47 answers

My Nine Year Old Son Is Driving Me Daft

Help, Please!! My nine year old son is driving me insane. He is a very intelligent, witty, strong willed, stubborn boy who loves to argue. He always, and I mean always needs to have the last word which needless to say easily turns a small negative situation into a huge one in a hurry.

An example conversation with him would go something like " The way that you spoke to me was mean and disrespectful" (I try not to label him - You are rude etc) His reply would be "So you are saying I am always rude or disrespectful" And I would reply "No that is not what I said" and somehow he continues on. Or I would say something like "You haven't had a good behavior day in a long time" His reply would be "So you're saying I have never been good since I have been born?

What frustrates me with him is that he is excellent when off with others. He just spent the week with his cousin and I was told he was "the best kid - no problems at all". His behavior at school is impeccable. At home he is always mouthing off and disrespectful.

I have tried time outs (is he past the age for these?), talking, yelling ( I don't advocate the yelling, but hey he's getting the best of me)and taking things away. Once when he had a major tantrum I took all of his toys out of his room and put them in the storage shed while he was at school. He cared at first and then found other things to do.

I have also tried to explain to him that a lot of the time his behavior is like a preschooler. He does not seem to care about this either. I have also tried to praise his good behavior. Although I will admit that these days praise has been a little hard.

I want to raise my son to be a respectful, successful man and I feel like I am failing both of us. He is such a challenge and I am always feeling frustrated. I am hoping that there are some moms out there who have good ideas on raising boys and/or difficult children.

I have not had any experience with boys. I babysat a family with four girls, had one sister, three step sisters. No boy cousins or neighbors or anything. I am thinking part of my ineffectiveness is my lack of understanding into the developing male mind. I just don't know.

I know part of his personality issues are genetic. My sister was a difficult child and my father also. Both of them used verbage for argumentative purposes. I want to bring out the clever, witty lovable child. I know he is in there, I just need help in getting to him.

Please if anyone has any positive reinforcement ideas or insights I'd love to hear them. This summer is going to be a long one.

Thanks in advance.


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi C.!
I may know just a small bit of what you are saying here.
My problem was with my son between 12-13. He was intolerable!
I felt that spending any one-on-one quality time with him
would be beneficial.
So, whenever he would allow it and was not committed to a school activity or karate/judo- We'd go to a ahow (of his choice, go get an ice cream, or watch something on the TV
--as long as it was together!! And, don't you know what??
We became closer, had good times that we both remember fondly!

I hope this will be of a help to you!!
I am going to email this letter to my son (26) and see if he would like to add any thoughts. I hope that will be acceptable to you???

By the way he is just about as wonderful a human being as
any mother could hope to raise!! I am very proud indeed!!

Good Luck to You,
C. S.

Where is dad? If he is not there get him a male mentor. My boys knew who was boss, if you are being respectful of him than he needs an adjustment.

He can outmouth you, so do something different. Take him for counseling and let him see his behavior against a neutral background.

My daughter is 9 also and mouthy. Her past counselor suggested Love and Logic. I think the site is www.loveandlogic.com They have ways of saying things that are wonderful. Different situations to choose from. Hope this helps. My son is almost 8 and says similar things- likes to over analyze. Good luck!

More Answers

Hi C.,

I strongly recommend the book "Parenting with Love and Logic" (I can't remember the author at present). I think you'll find some great tips and tools with this method.

In the meantime, the jist of the "love and logic" approach is straightforward. Once the ground rules have been established (speak respectfully), you enforce them by offering two choices, immediate compliance and non-compliance with consequence. This is all done with a cheerful attitude of "I expect compliance." Once the choice is given, don't engage. Either he complies or he takes the consequence. If he wants to argue, make sure the time to do that is during his time (when he does something he wants to do like watch tv, play electronics, be on the computer or whatever else your family does). Here's an example from my an exchange with my son,

"Kyle, you may not speak disrespectfully to me. Please adjust your tone immediately or you may begin cleaning your closet." Kyle tries to argue. "Sorry, Kyle. The time to argue is at 6:30pm tonight." Kyle points out that that 6:30pm is his karate lesson. "Yes. You're right. I'll have lots of time then to listen to you."

I've used this method very successfully in both my classroom (I'm a high school/jr. high teacher of 15 years) and with my sons (my 10 year old is often very difficult). Sometimes kids just jump up and down on that last nerve, and I forget this approach. The results are ugly. But, when I remember to not engage, this method can really work.

You might also google child psychologist John Rosemond. He runs a weekly column in my local paper and many of his approaches have also worked well.

Another approach is the "employment" approach. You and I both know that (theoretically) rude, argumentative people don't succeed in the workforce. If you offer your son an allowance, fine him for disrespect. I've solved lots of bad behavior with my sons with that approach. (I teach personal finance, so this one is a personal favorite! <g>)

My mother in law tried positive reinforcement with something she called "goody tickets." When you catch your son in the act of doing what you want, he earns a "goody ticket." Your son would cash in the goody tickets for priveleges. If he doesn't have enough tickets to do something they wanted (ranging from tv time, to playing outside, to sleepovers, etc.), he can't do it.

I know it's tough. But, you're absolutely doing the right thing by not letting your son get away with being rude. The evidence is how well he behaves when he's out. In my testosterone filled house (two sons, a husband and four male pets), I can tell you that men of all ages respond well to the direct approach, and I do mean direct. Please don't let "genetics" become an excuse. It's all the more reason to stick with it.

C., good luck. Raising good men is the toughest job in the world.

3 moms found this helpful

Hi C. -
There are a lot of good advice. As a mom of 3 boys, I had my share of them driving me crazy as well, esp. w/my 2nd child. We used to have shouting matches which raised my blood pressure to boiling point. There are few things I noticed w/him that caused him to have his "bad/rude" attitudes.

1. not getting enough sleep. We had a lot more shouting matches when he doesn't get his full night of sleep. He usually end up going into his room and fall asleep after our arguments. Then he comes out apologizing to me. I have him write apology letters to me for his bad behaviors. I have quite a collections.

2. friends/peers - I sometimes see some of his friends acting rude to their parents. And I think he tries to test how far he can get away with me. I don't let him get away with it at all. When he speaks to me in a rude manner, I just stop him and say, "excuse me, is that how you speak to me? please try that again." I have him do it until he gets it right. I don't speak to him in a demeaning or sarcastic tone, just very matter-of-fact tone. I'll also say to him that it may be ok with his friends and their parents, but it's not ok in this family. I'm very firm with that.

3. Boredom - sometime kids will get in trouble when they're bored and that includes rude behaviors. Sign him up in different activities (but make sure you don't overload his schedule.) Maybe some type of music or sport lessons, ie. drums, guitar, golf, tennis, martial arts, etc. Get him out of the house, have some type of structured time that he needs to report to another person in authority. He needs some away time from you and vice versa.

4. spend time with him - of the 3 boys, my 2nd one is the one that's always asking to have Family Fun Night. He enjoys spending time w/the whole family and just having fun.

5. Surprise your son with hugs. It really doesn't matter how old they are, they still enjoy hugs. For my oldest, I cannot hug him in front of others, but when I got into his room while he's at his desk, I go up to him and give him a hug, he doesn't push me away. They want to know that you care about them. My 2nd son will let me hug him anywhere in the house, but not in public. So I try to hug him as much as I can around the house. Of course with my 3rd son (my baby), I can still hug him anywhere and anytime. And they all love it.

6. Have your husband spend time w/him. Sons need to know dad cares as much as mom. I tell my husband to spend more time w/our 2nd son, esp. when he's giving me attitude problem. Your husband need to show your son how to treat you with respect and love.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

What does your husband say and what is his disipline strategy? Your hubby needs to teach your son that is not OK to treat any woman, especially his mom, this way. Boys need good, strong role models to help them grow into men.
Getting him into karate would also be a good step. Karate is very focused on respect, self discipline and focus.

1 mom found this helpful

He is totally manipulating you. Next time he mouths off put him in time-out (I used to put my third graders in time-out, it worked WAY better than benching them at recess.) Do not respond to his banter, he is just trying to get a reaction. When his 9 minutes are up then you tell him what he did/said was unacceptable - THE END. If your not comfortable putting him in a chair for time-out, send him to his room for 9 minutes. He's not too old.

He sounds very smart to me. Do you have him in any non-sports activities? An instrument? Chess? Monopoly? Your description reminds me of a student I knew years ago. He could be very manipulative and he really thrived on games of strategy, I'm sure today he is a D&D Master. LOL My husband is also very smart and loves to argue - his guitar has really settled him. I think highly intelligent people truly need an outlet that challenge them and your son will be easier to deal with once he finds his.


1 mom found this helpful

I have an 8 yr old stepdaughter that is the same way, I bought the book "The Everything Parents Guide to the Strong Willed Child". We "try" to follow it as best we can, but I also do a "reward chart" meaning at the end of the day she picks a piece of folded paper with a number and it corresponds to a reward on the chart on her door. She then gets the reward. She and I decided the rewards together. Simple, like extra 1/2 hour of tv, extra dessert, free day of cleaning room, paint nails, etc. We also have a "consequence chart" on the frig. Right out in the open and when she acts out, talks back, etc. I simply say "wanna go to the frig?" almost works everytime. The behavior and consequense is clearly spelled out and there is no frustration on my part as to the "what do I do" syndrome. I am also a stay at home mom of the 8 yr old and our 2-1/2 yr old daughter. Hope it helps.

1 mom found this helpful


I can really, really relate to your challenge. My son has always been very strong willed. Part of it is that I think boys need to have a strong nature to make their way in the world and they start by being strong willed in their micro world (the family) to see how it works. The more it works the more tyrannical they can become.

I have a background in Psychology and was so frustrated because I couldn't motivate my son into better behavior and developing empathy. I read all sorts of books, tried systems and they had value but only had temporary effects on his behavior. That was when a light bulb went off in my head. I could develop my own system that would incorporate all that I have learned. It worked brilliantly. We went from arguing and negotiating all day long to near immediate compliance. That was when he had just turned 8 years old. He is now 12 1/2 and a wonderful boy. He is still strong willed but has a much more respectful attitude then he ever did. Now my challenge is getting him to do his chores, which I would much prefer that, then the challenge of getting him to respect me and the home.

Friends of mine and my father said I had to write this system down because they saw such a transformation in his behavior. I wrote out what I did and how I implemented what I call the Acceptable Behavior Checkbook system. It is currently available as an ebook. It is going through final editing and will soon be a physical book too.

I wish you luck. I know how hard it is. Be firm,loving and acknowledge the encourage the positive behaviors and remember to keep your sense of humor. Strong willed children work much better with a non confrontational approach. So using humor can work wonders to motivate and show them what they are doing is not ok.

warm regards,


1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.:
Very simply said: (Pick your battles)Don't debate with him,don't argue,don't yell and scream,and try not to nic-pick about the little things he does,that you disagree with or are slightly disapointed about.Allow him to be an individual,and to make a few mistakes. Thats how children learn to become independant,and knowledgable.The way you discribed the little spat you had,it would appear, that he feels you look at him as one disapointment after another.Let him agree to disagree once in a while.After all, he is an individual,and soon to be going through puperty.The very best to you and your growing son.

1 mom found this helpful

I raised 3 boys and have 6 grandsons, and yes, boys are different.
I recommend an excellent book: RAISING RESPECTFUL CHILDREN IN A DISRESPECTFUL WORLD by Jill Rigby. Dr. Laura Schlesinger recommends this book.
Your son is disrespectful to you because you let him be.
However, he is good at it and you have had it, I don't blame you one bit, I too would be frustrated. This book will help you now and in the future with this boy.

1 mom found this helpful

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