5 year old doesn't do anything I say - is it normal

(16 Posts)
imgoinginsaneinthemembrane Tue 04-May-21 22:53:13

My DS has just turned 5, and finds school very tiring. They seem to think he's wonderful, but it's reception so not sure what the expectations are. They did say he lacks confidence to do things on his own. I feel that he probably doesn't want to do things like writing, so it's more he doesn't do it unless he has to. But I could be wrong and maybe he's using up all his obedience there?

At home he doesn't listen and never ever does anything I say. He's not naughty in the sense he doesn't hit/ punch his siblings, or answer back, although he gets a bit frustrated and does a growl occasionally hmmGenerally I'd describe him as a kind, gentle boy, not a boisterous type. So is this silent defiance normal 5 year old behaviour not to follow instructions? It will be things like me asking go wash your hands, please get your shoes. He just doesn't do it, I will ask and ask and nothing... I don't give it, but I then get annoyed . Can you tell it's been a long day ( and he was at school for most of it wink)

OP’s posts: |
Seeline Wed 05-May-21 10:36:31

You have said several times that you 'ask' him to do stuff. Perhaps he isn't hearing it as an instruction to do something immediately. You need to be clear - Go and get your shoes now. IF he doesn't, You need your shoes on by the time I count to 3. If he hasn't at least tried, then there needs to be a consequence. Or he may respond better to reward when he does do something - sticker chart, buttons in a jar etc, with a long term reward when a target is reached.

I think there may need to be some leeway at the end of the day if he is finding school tiring though.

imgoingtoregretthis Mon 10-May-21 11:38:40

@Seeline I ask, can you put your shoes on, I also use a more firm shoes on, or shoes on now. It really doesn't seem to make any difference. I sometimes count down but I can't use it every time. I just wonder if this is just five year old stuff or if he's particularly bad? If I ask him what did Mummy say, mostly he'll know what I was asking, so he hears me, he just doesn't do it. Is it a processing issue or at 5 the tree s no sense of urgency?

He's not motivated by stickers or bribery for sweets . What would be a consequence we could use for not doing things we ask? I have taken away TV time on a couple of occasions but it's more punishing me as he will literally moan for a hour at me confused but I don't give in. I think I've only done this 3 times ever.

I end up getting quite stressed by nagging and trying to find inventive ways to ask him, whilst he's relaxed and happy.

HollowTalk Mon 10-May-21 11:42:41

Are you sure he can hear you properly?

spacefrog35 Mon 10-May-21 11:48:40

I have very limited experience but going on my sample of 1 I would say it's entirely normal for a 5-year-old to either totally ignore a request, or growl at you in response.
I also get increasingly frustrated and then cross with myself for losing my temper. We do try to talk about it and explain why I get frustrated, talk about why she gets frustrated and then try to work together on stuff but it's very hard work, especially when she has NO concept of why she needs to put her shoes on now.

Seeline Mon 10-May-21 11:52:51

Do you use his name, and make sure you have his attention before you tell him to do something?

Get down on his level and look him in the eye.

Ask him to come to you, and then give him the instruction.

Consequences - go to school in his pj's/without shoes etc (take them with you - he can change when he gats there).
Tell him what a shame it's taken so long to put his toys away, there isn't time to eg go to the park/have a story etc
Have the buttons in a jar and if he has more than 20 in there at the end of the week he gets a small reward - comic, toy etc. IF he does what he is told, he can add buttons, if he doesn't he has to remove buttons.

Ihaventgottimeforthis Mon 10-May-21 11:58:19

Yes, it's normal.

Before I lost my temper I would resort to 'silent physical prompting' - not saying anything as I'd already said it fifty bloody times but just gently leading or steering DS to the coat/shoes/bathroom/tap or whatever. It helped me manage my temper, and also got the task done.
Even now he's ten I still have to make sure I am very 'present' in his space - eye contact, asking for a response - when I ask him to do something, otherwise he daydreams his life away.

Shantotto Mon 10-May-21 12:02:34

@Seeline You’d really take DC to school in pyjamas and no shoes? What do they wear on their feet?! We walk to school and there’s be nowhere, especially now, to change discreetly. You’d change them in the playground in full view of all their peers? That sounds terrible! Am I missing something? blush

OP my 5 year old is exactly the same and will get very distressed. He might eventually do it but there are some things he’ll just refuse to do and toys being removed, no TV makes no difference but makes my life worse as a bit of TV time is the only break I get from his constant bouncing around! He’s so intense. My DC is very slowly being investigated for possible ASD / ADHD. He had a hearing test and it was fine. Making sure o use his name and getting on his level etc makes no difference.

Emmelina Mon 10-May-21 12:03:56

Can he hear you okay? Might be worth a hearing check.

imgoingtoregretthis Mon 10-May-21 12:23:01

@Shantotto I feel your pain, especially understand the TV break. I have wondered at times about ASD or ADHD or something with my DS, but I don't see how others his age are, hence asking here. We've had a few play dates over here in the gaps of Covid, and they all seemed to have their own issues, so I don't know if my expectation is too much or my DS gravitates to a certain type of child with their own issues. Last play date I had to
say it was time to go the guest was hitting my DS, the mum was saying sorry (as was at ours too) , but not making any effort to try to stop him. My DS seems to attract more dominant types as he's quite chilled.

I would certainly say DS daydreams a lot @Ihaventgottimeforthis

@Emmelina @HollowTalk
Hearing has been tested related times in the past, as since preschool had the same issue. He does hear you most of the time, he just doesn't act on it. He's well behaved in the sense of manners-- apart from the nose picking--, understands what's appropriate to say, wouldn't hit or kick or swear. He'd help you do something if he wanted to do.

@Seeline I will try to engage him more with the eye contact and his level. I may have threatened for him to walk to school with no shoes on before but he actually just got upset and then he was crying, without his shoes on still 😖

BertieBotts Mon 10-May-21 12:23:29

I think it's normal yes, but I would also change the way you ask.

A useful strategy I read when my first was about 3 is not asking more than once so SAY - REMIND - MAKE IT HAPPEN.

In reality that looks like

You give the instruction

You remind with a single word "DS - shoes"

If it is still not happening you go to him and lead him to the shoes or bring his shoes to him, and help him to put them on. This way he learns that you won't ask a million times before he "really" has to do it. The first ask is the one that counts.

Another technique is to engage him more fully in the first place before you give any instructions. So whatever he is doing currently, you need to go and actively interrupt that activity. If he's playing or whatever, go to him and give him a 5-10 minute warning that you're leaving soon and he needs to wrap up the activity. Then when it gets closer to the time, go and "offer help" aka start putting it away for him/turn off the TV, and talking about whatever is happening next e.g. we're going to pick up <sibling> or dinner is ready or whatever it is, and once his attention has transferred to the new activity, he's much more likely to then respond to OK, what do we need to get ready for this.

That may be annoying/impractical for things like dinner or a morning routine which is the same every day - so it can be helpful to pre-empt the situation and ensure he's not starting these highly attention grabbing activities within a small time window of being required to do something else. So for example you may want to establish a rule of no TV in the morning, or come and do colouring in the kitchen or read to me while I make dinner, so that he's already there and somewhat engaged in whatever it is you're doing that's going to need his cooperation.

When you engage with what he's currently doing as well you can also see whether he's seriously engrossed in something and would like 5 more minutes to finish the level/episode/build that he's doing (if this is OK with your plans) or whether he's just not wanting to stop and doesn't really think he has to so he ignores you. If something isn't time sensitive, I tend to have a rule of you don't necessarily need to do it immediately, but I do want a response from you that confirms you've heard, understood, and have put it on your radar e.g. "Can I just finish this bridge first?" I would then normally keep checking his progress to follow up, because 5 year olds do not have such great time/task management that they will always remember what they have promised - they will often finish the bridge and then continue to play because they have already forgotten what they have promised. But at that point you can remind them - hey, you said one bridge! And this is generally accepted much better than being interrupted out of the blue with "Stop having fun and come and do this boring thing", which is how they generally experience a request like this at his age.

Some people do a consequence if an instruction is not followed the first/second time. That's not my way, but it works on the same principle of not asking 1000 times as a general policy, and can be effective.

It will take time for anything to settle in - if he's used to having loads of chances and not really worrying about whatever it is the first time, then he's not going to immediately get into the habit of responding with urgency. But if you're consistent with never asking twice, then he will change his perception.

Seeline Mon 10-May-21 12:27:43

@Shantotto I never actually had to do it, but I threatened it. We got as far as the driveway with no shoes on (I think possibly he was a bit older than 5). But yes, the thought of having to put his shoes on in front of his mates at school got him shifting!

BertieBotts Mon 10-May-21 12:42:10

It's not defiance as such as it is a combination of things.

1. Nothing bad happens if he doesn't do it straight away, and he would prefer to keep doing what he is doing than something boring like whatever you want him to do, so what is the incentive?

I bet if you said to him "DS, come here and get an ice cream" or "Grandma is here!" or "Time to go to to Legoland" he'd spring up from his play and appear immediately. So it's not that he doesn't understand, or can't hear you, or isn't capable of doing what you want, but the motivation isn't very strong. You can fill in for that by using reward/punishment to increase the motivation in either direction, which can be as simple as praise when he comes quickly and disapproval when he does not. Or you can appeal to his sense of duty or things that "must be done" simply by going along and helping/nudging/general reinforcing that it always happens so there is no benefit to him in procrastinating.

2. 5 year olds do not have good time/task management skills yet (aka executive function) simply because this is not well developed. So he may well say "Coming" and genuinely mean it but then either "just finish this" or immediately get distracted by something in his immediate environment. He probably fully intended to come, but he doesn't realise that what feels like 30 seconds to him has morphed into 15 minutes, or he's simply totally forgotten that you asked him in the first place. He's not doing that on purpose, it's just a dreamy thing. It's totally age appropriate at this point. If he was still doing it at 8 or 10 or 35 (ahem, me) it's commonly a sign of ADHD as these are the processes which are commonly impaired with ADHD. But at 5 it's totally normal to daydream and get distracted. Some children are later developing these skills than others. Some 5 year olds can already do very well without the daydreaming and distraction, but a lot can't, or at least can't a lot of the time.

You can support these skills by being more present and doing more coaching/nudging, or by using tools such as a visual timetable or checklist, or the idea I suggested before around limiting which activities he is allowed (or encouraged) to get engrossed in when there is a deadline of some kind shortly coming up. Teaching him to tell the time and use a watch or clock can also help a lot, and generally working on sequencing and time planning just by talking about it and actively modelling ie not just modelling and hoping he'll pick it up by copying you, but showing and explaining each step and why you're doing it specifically now or specifically in this order.

You can sometimes get results with underdeveloped skills by adding motivation (reward/punishment) but if this is not working, it is usually indicative that the skill is not at the level of the expectation you have yet, and so it is helpful to lower the expectation and meet him where he is while you work on those skills and then he will get better and more able to meet your original expectation over time.

CloudyGladys Mon 10-May-21 12:50:41

1. Get his hearing checked - finding school so tiring that it worthy of mention is another clue alongside the not following instructions. It's possible that what school describe as lacking confidence is him waiting to see what the other children do when the teacher gives an instruction and then copying them.

2. In the meantime, give him the best chance of hearing and processing what you say. Use his name, cut out background noise, come down to his level, get him to stop what he is doing and focus on you, give him visual clues of what he is to do. Give him one instruction and time to process the information. If he doesn’t do it, then repeat using the same words and tone or just the key words, then start to lead him towards whatever it is you want him to do.

3. Either way, make an appointment to speak to the class teacher and Senco. They should be able to tell you how he is in school, give you specific ideas based on what they see, tell you about any interventions or strategies they use or plan to use and if they might need to make any referrals, e.g. they might consider a referral to speech and language therapy if they feel there may be a language-processing issue.

imgoingtoregretthis Mon 10-May-21 13:42:44

@CloudyGladys he's had 4 hearing tests in the past .. he passes them and they checked both ears with that machine that checks the eardrum. He was found to have glue ear on one side once, but still passed the hearing tests. I don't think it's his hearing, although preschool kept saying it was hence all the tests.

imgoingtoregretthis Mon 10-May-21 13:45:04

@BertieBotts I will give this a go thank you

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