and the way Phil directly cut down and belittled this persons honest quest for sincere help makes me think THIS is the kind of behavior that promotes such things. Thirdly: positive smositive. Try living what you preach. Aside from adding vulgarity, I'm not sure you could have gone more out-of-your way to be more negative. On a lighter note, these were good tips! Getting them to be self-motivated is really what we're after - to do good because it's the right thing to do. Who knew parenting was so consequential!
  4. Phil Schifley says:
    So, I looped back around after my internet travels, saw the responses to my comments, and have to laugh at how much you all missed the point. Where did I say that the child's feelings are king? How did you interpret the idea of working with a child to highlight their good behavior rather than shaming their bad behavior as some new-age progressive experiment in parenting. And not only have I raised children of my own, but I've worked with many foster children who are all over the spectrum when in comes to backgrounds, trauma and different behavior issues. And since you all missed my point, because of your own insecurities and lack of knowledge, I'll say it again. The point isn't too make a child listen to you or obey you simply to show them who's boss. It's too guide them towards their most successful self through modeling the behaviors you want to teach them by not taking away the things they value, but giving them things they will feel they've earned. How well does it work when people take things away from you? Does your boss knock your pay when you don't perform or give you a raise when you succeed? Does extra credit in school subtract or add points? Sure, the analogy isn't perfect, as in sports often have coaches that add extra work for poor performance or to correct or teach, but you'll find that this type of leadership is actually being shown be less effective through research, and that the best coaches build up rather than break down. To put in the most basic, over simplified layperson's terms: clinical research shows a hug works better than a spanking. Extrapolate that idea to all you do as a parent and you are on the path to success. Of course children do better with structure. Teach a kid the boundaries, and what's allowed and not allowed and your expectations are, and you'll see a kid grow up and not out. They go further when they know the limits. But I called these tips lame, and stand by that assessment, because if you read them, the common thread is that they're not about showing a child they can have more when they follow the rules, it's about getting less when they fail the expectations. That life lesson isn't built on positive values, and its moral compass is all eschew. I'm sorry if that offends you, and if these tips get you a compliant child than that's all you have: a kid following the rules because they're afraid of the consequences, not a person learning that success is built on getting more through achievement.