18 answers

Need Help with 11 Year Old Son Behavior Problems

I really need help with my almost 11 year old. He is EXTREMELY argumentative and an extreme "jerk" for no better word. He is "always right" and if he's corrected - he will argue to the end. He will throw HUGE tantrums. Here's an example, tonight we were headed out to my husbands birthday dinner with my teenage daughter, him, and my younger son (9). He wanted to sit in the back and when the other two sat there he continuously turned around and hit my younger son. When we corrected him, he argued. We told him if he hit the other one more time we were going home. He did. We turned the car around and went home. He threw a fit like a two year old.. A HUGE screaming and crying fit. We brought him home and put him to bed. The other kids were disappointed too, but this is crazy... Later he got up and still refused to take responsibility for what had happened. Help me please... (p.s. this only seems to be a problem at home, never at school - teachers say he's great there)... Thanks for any help you can give me.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

thanks all for your advice. I'll get back to you all. He stayed home sick today and I stayed with him. We did have a heart to heart talk. He's not the real talky type. So it was kind of one way. But I did discuss expectations, how I expect more of him and expressed my love for him. However, I did tell him that things are going to change and consequences will happen. I'll let you all know. Thanks again for the help.

Featured Answers

This might sound silly, but try reading 1-2-3 Magic. It works really well for my strong-willed almost-10-year old.
Good luck!

I agree with Barefoot G. There is a book which is about this technique, but I cannot remember what it is. A very good friend used it and got very quick and permanent results! If I can get a hold of her to get the name of the book, I'll pass it on to you. Good luck!

More Answers

I work with kids with behavior issues...taking a tough, consistent but lovingly nurturing line is the best way to go. If he's not this way outside the home, there may be something going on with him as the middle child that you need to address...make sure you spend time with just him and talk with just him - the middle child can get picked on by the older one who is savey enough to get away with it so that when he responds to her, he gets in trouble. Then he picks on the younger one and gets in trouble for that...possibly? Letting him control the entire family by bringing everyone home feeds his manipulation - even if he was disappointed by it, so was everyone else and he ruined the time. Perhaps it would have been better to have a back-up plan with a friend with whom he can stay next time he acts inappropriately - so he doesn't control the entire family. (but I add my congrats with others that you stuck to what you said)

We often recommend stripping his room of everything except absolute necessities and having him earn back things....like toys, clothes he likes, TV watching, game boy/x-box playing, bike riding, playing w/ friends, phone, etc. Include what he eats, too...no goodies, not even necessarily making the dinner that he likes, nothing special like going out...he can earn everything...nothing unnecessary for life should be an expectation for any of us and he's no exception - this isn't abusive- but you must do all this in love and without anger, shame, etc. You're looking for discipline, not punishment. Keep a chart of his behavior and have him earn points for positive behavior and for chores/responsibilities...probably something which should be done for the 9 year old as well so they are both on the same program. and...when you goof (which WILL happen since you're human!), and you get angry or say something you shouldn't or give him something he did 't earn "just this once"....don't beat yourself up - just get back to the program you set up and get on with it. Remember, tho, this is "behavior modification" - his behavior may get worse at first as he fights back. The firmer you are, the better. If you do give in in frustration, don't be surprised if it takes longer to get to where you were. This isn't easy and I'd be pulling my hair out if I were you, but don't give up.

If he truly had oppositional defiant disorder I think he'd be defiant at school. Perhaps the best thing is to address issues at home with other siblings that may be leading to his behavior - you can't always tell who looked at him how or who made a smirk that you didn't see or whispered something to push his buttons - knowing that he flips out makes it a lot of fun for other sibs, so make sure that you know all the story and let him explain how he feels, no matter how insignificant or ridiculously small the infraction he feels came from another sibling. His behavior needs to be addressed, of course, and nothing anyone does is an excuse, but if you let him explain why, he may feel more empowered to let you help him correct his behavior....

I'm sorry - I keep coming back to this and adding stuff! For negative behavior. We give "cautions" - 2 cautions w/i a 15 min. or 30 min. period could be a "time out" - even if he's earned time to play something - he now has to stop and go wherever time out is and sit for 5 min. - he needs to be appropriate for his time to start and continue to be appropriate the entire 5 min. - after he's done, "process" with him - ask him to tell you what he did and why it's not appropriate. The more you get him to reason through his own behavior and accept his responsibility of it, the easier it is for him to change his behavior because he realizes it's his problem...not your fault, or sister's fault, etc...

ok, no more adding...my email is ____@____.com

2 moms found this helpful

You did the exact right thing by telling him what the consequences would be and then following through. A lot of parents don't do that. However, I would have taken it a step farther and taken him home, you stay with him, and let your husband and the other kids go back out for dinner. Then your child would know that his behavior is NOT going to be a cause to punish everyone else and there won't be as much resentment from the other kids towards him and you. If this sort of thing happens again, you may want to take turns with your husband on who stays home with him while the others go out and do the activity. Obviously for this one, your husband would be the right choice to go out since it was his birthday dinner.

Continue doing what you are doing, state what behavior you expect and what will happen if he doesn't follow the rules and meet those expectations and follow through. Find out what activities and objects/toys he values most and every time he misbehaves, take one of them away and make him earn it back. If he has more taken away before he earns the first one back, he must earn each one back seperately. Another related tactic is to take ALL these things away from him now and store them somewhere after talking to him about his recent behavior and how it is not acceptable, and tell him that he must earn all his things back, one for every day that he behaves acceptably. If after earning them all back he goes back to his old behavior, take them all away again and make him earn them all back again. The VERY SECOND he starts to argue, DO NOT let him continue. Tell him in a firm, strong voice (but do not yell or get angry) "No, argument, be quiet" (not shut up) and repeat it if he keeps trying to argue. Do not argue back. Make it clear that you are NOT going to listen to any argument. If he continues to argue, send him to his room or another place where he can be isolated and get himself under control. If he throws a fit, tell him that you are going to give him a 5 count and if he does not get himself under control and stop it, he will lose something (object/toy, privilege, etc.)

You will have to be firm and consistant and stay the course no matter how long it seems to be taking for him to show improvement, but unless there is a truly serious psychological condition in play here, he will start to shape up. He has to see that he CANNOT get away with these things and that it does not benefit him at all to continue this behavior. Also be sure to commend him and tell him how much you appreciate it when he behaves correctly. Remind him after you have participated together in something that wasn't cancelled or disrupted because of his behavior that it's so much more fun to be able to do those things. Say something like "Now wasn't that so much better/more fun than having to stay at home because you chose not to behave?"

Another thing to keep in mind is to be firm with him when telling him what you expect or to stop bad behavior or what the consequence of his behavior is going to be, but do not "lose your cool." Don't yell or scream. Just use a strong, firm, "in control" voice. No matter what he does, keep your cool while disciplining and don't let him see that he's getting to you (even if he is!).

1 mom found this helpful

As the mom of an almost 10 year old boy, I see my son and his friends trying out 'snotty' behavior and backtalk all the time. I just don't stand for it.

But the screaming, crying temper tantrum stage passed a long time ago. When you say that this is an issue your son only has when he is at home with you, I have to think that on some level, he must know that he can get away with more at home than he can at school.

1) First, has he been tested for psychological or behavioral problems? I am not saying that is an excuse for everything, but you should rule that out first. Have him checked for physical issues as well as mental/emotional health issues. However, I know lots of kids with various conditions- and they still don't throw tantrums or mouth off to their parents. So even if there is a medical reason, I don't think it should be used as an 'excuse'.

2) Have you talked to your other kids about his behavior? They spend more time around him than anyone- what do they think? That he really can't control himself, or that he is totally trying to play you? You don't want your other kids to feel like they are punished for good behavior, while he acts up and gets all the attention.

3)What kind of food is he eating? I would get rid of all the junk food and processed sugar in the house. Everyone will be better off without it, but if it is playing a role in your son's behavior, then you will most likely see a major change in a month or so.

4) How about TV and video game time? As kids get older and more self-sufficient, it is really easy to let them police themselves on the computer, tv, etc- but DON'T DO IT!! One of the most effective ways of getting through to a kid this age is to make him 'earn' his treats with good behavior. One tantrum and he loses all those privileges, his iPod, etc. Be the parent- remember what is a right and what is a privilege!!

5)As for the tantrums- if he insists on acting like a toddler, treat him like one! Sit down and talk seriously with him about how inappropriate his behavior is. Work out a very specific set of rules and consequences for his behavior: if he talks back to you, no video games or tv, etc. for the night. If he does it again, they are gone for the week. Institute immediate consequences- give him time outs sitting in a chair.

If he throws a major tantrum on the way to someplace, in a store, at a relatives, etc. then immediately take him home. Or, make him wait in the car, which he is certainly old enough to do. Give him a time out, sitting in a chair where you can see him, in a room with no tv, etc.

It sounds to me like he wants your attention and this is his way to get it- don't give him the satisfaction of rewarding bad behavior!! After you get home and he has calmed down, make him write an essay to you apologizing for the tantrum and explaining why he did it. He is more than old enough to follow these instructions and understand WHY he is in that situation!

I know it sounds hard to follow through with, and it may even provoke another tantrum, but after a few times, if he KNOWS you are serious and will hold him to the consequences, I bet he will start to work harder on his behavior.

6)Make sure you set aside specific one-on-one time for ALL of your kids separately. This has to be really difficult and embarrassing for the other kids too! Either your 11 year old really has NO control over his behavior ( which I find a little hard to believe, unless there is some underlying medical reason for it) or he just wants the attention so much, he doesn't care how he gets it. If he KNOWS that he will have some time being the center of you and his dad's attention, he may not feel like he has to be in the spotlight all the time.

Make up a schedule for each week, giving each kid solo time- just a trip to get a hot chocolate, or to a store or movie or to throw a ball or take a bike ride together. But each kid needs solo time with you.

The entire family needs to be on the same page here. That includes grandparents or babysitters or anyone else he has acted up with. Once he understands that this kind of behavior will only get him 'lack' of attention ( like a time out by himself with everyone ignoring his tantrum) and loss of fun privileges, and that good behavior will get him more fun and more happy attention, I bet he will stop. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

He is turning into a teenager. You may have escaped this with your older child, but not this one. My son made us miserable when he turned about 12, he is 15 1/2 now, and altough we are still dealing w/ typical teenage "stuff", he is less argumentative, and easier to be around. Good Luck...

I had a friend with a child that was very much like your son. The problem did not get better; it wasn't just a phase. It was especially hard on the other kids in the family and the whole situation took a serious toll on the family. I think Angela has given you really good ideas about discipline that I would definitely follow. Don't wait too long tho if things don't get better. Your son may need to be evaluated for ADD or ADHD and your family probably needs counseling to deal with this. That's what my friend did and things are much better now.

Hi K. You need to get the bottom of this as soon as possible. How does he get along with the children at school? If this continue have a family counselor sit down and talk with the whole family.

This might sound silly, but try reading 1-2-3 Magic. It works really well for my strong-willed almost-10-year old.
Good luck!

My son was like that (and still is on occasion). It is not a phase. We tried all sorts of strategies and even counselors. None of it worked because he was always good outside the home. Try one of these two resources. They are no nonsense approaches to parenting. The Total Transformation program. YOu may have seen the ads on tv. Yes, it is expensive but if you follow it, you will see a difference. If you can't afford that one try Have A New Kid by Friday (a book).

If you want to know more about how we turned my son's behavior around just email me.

Wow, sorry to hear that. It's a shame that everyone was punished for your son's behavior, especially your husband on his birthday.

The thing that works best with my 10 year old is taking away his computer/video/DS games for a day for misbehaving. Start with one day, then two, three, etc. Boys can't stand losing their computer time. Hope it helps.

First let me say congratuations on sticking to your threat! Unfortunately that punishment hurt everyone not just your son. What you need to do is take away things that directly effect him, not everyone else. Sit him down, tell him ahead of time how thing will work. Every time he acts like a two year old he will be treated like a two year old and privileges will be taken away. First start with video games, television, outside time (although that is sometimes worse for us) friends, the phone etc.... Tell him how long his punishment will be 2 days, 3 days, a week, whatever. You seem like a parent that will stick to what she says, so this will work for you. Too many parents say they are grounded from this or that and then the kids whine until they give in and take away the punishment. Then they say that it doesn't work. It does work, if you take away the things they like best, and you stick to what you say. Consequences are the only thing that kids can understand. He is good in school because there are consequences in school if he is not. At his age he should NOT be rewarded for good behavior only "punished" for bad behavior. He knows what is right and wrong. A couple of weeks of taking away things that matter will set him straight. Good luck but remember you need to nip this in the butt before he enters his teens.

Hi K.: I have an almost 10 yr old son with these same behaviors. After talking to the school counselor, we decided to get him into some counseling. My son only acts that way with me, and we've had some huge family traumas occur that are probably the underlying cause. (My husband and the kids dad passed away when they were just 5, I've gotten remarried, so there's a lot going on here.) Could your son be trying to deal with something in his life? It doesn't even have to be as big as losing a loved one, just something that he's unable to vocalize? Does he have a favorite aunt, uncle or other adult figure he's close to? Maybe they can help get it out of him. Have you guys spent any quality one-on-one time together? Maybe he's just feeling a little left out and wants some attention.

I'm probably not a big help. We've only been in counseling about a month and I've already seen some improvement. Good luck. I know how frustrating it is!


K. S. Did these just start or have they been going on all along and you are fed up with them now. Has something changed in his life that would cause him to act out like this. I realize that many people don't believe in spanking a child but the Bible says spare the rod spoil the child. I am not saying beat him but a good swat on the behind might help. You say he only does this at home so you need to take inventory of what goes on at home that he acts this way wth you and not his teacher or others. is he getting enough attention. They say the middle child gets short changed in the attention department. Are you consistant with what behaviors you will and will not accept from all of your children or is the youngest son allowed to get away with things and the 11 year old gets punished. You have to look at what you are or are not doing to contributw to this behavior since it is only displayed with you at home. The others should not be punished because of his bad behavior. They should have ben able to attend their fathers birthday whil he stayed at home. Until he can act better with his family especially his little brother he would only be included when he can behave like he does at school. there is more to this than you have written or even know. speak with the counselor at his school and see if he/she can give you some suggestions after they talk with him. There may be somthings going on within him that even he is not aware of. He knows how to behave because he does everywhere else but at home so something is going on at home that triggers this behavior.

Hi K.,

Try this website http://www.empoweringparents.com/index.php. I have a 10 yo daughter with the same issues. This web site is from the Total Transformation System which is a program I ordered this year. It has been tremendously helpful in dealing with situations such as yours. James Lehman knows his stuff. Talks about how to make a child accept responsibility for his actions. Very, very helpful!!!! Good Luck.

My now 12 year old did similar things at 11. I think they are going through prepuberty. They have hormones starting and are trying to test everyone to see how far they can push your buttons. Be firm but also be understanding. This time will pass. Show him you love him and spend some one on one time with him.

It sounds like you could be describing my son's behavior a couple years ago. (he's 14 now) Perfect at school, miserable at home. Tantrums, knows everything, etc. First I do think some of it is hormones, even if he hasn't started showing signs of pubery yet. Second, he could be being picked on at school. I found out my son was being bullied and he in turn was taking it out on me. Finally, I did seek counseling for him when it got really bad and she told us it's not uncommon for a child to act out toward the person he feels most comfortable with, but most importantly you do have to stick to it when you threaten a punishment. He has to learn his actions will have consequences. My son is happier in school now (no more bullies) and although he still has his moments it's nothing like it was before. It really scared me to see a 12 year old throwing temper tantrums...I thought there was something seriously wrong with him, but I'm finding out mood swings can be just as prevelant in young boys as in girls. Hang in there and don't be afraid to talk to a professional for more advice if it continues. Good luck!
p.s. I did find when he is hungry and/or tired his behavior is always worse so a simple snack could change things greatly.

I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers given that I only have an 18 mos old son, but I have been reading the book "Boundaries with Kids" by Cloud and Townsend with a bunch of other moms (and they have older kids) and already a number of the moms have seen improvements in their children while implementing a lot of their suggestions. You can get the book for $12 on Amazon (new) or even $4 if you buy used...or probably free as it is likely at your local library. You really don't need to spend a zillion dollars for some program that is advertised on TV. Your child needs healthy boundaries and this book walks you through how to be the strong parent and set the boundaries up and how to follow through with appropriate consequences when needed. Best wishes!

I agree with Barefoot G. There is a book which is about this technique, but I cannot remember what it is. A very good friend used it and got very quick and permanent results! If I can get a hold of her to get the name of the book, I'll pass it on to you. Good luck!

You have received great advice. It's tough on the other kids as well but they could be contributing too. We have the same issue with my 9 year old. It's a need for control among other things. "Siblings without Rivalry" is a great resource

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