By the time they are 5 years old, children have usually developed enough emotional maturity to control their impulses – they should be able to share, listen to simple instructions, and understand expectations.
Their behaviour will not always be golden but they are learning. Much of your child’s behavioural development is about learning how to behave and relate in social situations. For example, Grandma smiles when a child says, “Please.” It is not okay to hit. There are five kids and two swings so we have to take turns.

Three ways you can shape your child’s behaviour:

  1. Control the environment, not the child. It is important to keep your child’s temperament, current moods, and behavioural development levels in mind when deciding whether to go out to dinner at Chez Pierre, or to a birthday party with 12 other children. If the situation is something you know your child will have trouble with, then either go alone, avoid the activity, or change the environment. At the same time it is important to give children opportunities to face new social situations and learn new behaviour skills, but keep your expectations for good behaviour reasonable.
  2. Make your expectations clear. Set firm boundaries and expectations for behaviour, and establish clear, consistent consequences. For example: “If you refuse to say please and thank you, you will not get what you ask for." Or, "If you don’t wear your helmet, you are not allowed to skateboard.”
  3. Discipline with reason and fairness when behaviour is inappropriate. When your child misbehaves, explain to them how their behaviour did not meet expectations, why the rules and expectations are important, and remind them of the consequences they face. Make consequences fair and relate them to the behaviour. Then follow through. For example: “You did not follow the rule of no juice in the living room. The reason we have that rule is so the carpet and furniture are not ruined. You spilled your juice. Turn off the TV and clean up the juice.”

Be aware that physical discipline has been shown to cause serious disturbances in mental and emotional development. Avoid physical punishments.