5yo who often behaves like 3yo - don't know how to proceed

(18 Posts)
rhetorician Fri 07-Mar-14 15:08:57

OK, DD is 5, has little sister who is 2. She has always been messy, likes textures etc, but now she is 5 she seems unable to process basic rules for herself. So, today she came home from school, read a book (fine), gave her a sandwich. First of all bits of the sandwich get thrown on the floor and I have to ask her to pick them up. If I ask her where they belong, she will say "the bin". Then she spits partly eaten sandwich on the floor. Again, she knows this is wrong. And on and on it goes. I'd expect this from the two year old, but not from a 5yo. Repeatedly doing things where she knows what the rule is and how to follow it. Sanctions are loss of smiley faces on her chart. Lose three, no tv for the day. If she loses more than 5 over the course of the week, weekend treat cancelled (visit to park, friend to play etc).

I just do not know why she just continues on when she knows not to do the thing in question. We've been at this for years now. It's as if she doesn't realise that the rule applies to her own actions. Some of it is attention seeking, but I can't just ignore this kind of stuff, can I?

She is a lovely girl, kind (mostly) to her sister, doing fine at school - probably a bit immature socially, but my house is a war zone, because DD doesn't seem able to remember that things belong in different categories, or that things need to be put away in specific places. She has no developmental issues that we are aware of, and certainly school sees her as 'messy' and not brilliant at managing herself and her stuff, but nothing more serious than that.

Advice? Help?

Forgettable Fri 07-Mar-14 15:32:05

The sanctions might be too far away in time for her to link?

Wrt sandwich I would take it away after one spit, no question. Eat nicely or it goes in the bin. Nothing more til supper time.

rhetorician Fri 07-Mar-14 15:43:28

oh it went in the bin, and she was made to clear it up as well. Strongly suspect attention seeking as DP was reading story to her sister when all of this kicked off...

rhetorician Fri 07-Mar-14 15:48:45

it's just that she doesn't seem to learn from the experience of doing something wrong and being corrected

BertieBotts Fri 07-Mar-14 15:58:04

It sounds like maybe she needs more direct supervision while eating? Does she throw and spit bits of food on the floor at other times or is it just at this time? I agree, for me, this is not a delayed/unrelated sanction kind of issue. If it was a one off I'd probably say, uh, excuse me?! DS hasn't thrown food on the floor for ages so it would come across as pretty disrespectful TBH. He spills food, oh god yes, especially when eating on the sofa, and I don't mind this (sometimes I will ask him to sweep it up himself which generally he enjoys confused) but he doesn't throw and spit it on the floor. If he did I think I'd remove the sandwich until he picked/wiped up the bits and then he could have it back but any more messing around and it would go in the bin.

I never accepted spitting food, even from a 2 year old, it's just rude and disgusting.

It does sound attention seeking through - I'd try to sit down with her even if you just have a cup of tea or something while she eats her sandwich so you can catch up on how your days went.

Sympathies! If anyone knows how to get my 5 year old to remember to flush the toilet that would be great! I remind him every time but I don't notice every little time he goes to the toilet. I get a "Soooooorry" but no actual results.

BertieBotts Fri 07-Mar-14 16:00:59

I think I didn't finish that. If it was a one off I'd be pretty surprised and shocked by the behaviour and that would show in my voice which most 5yos react to. However if she's been doing this for some time that probably won't make a difference, in fact she'll probably find it funny.

So I think remove the opportunity for her to do it - closely supervised when snacking and if she throws something on the floor "DD don't throw your food on the floor, I will take it off you."

No need to involve sanction charts, too abstract (they're OK but not for this issue I think smile)

rhetorician Fri 07-Mar-14 16:16:06

I take your point bertie - food in general has been a constant flashpoint in terms of mess since she was little - she still won't use cutlery unless I nag and nag, likes to touch and feel food. The spitting thing might be because 2yo is doing it a bit at the moment. And it's less throwing (it's not in temper) than letting it fall where she stands. She doesn't spit food as a general rule - occasionally if she eats something and doesnt like it. But no matter how often I tell her that food belongs on her plate or in her mouth and nowhere else, this just keeps happening over and over.

She is very strong willed and quite tricky to handle in general, but this just drives me demented, the constant trail of mess in her wake.

rhetorician Fri 07-Mar-14 16:21:04

generally she isn't super interested in food, so taking it off her doesn't have much of an impact

BertieBotts Sat 08-Mar-14 09:25:12

I would ignore dropping food for now TBH, I think this is pretty normal for 5 year olds and I expect she doesn't have dinner ladies standing over her at school saying "Don't drop anything!!" If you mean stuff like orange peel or the bits she doesn't like, I normally give DS an extra plate or little bowl so that he can put bits he doesn't want to eat in there.

Also, it doesn't need to have an impact. It's stopping her from doing the thing you don't like. Trying to make it into a big deal for her is probably just going to make it into a battle.

Goldmandra Sat 08-Mar-14 11:42:02

Sit her at the table to eat and remove it as soon as she loses interest in it. You aren't taking it away as a sanction. You're taking it away because she doesn't need to eat it. Get her to help clear the table after the meal so she is clearing up the mess she makes. Again, not as a sanction. This just becomes her way of making a positive contribution.

Change your sticker system to one of earning rewards instead of losing treats. Don't remove any sticker once she's earned it because that is saying that appropriate behaviour is negated by the unacceptable.

Look for opportunities to tell her that you appreciate thing she does. Even very tiny things can be acknowledged, e.g. "Thank you for hanging up your coat without being asked", "I like the way you too an extra big step so you didn't tread on that toy."

She is likely to find it easier to learn from being told when she's got something right because that sends a much clearer, simpler message.

Also, if she's struggling to organise herself, she may have some processing difficulties so make instructions clear, simple, one step at a time and, if you have to repeat them, say exactly the same words again.

BumpyGrindy Sat 08-Mar-14 11:53:09

I would look at the entire eating arrangements and conversation with a fresh eye if I were you. You say it's always been a "flashpoint" and it could be that she sees it as one of her power areas...a time to get attention...even bad attention.

Currently do you all sit down to eat main meals together?

BertieBotts Sat 08-Mar-14 12:08:35

Goldmandra put it better than me smile IMO it's not a behaviour that needs a sanction, it can be corrected in other ways. Taking the emotional aspect out might make it less of a battle in the long run too.

BigPigLittlePig Sat 08-Mar-14 20:49:20

Have had similar issues with dsd who is 6, not necessarily with food, but she is a whirling derbish of chaos and mess. When my dd was born, dsds behaviour was fine, but as dd (15m) has got older, dsd has had her, erm, moments!

Could you try something like, premeal, "dd1, if you can eat this one small sandwich without dropping it on the floor, you can have a special time with mummy, minus dd2, to do what you choose."

TheGreatHunt Sat 08-Mar-14 21:14:43

My first impression is that you sound quite rules driven. Smiley faces, reward charts etc sound like you get her to do stuff in return for stuff but actually this backfires as it loses its power. I would get her to do things because there are natural conssquences not for a sticker

Also what's wrong with her touching her food? My ds and his friends occasionally do this. I would back off when it comes to food. Fewer rules and don't react.

What sort of attention does she get from you? Cuddles, stories etc?

WhoAteAllTheCremeEggs Sat 08-Mar-14 21:30:55

Agree about backing off when it comes to food, if she starts effing around with it just take it away "had enough? well done you did a good job"
I think so many eating problems come from over supervision, when you watch a child eat its like your waiting for them to hurry up and finish.
I'd put tea off half hour if she seems that uninterested in it, children just have no natural greed to eat if their not hungry.

rhetorician Sun 09-Mar-14 18:07:46

thegreathunt, yes! we are rules driven! primarily because this is a child who doesn't really 'get' natural consequences a lot of the time. We actively have to teach her rules about various things becuause she doesn't learn them by observation. She earns smiley faces for good behaviour, and loses them for really serious infringements.

rhetorician Sun 09-Mar-14 18:19:31

goldmandra that's very helpful. I do try to praise her for good things, and it does work. I am very relaxed about how much or little she eats, it's just the mess that bothers me, especially when we are not at home. thegreathunt touching it is fine! it's smushing, smearing etc that I have a problem with

Goldmandra Sun 09-Mar-14 18:33:49

touching it is fine! it's smushing, smearing etc that I have a problem with

You could offer her opportunities to explore textures in messy play where it is more appropriate to smush and smear. There are lots of thing she could play with, e.g. jelly, Gellibaff, playdough, moonsand, shaving foam, cold pasta, pastry, finger paints. This may be a sensory need that can be satisfied in other ways so she doesn't feel the need to use her food.

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