11 Year Old Daughter Lacks Fear of Authority

Updated on November 10, 2010
S.F. asks from Mansfield, TX
11 answers

Help! I am a work at home mum with two great kids. A 7 year old son and a 11 year old daughter. My daughter, over the last year or so, has become increasingly disrespectful and rude to my husband and I as well as her teachers at school. She is constantly rolling her eyes refusing to complete school work and lying. I am at my wits end. We have tried everything, taking away privilages, denying parties and events etc, talking it out and yes even spanking and it does not seem to hit home. She is a very smart pretty girl and just does not grasp the concept that she can't treat people this way. She seems to have no fear. I am so desperate I am even considering boot camp or some program.I want her to be the loving, fun girl that she used to be.

Just a little background, my husband and I have been married 16 years, have a great relationship, moved to texas just over one year ago. Yes, I have considered this behaivour is related to the move but she was acting like this in NY too but it was on occasion and now it's the norm. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Try switching to a reward based system instead of a punishment based system. Also recognize that as frustrating as this is, it is a very normal stage for many kids as they enter these preteen and teen years. I was unbelievably rude to my parents at that age as were my brother and sister.

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answers from Boston on

But that's good, isn't it? I mean, good for you to raise someone without fear of authority. When did fear of that kind ever help? Respect would be a good thing though. And in my experience, if you need respect, give respect. Sending her to boot camp doesn't do this. Spanking her shows no respect for her (or your own dignity, really). How do you show respect for her? Maybe a start could be to try and find out who she is, why she is feeling unwell, and how she would like to be treated herself. Offer you children kindness, and they learn to be kind.

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answers from Portland on

Sounds like all your solutions so far have been negatives. These have a place, but need to be balanced by positives. The carrot has actually been shown to be far more effective than the stick for most children, even the adolescent variety.

I worked for a few years tutoring at-risk high-school kids within the school system. Most of these young people had years of "issues" with authority; a couple had even been in juvie. Most of these kids were seriously angry and disrespectful when I first met them.

Purely by instinct, I figured out how to reach these kids, and it had to do with caring, listening, and finding every possible way to notice and comment on the tiniest positive things they did, or on capabilities they had. Finding those positives was a job, and sometimes was even based more on a guess than actual evidence (as in, "I'll bet you have a quick sense of humor, don't you?").

But this approach worked, quickly, with almost every one of several dozen difficult kids. In a matter of a couple of weeks, those kids were showing up on time, making a real effort, speaking to me in the same respectful terms with which I spoke to them. Many of them would have jumped over the moon for me, if they could. I did not use threats or warnings; if they didn't work, they experienced the natural consequences of poor grades. All but two boys quickly figured out I was on their side.

I wish I had had the brilliant little book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish during those years – I would have had other effective tools to use, too.

But my point is that your daughter may desperately need to hear from you any little thing she does right, and this book will give you many examples of how to do that. And it will give you specific, effective, and respectful techniques for drawing her out, helping her find her own inner problem-solver, giving her appropriate and non-coercive consequences, and presenting your own legitimate needs in a way she can actually hear and respond to.

Buy and try this book. It may be the best investment you'll ever make as a disciplinarian.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yikes... sounds like puberty. Adolescents are so difficult... I often joke that I wouldn't touch a middle school building with a 10 foot pole b/c the building would probably bite me too!

I would suggest taking EVERYTHING away from her. There's a great book by John Rosemond (psych) called "Stop Arguing wiht your Kids" and it is worth the read. His theory knowns as "Leaving the Garden of Eden" involves taking everything away from a disobedient child except what she needs to wear or eat that day (both of which you select). Slowly she is able to earn back items and privildeges by demonstrating consistently appropriate behaviors. This means NOTHING is in her room except a light and her bed. Put everything else away where she cannot access it...
- Homework is done in public
- No socializing with friends at all outside of school
- Selecting your clothing is a priviledge and something she can earn back- in the meantime you do it
- T.V. is a priviledge

This is essentially what "boot camp" is based on. The goal is to establish you and your husband as the authority figures in your home. You don't want her to fear you, but you do want her to respect you and connect her lifestyle with making good choices.

Establish very clear expectations and a charting system. At the end of the day if she has "earned" points (yes points are taken-away for violations) she may select one "small item" to have returned to her. If at the end of the week, she has met her goal, a larger item may be returned. At the end of two weeks, she may have a priviledge back.

This needs to be charted and made very clear. Decided ahead of time her "menu" of items and priviledges that are leveled and non-negotiable. Be prepared for her behavior to get worse before it gets better and remind her that achieving her goal (getting her stuff back) is entirely up to her!

Message me if you want more details.

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answers from Chicago on

I understand that you don't want your child to be a brat- but I don't think you want her to FEAR authority either. The whole rolling the eyes, having trouble with homework thing is pretty normal at that age.

It sounds to me like you've punished and taken things away, but you don't really have a system. It's just sort of random and one time you let her get away with it and another you don't... it's like having a toddler again or a dog- consistency is the key thing!

Also, of course you want her to be polite and well-behaved- but respect is a two way street and must be EARNED, by both kids and adults. You don't want her to not think and act for herself either.

What kind of behavior is she seeing at home? Remember, kids imitate what their family does. If she sees you and your husband yell or talk back to each other or act a certain way, she will imitate you. Or of course she might be seeing that behavior on TV and 'trying it out' in real life. Or picking it up from another kid. You need to figure out where this is coming from- all kids try acting out once in a while, but if she is doing this all the time, its coming from somewhere.
I think first you need her to be CRYSTAL clear what your expectations are and what will happen if she does not meet them. Make sure your husband is totally on the same page with you, so she can't play you off of each other.

1) Write down as many SPECIFICS as you can think of that are NOT acceptable ( eye rolling, sighing, foot stomping, 'snotty voice', etc) We talk to my son a lot about his ATTITUDE being just as important as whether or not he does something. For example, he gets an allowance for doing his chores- but he only gets the money if he also 'shows willing' and does them without being nagged about it and without sighing or grumping around or complaining!

2)Talk about tone of voice. If my son says something back to me under his breath or in a 'snotty' voice, I call him on it RIGHT AWAY. I repeat what he said to me in the exact same voice. Then I ask him " Do you think that was a nice way to talk to me? What were you trying to accomplish with that? If you don't like what I was saying, you can tell me so, but not in a rude voice. It is NOT acceptable for you to talk to me or anyone else in that tone of voice." ( BTW, I know this one sinks in because he HATES it when I imitate him like that, lol)

3) All kids can be bratty once in a while or say something they immediately wish had not come out of their mouths- just like the rest of us. Teach your daughter to THINK before she speaks! I tell my son this over and over and tell him to think about his words coming out of his mouth and hanging in the air after he says them- they don't just disappear and what you say has consequences!

4)Have a Family Meeting. Go over with your daughter what you except of her each day in terms of chores, homework, etc. Make it totally clear what things are absolute deal-breakers if she doesn't do them, or mouths back or whatever. Remember, as a parent, put out the big fires and step over the small ones! Again, all kids are going to drop the ball once in a while- no one, child or adult is perfect- but she is totally capable of knowing that some things are just not going to be tolerated.

Also at this meeting, ask HER what she thinks she ought to have to do, what rules are reasonable, etc. I am not saying you have to agree to everything, but compromise is a good skill and if she is willing to clean up the kitchen for 20 minutes of computer time or her favorite TV show, why not?

5) Now- consequences and rewards. I honestly believe that it is SUPER important to have both. We all have to do things we don't enjoy - but if you don't want to do your work, would you go if you didn't get paid? Of course not. Your daughter has no choice about having to DO her homework, but rewards and consequences can make it easier for her to make a GOOD choice about that.

I think with homework, you the parent really have to be on top of it. Email her teacher once a week to check in on her progress- and let her know you're doing so. Check to be sure she's done everything she was supposed to each evening. If she hasn't- then the first consequence is no dessert, no TV after dinner. If my son messes around too long not getting his work done, he has to set his alarm a half hour earlier for the next morning and get up and finish it before school.

But- if he does what he's supposed to, homework and chores, no complaining, no nagging from me, then he can have some ice cream and watch some TV before bedtime. Afterschool hang-outs (I am no longer allowed to call them playdates, lol) are also contingent on how much homework he has and if he gets it done in a timely fashion with NO complaining.

We will take away TV show and video game privileges for talking back, not doing homework or complaining about it too much. He KNOWS that is a possible consequence of his behavior and if he complains after it happens- then TWO nights with no privileges.

We do reward him with $10 per A on his grade card- which can be quite a haul if he does well. I don't see anything wrong with that kind of encouragement. His allowance is $10 every 2 weeks- if he has done his chores, he gets paid when we do. If not... then not.

The key thing is to decide what you can accept and what you can't. Then make sure your daughter knows exactly where you stand and what SPECIFIC punishment or rewards she will get based on her behavior.

but this is all pretty normal for my 10 year old and other friends of ours too. Just think, train her now and it will all be so much simpler when she is a teenager! Good luck!

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answers from New York on

This behavior sounds right on target. She is hitting her preteen years and puberty may be setting in. Those who don't listen feel. The trick with punishments is they have to be something the punished party can't live without. She doesn't care about many things. She may be acting out because of the move. I would suggest getting her some counseling. Try rewarding her good behavior more. She may just need some positive reinforcement. She is at an age where she doesn't want to be like you but wants to be her own person. She hasn't figured out that if she is good that also makes her, her own person too and not necessarily mini you or daddy.

You need to know what works for your girl best. I have some children that respond to being yelled at. Some really only respond if you beat them while others takes even more extreme measures but basically there is no rationalizing with any of them. Each of them have their ways. Eventually a light bulb goes off in their heads and then they begin to think once again like normal people (doesn't kick in real good until they are out your house and they are footing the bill for their world). Maybe more responsibilities will work with her. She needs firm consequences for her bad behavior. If she lies this will happen but if she is honest, that will happen. Always have the good outweigh the bad and she may see the light.

She is really trying to find her place in the world and is testing the boundaries. I wouldn't shelter her from the consequences of her actions or lack there of but would increase the rewards for doing more of the right things. She may work better with positive reinforcement. Get her more involved in the world around her by doing various community service projects or perhaps spending more time around positive role models that share your ideals. It really does take a village. I hope this helps. One of my kids ended up doing summer school because the homework thing and also missed a family vacation because of summer school. We had to leave her behind with family friends because I didn't feel like the rest of the family needed to be punished because of her bad behavior. When she successfully completed her summer course work with an A, she received a great extended weekend at the beach (which we planned anyway - just didn't let her know).

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answers from Dallas on

this sounds rough. could there be something else going on...could something have changed in the family or her life aside from the move. i would definitely take things away and explain to her that you dont want to do it but she is forcing you to with her lack of disrespect. whatever you do - dont get down on her level. you have to come across as the authority person. if that doesnt work over time, then it is time to speak with a therapist.


answers from Dallas on

I suffered a re-location when I was 14- my parents moved from Northern Illinois to Texas. I went through a phase after the move as well. I was SEVERELY depressed. I suggest taking your daughter to see a psychiatrist.

Good luck!



answers from Flagstaff on

I was her at that age. Start taking away everything like stereo, tv,etc. Also her hormones may be a cause. These days girls are starting pubery early, I just had heard of a girl who started at age 8! Next step is a therapist. Maybe she is not getting her needs met. Something strange is going on.


answers from Oklahoma City on

my step daughter did that (we know why but it's personal)....how it got stopped?? complete iscolation, she was stuck in her room doing homework while in there, or doing chores outside when fam was in and in when fam was out, and I dont' mean your every day sweep and mop, i mean on hands and knees hand mopping with a tooth brush, sweeping, etc....was HARD, and was a full weekend list (moving dirt to one pile just to move it back to keep her busy and moving) we also during this same era, we started giving all the kids amnesty, they could talk about nething and everythign RESPECTIVELY and not get in trouble, if you do this you CANNOT get on to them during or after the convo AT ALL or they will not trust you again the point is not to get them in trouble but to HELP them...also if you do, PREPARE for the worst such as them telling you they are out having sex or smoking weed, or what ever it is, so hopfully what they tell you will not be so disturbing

my husband eventually told her if you're still upset about that problem you need to step up and talk or sit and shut up...showed her we were no longer feeling sorry for her...and that helped to

she's testing boundaries, and probably upset about leaving friends behind and havng to start all over again


answers from Seattle on

This will be the first time I have ever offered up this advice, because I am not really a big fan of it...but...

I think its time to bring in a professional...find a good child therapist and take her. Allow her some time to "talk" to someone neutral...and express her feelings on what is happening in her head/heart/life/family etc.

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