In this article, I will be addressing a question from a mom about difficulty handling her daughter’s behaviour.  And here is the question: 

“Hi, I have two daughters.  The older one is five-years-old and we have been having lots of trouble handling her since last year.  Her attitude has worsened and her extreme stubbornness leads me and my husband to beating her every day.  We tried soft talk and countless explanation to no avail.  We seriously need help.”



Addressing The Issue

Frankly, I feel your frustration.  I truly do.  My mum went nuts trying to handle my sister and I, mostly it was me, and there was a point where she actually gave up and she just walked out of the house because she was so mad with us, or rather with me.  Now, here is the thing.  Like my mum, I can see that you really care for your daughters and that you really want to do the best that you can do to help them.  However, like my mum, it also seems that you are limited by what you know about your children.


Let me explain.  Children’s misbehaviour and their stubbornness, as you put it, is actually a sign that they need something from you and your child is as frustrated as you are because she can’t get you to understand what she needs.  Which, at most times she doesn’t even know what it is.  So, the question here is what does she actually need, and why is it that we haven’t addressed her needs yet.  The answer is child development psychology.  You see, young children are very complex beings that need to be understood in their own light, and luckily for us, there are many, many people out there that study children.  They do research to find out how they work and how they learn and behave and what they need to fundamentally grow and thrive so that we can apply it to understand and deal with our children.


“Misbehaviour and stubbornness, is actually a sign that they need something from you.”


Now, the real problem often stems from parents that don’t know child development psychology and who interpret these behaviours using adult wisdom and that just warps the whole approach to finding out what our children need.


Now let me give you an example.  I have a parent whose five-year-old daughter talks back at them during heated discussions.  It drives them nuts because they are explaining to her that it is rude and that she isn’t allowed to do that, but it didn’t stop that behaviour.  So, they started punishing her and spanking her for her ‘stubbornness’ and ‘defiant’ behaviour.  Now, this is a classic example of parents who are not aware of child development psychology and have applied adult wisdom on a child, because if adults did that, and a grown-up shouts and talks back to another adult, it is known as arguing and being irrational and being unreasonable and stubborn. 


However, if you applied child development psychology to your understanding of your children, you will see that perhaps this child was feeling anxious and possibly emotionally threatened when her parents approach her about sensitive topics.  So, as such, she reacted in a way to get some attention from her parents to let them know what she’s feeling, but because the parents didn’t get her cues and then punishes her, it makes her feel even more anxious and insecure. This combination drives her emotionally further and further away from her parents, significantly jeopardizing the possibility of letting her parents help her. 


So, do you see how catastrophic it is when you don’t know child development psychology and start applying our conventional wisdom in the way that we understand our children and the way we interpret their needs and the way we address their needs?  Well, without child development psychology we are very likely to misunderstand our children, misinterpret their needs and fail miserably at catering to their needs - simply because we don’t know or understand them. 


Now I don’t really know why your child is showing this behaviour, there is not enough details in your question to form a profile of your child’s needs.  But because she is already five-years-old it is highly likely that she has a combination or an accumulation of a few problems that she is struggling with due to many of her developmental needs not getting met.  Now, here is a quick lesson in child developmental psychology….


Child Development Psychology

Young children under the age of six (also known as the formative period), go through a drastic learning curve in which they develop skills which will form the foundation to future learning.  Their development takes place in a few different areas. Mainly intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially.  Now, these are the main ones.  Of course, there are others such as character and moral development that also happens at the same time. 


What parents don’t know is that all of these areas are interrelated and when one area is not catered to, it almost always affects the other areas of development.  Now, with this knowledge, parents can then look out for all of these different areas of development in their children and then scaffold them as they show signs of readiness to learn. 


However, if you aren’t aware of this, it will be really hard for you to look out for all of these things and even harder for you to try and figure out when children try to show signs that they have needs that are not met.  That’s when it starts to get frustrating and things start to spiral out of hand.


My Advice

So, my advice to you would be to invest some time in learning about child developmental psychology and to get a good parenting coach to help show you how to apply child developmental psychology into your parenting style to meet your child’s specific needs. 


For those of you who are curious about what child developmental psychology is about or would like to see how it works within one’s parenting style, do feel free to listen to my parenting podcasts at Now I know some of you will be rolling your eyes, and saying oh no, this is going to be textbook stuff, well no, I have lectured child developmental psychology at universities and teacher training colleges for more than a decade, and I am not about to lecture you.  My focus is more on the application and this is where my 16 plus years of working with young children in a wide variety of settings in four countries come into the picture.



About the author:

Queenie Tan (MEd) is Asia’s Elite Parenting Coach, was born in Klang, based in Hong Kong and is currently world schooling both her boys (Charles aged 14 and Kevin aged 11) while she speaks at international conferences, authors parenting books and manages her parenting podcast at

Being dyslexic, Queenie struggled with 11 years of formal public education and was determined to be the teacher that she never had. Queenie is a veteran international pre-school teacher and an experienced early childhood educator trainer who has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore and China.

Now, she shares her cutting edge teaching approaches and behavior management strategies with early childhood educators/teachers all over the world. While she advocates for personalized and customized teaching approaches to cater to every child’s unique individual learning needs, strengths and challenges, her passion also lies in empowering parents by teaching them how to ‘read’ their children’s cues, to interpret them accurately and to respond appropriately while creating optimal environments for their own children to thrive.

Queenie has recently been awarded ‘Best Parent Education And Support Services’ for 2017 by APAC Insider and Global 100 respectively.