10 Yr Old Son with a Horrible Attitude

Updated on June 13, 2010
J.S. asks from Canonsburg, PA
14 answers

My son is 10 yrs old and he has always been the sweetest boy, until lately.. We have always been very close. I always ask him how his day is at school. I always help him with his homework. I always tuck him in at night. We always used to talk and laugh all the time. I have enjoyed every bit of being his mother until these last few weeks. Nothing has happened between us, so I cannot figure out why I am getting such a horrible attitude. I ask him if he is ok and I just get a nasty look and he says "I am fine mom, geeze!!" I know that I have been the best mom to him possible, so I am assuming this is due to his age. He talks back to us all the time. He argues with my husband and I over EVERYTHING. It could be 900 degrees outside and if I say it's hot out here he will say It's cold just to argue with me. I am sure this has a lot to do with his age and his body changing, but I am about ready to strangle him. He used to be so sweet to his little 3 yr old sister and he even argues with her now over the dumbest things. I can't even have a quick conversation with him without getting frustrated. I still stick to my rules and he does have consequences if he does not listen. He is my oldest child, so I have never went through this before. I would appreciate any advice on how to get through these next few years and how to handle his attitude. I have been so stressed out over this and what my son has turned into, that I have horrible tension headaches constantly. I try not to get upset but it is nearly impossible not to. I know it will be a while until I get my sweet little boy back, but any help with this would be much appreciated. It frustrates me to see the way he treats his sister when she does absolutely nothing wrong. I don't want him to think either that I am favoring my daughter, but it seems like I am constantly arguing with him. I never argue with my 3 yr old as she is a very well behaved little girl, just like my son used to be. So again, any help with this would be greatly appreciated, whether it is advice on how to deal with a boy or girl since I will be dealing with this again someday with my daughter :(

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answers from Philadelphia on

You and I are living the same life! My son is 11 with a terrible attitude! I also have a sweet 3yr old girl. We just started therapy to see if that would help us communicate better.

Email me!

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answers from Harrisburg on

Welcome to the world of puberty, lol! Went through this twice already with my 2 older sons, who are now 23 and 15. The hormones do level out after a while, but they can still go up and down like a rollercoaster. All you can do is demand respect, discipline swiftly, and keep rules and your comments short and sweet and to the point. If he's "cranky" ask him to go to his room for a while until he calms down. My sons refused to believe that they ever spoke that way to me. In their minds they were talking sweetly and kindly. That's what their brains told them, lol. Hello hormones! So many jammed into a kids brain all at once.. no wonder they look like demons. Do not be too forgiving though. You are still the parent and you deserve the respect as such. What helped my sons is me and Dad explaining to them that it's our job to teach them good communication skills, so we would gently correct them and remind them of tone. Many times we have and still do with the 15 year old give examples of his tone sounding nasty and a more proper tone to use. We also explained about hormones and the attitude that can come from it, and that it's not an excuse to act like a jerk. They just have to try harder to show respect.

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answers from Sharon on

If he wants a voice then I would encourage it but only if he can express himself respectfully. I think you need a heart to heart together and tell him kindly how this makes you feel. Ask him how he feels about his behavior. I have found a great tool for helping to teach our children to govern their own behavior.




answers from Pittsburgh on

While it is most likely puberty, if I were you I would do some investigating to make sure it is nothing else. Do what you have to do to find out more....snoop through his stuff, look at his emails, etc. (Of course don't let him know you are doing this and if you find something still don't let him know how you know) Carefully observe for any leads to follow like has he stopped hanging out with certain kids, started hanging out with new kids, is there a girl in the picture now, etc. So many times the parents are the last to know of something and tragically it is somtimes too late.

Also, if it were me I would arrange a special date for just the 2 of us without a sibling. Do something that he enjoys and just have fun together. He may resist at first but I bet that once he gets out there with just mom he will let his defense down and will be that sweet boy that he was with you.

Good luck J.. My son is coming up on that age and I am already so afraid for it. I have enjoyed him and our close relationship SO much and losing that would be truly heartbreaking.



answers from Harrisburg on

I'm having the same exact problem with my 8 year old daughter. She is my oldest and I feel the same way. I will browse your answers for some good answers for me! It's the constant arguing over every little stupid thing. I know some of it is asserting independence and expanding boundaries etc but it's ridiculous. And I'm the same way, there are consequences to her words/actions and then she is jealous of her little sister (2-1/2 yo) because she doesn't get into trouble. Good luck with your son!!



answers from Philadelphia on

It sounds like he is going through puberty. I would ignore him and see if that helps. I would not ignore him if he is being mean to his sister. Try not talking to him when he does not talk to you and see what happens. I definantly agree that there should be consequences when he does not listen. When he talks back to you send him to his room. Tell him I am not arguing with you and that is where it should stop. Why give yourself a headache? You will be fine. The summer is coming up and he will not be happy when he can not go outside or to the pool when he does not listen. I think once he knows he can not upset you or your husband he may stop some of the nasty attititude.


answers from Philadelphia on

It most likely is due to growing up, but has anything changed at home or at school?
If your son disagrees with you, you can acknowledge it, then move on. If it is 900 degrees outside and he says it is cold. Just say "interesting" or "so you are cold".
Notice his feelings, "You seem frustrated, mad...." Let him know that you are there to listen but will not be spoken to in a rude manner and if he continues to do so he can find a place to be alone until he can be kind to the family. It is all right to be in a bad mood but it is not all right to take it out on others.
Take notice of how the grown ups in the home talk to each other, the kids and people outside of the family. Kids take cues from the adults in their lives.
If you are headed to talk to him, check out what he is doing. If you would like a quick moment, ask if he has time right now or should you come back in 5 minutes or so. If he is in the middle of something he may feel disrespected that he needs to stop because you came in ( this can also be exacerbated by hormones).
Perhaps he is in the dumps a bit. Treat him the way you would want to be treated if it was you. Be understanding but also express your need for kindness or at least, civility.
B. Davis

Child And Family Coaching
Because nothing is more important than family

B. Davis

Child And Family Coaching
Because nothing is more important than family



answers from Philadelphia on

You might want to read the "Strong Willed Child" by Dobson. And know you're not alone. My dad told me that I was an easy child but a really tough middle schooler. My sister on the other hand was a really tough toddler, but since she was put in line so much during the early years she knew her place and was a really easy middle schooler.


answers from Dallas on

Yes, this is 100% age appropriate. Can start around the age of 9 (so be grateful you got an extra year) and it is puberty! Hormones are already starting to rage and it's not likely to be smooth for a couple of years. Your son doesn't even understand what is going on with his body......it would make anyone a little snippy.

Don't argue with your son. Don't let him hook you into it. Walk away or stay quiet and forget about having the last word.

I recommend the Love and Logic books. They will explain it perfectly.


answers from Williamsport on

The parents I know who are not having and not allowing the natural attitude shift in their pre-teen boys made sure to never allow the smallest kernel of disrespect to form from a very early age. Since they could talk, they had a serious consequence for even the smallest shrug or smirk much less talking back to a parent. It was treated like a capital offense. Did this mean they were super mean and always bearing down on their kids? Contrary, it was almost never an issue, the message was so clear.

By ten it would be unfathomable to disrespect a parent and would be dealt with even more harshly-but it never happens. It has been a huge lesson to me with my little ones, having seen how those kids act vs kids who I saw gradually work their way up to really mistreating their parents by pre teen and teen years.
You've done an amazing job raising him well, and he was always good before, but for SOME REASON, he's not afraid to talk to you guys and his sister that way now. On some level, he knows he can get away with it and his consequences are not meaningful and tough enough for him. If you want to hear the equivalent of "yes ma'am" when you talk rather than the equivalent of "F-you", he needs to know there is only one option. You may have inadvertently let some little things go unaddressed since he was so good in general.

Also, I think something sounds like it may be wrong, so really scrutinize his every activity and see if anything could be happening with him. If not, toughen up! He needs an immediate firm consequence every time he disrespects someone, and then he also in addition to that, needs some of his nice "free things and privileges" taken away until he earns them back by being a respectful person for a certain amount of time. Get creative. He's taking it for granted that you guys will put up with him no matter what he does.

Since this is new, and his roots are good, it may improve very quickly. My step brother had some deteriorating behavior in his 8 year old, and after upping the consequences, he also started taking him with him to build on site at his job (family run) and took him on a hunting trip. His pride and behavior turned around almost immediately.

Find ways to give him some more quality time with you guys and big boy responsibilities. Set up opportunities to talk away from distractions while doing things together. Have dad take him on some manly excursions and let him do things he wasnt' allowed to before. Not as bribes, but in general when he isn't being disciplined. Add some quality to his life, there's always room. He sounds restless. Good luck!

ps Dad needs to be toughest on this as the male role model.



answers from Sharon on

There has to be something going on some place with your son. If it isnt at home it is at school or someplace else.. Your son would not be like a light switch and change that quickly. I am the mother of 4 and have had the older children go through stages of not wanting mommy around and treating the other kids bad but it wasnt as quickly as you are saying this went on. Have someone else speak to your son, a counciler at school or an minister at a church, someone he would feel comfortable talking to. Good luck and I wish you all the best.



answers from Harrisburg on

Sorry to Mallory...but I STONGLY disagree. Our oldest is 13...and we check his e-mails and his FB regularly and he knows it! They are kids...they don't have the same rights to privacy as adults. Our rule with our kids is that we have their passwords to everything they're on on the computer. We've been in contact with the school principal over inappropriate posts (not our son's but other kids from school). It is your job as a parent to know what's going on with your kids and their friends and you shouldn't sneak around to do it. Our son has even commented to some of his FB friends that they need to clean up their language b/c his parents are checking his accounts....keeps him on his toes...



answers from Provo on

I am sure a lot of this is due to all the hormones associated with growing up. We all have to be held accountable though. I think he is probably dealing with an excessive amount of teasing, bullying, and other rude behavior from others his age. My son became very secretive at this age. He will be headed to jr. high soon and this is probably a good coping strategy that he is learning. He needs to be able to leave it at school. This is the tricky part because if he is sweet he will be eaten alive at school. One time my friend said that she was scared for her daughter to be a teenager and what my best advice would be for her. I said that I always let them know that I had a bigger attitude then they did. I did not show it all the time and if my kids wanted to argue it was not much fun for them to argue with themselves. I also think that your son is becoming more aware of himself. He may not like what he sees and he just wants to make others sad. Maybe he needs a lot of physical activity. I also think that he wants to be treated like he is growing up. Give him chores that a big boy does. Make sure he knows that you appreciate his help because you could have never done it yourself. If he starts his little smart remarks just remind him who he is talking to and that you are the parent and he is the child. Good luck!! I am far from being an expert on kids but these are just a few of the things I did.



answers from Boston on

Hi J.,
I think much of the change you are experiencing has to do with your son entering puberty. I've not experienced this with my son yet (who is 4) but I've certainly experienced the change in attitude with my 16 yr old when she entered puberty. For us creating the forum for our daughter to talk about the changes she was going through physically and emotionally seemed to help. That's not to say that she always wanted to talk but knowing that we were there to listen when she was ready seemed to help her a lot. I also think it's important to set aside time that you can give him your undivided attention. It's easy for kids to alienate themselves from the rest of the family while they're trying to figure out all these changes they are experiencing. Helping them to understand that they are still a vital part of the family and very much loved tends to go a long way toward getting them through the early "pubescent" years. Give him boundaries and continue to give him consequences for rude or disrespectful behavior but be patient with him while he's still trying to adjust to and figure out all the changes that are happening within his body. With the right boundaries, this is just a season which shall soon pass. At that age we have to loosen our grip just enough for our children to test and strengthen their wings so that at the appropriate time they can fly on their own. It's just a part of growing up which can be bitter sweet especially for us moms.

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