9 Year Old Boy with Bad Attitude

Updated on February 29, 2008
T.R. asks from Grandview, TX
7 answers

My 9 year old son has been giving us "attitude" when we ask him to do something. He obeys but makes faces or moans and groans. This is really annoying to my husband and me. Also, he is being mean to his little sister (not physically) but saying ugly things like "you have an ugly laugh" etc.

We have raised the children on Bible stories and "treat others the way you want to be treated", etc. We are discipling our son but are wondering WHY he has become so mean. (We ask, but he just shrugs his shoulders)

Any suggestions?

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answers from Dallas on

Attitudes are heart issues. We can't force a heart change, only a behavior change. My belief is that the heart issues are far more important than the behavior! So, you need to focus on getting to his heart. Making faces and groaning are all subtle signs of rebellion, no matter how common they are in pre-teens.
I would sit down with him and describe what he's doing and how it "looks" to you. ie that it looks like rebellion. Be very positive and say things like, "Now Mommy knows you do not want to be like that, right?" When he finally agrees with you that he does not want that attitude, discuss with him what will help him to change it. He may have an answer for you. Pray with him about his heart change. Let me caution you here, do not pray with him UNLESS he has told you he wants to change it. That is the key actually - to have him tell you he wants to change...because at his age, he's trying to find some kind of control. He knows he has to obey, but the faces are a way of exhibiting that he is still in control.
Addressing heart issues is an area that takes a lot of positive reinforcement and praise. Be all over him with praise when he does something without grumbling. In a gentle way remind him of the verse, "Do everything without complaining." The Hide 'em in your heart CD has the song on it. There is really so much to help affect heart change, that I fear this post will get far too long.

This is how I would handle grumbling. When I ask a child to do a task and they grumble or make faces, I would likely respond in a funny way rather than in an authoritative way. By smiling really big and saying something about smiling makes an unpleasant job a lot more fun, grumbling only makes it feel worse.
I would ask if he wants to do an experiment today. Assuming you get some kind of affirmative response - Tell him you're going to do an experiment about attitudes and behavior. Tell him that for a couple of hours when you ask him to do something, he is allowed to grumble and complain. BUT - he has to think about how it makes him feel inside. Then after a couple of hours talk to him about how he felt doing the jobs while grumbling. Then do a couple of hours where he is to respond in a positive upbeat way, such as saying, "I would be delighted to Mom!" when asked to do something. Then come together and ask him again how he felt inside when doing the jobs in a positive way.

The bottom line here is that he needs to see that his attitude plays a big role in how he feels about something, and that you can't force him to have a good attitude, but that it is really in his best interest to have one. Then sit down and work out a good solution for him to have a good attitude. Pray with him about God changing his attitude. Then, now this is really important. Ask him to go pray by himself and ask God how you can help him change his attitude. When he comes back with a solution, then you can just remind him that he has asked you to help him.
I know this was a long post - This topic is dear to my heart -One of the chapters in my book, I'm Going to be the Greatest Mom Ever...Even if it Kills Me! talks about child led behavior change. I'll tell you - with eight children, it has been extremely effective.

T. (too) Camp

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answers from Dallas on

Sorry, I didn't read that he is homeschooled, the first time I read this. I agree with one of the other gals that wrote in on this also. Maybe he is not getting enough alone time or maybe he needs more social time with other boys or kids his own age. I have heard homeschooling kids have social groups where you can get to know other kids that are homeschooled. I would encourage you do some of these things and see if there is some improvement.

I would see if your Daughter is doing anything to upset or agigate your son. You might talk to your Daughter alone and see what she says. See if she is doing anything to your Son to annoy him. You could try talking to your Son also, not sure if he will talk much. We've never had much luck with getting a lot information from boys. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. Do they share a TV or share other things, maybe it something really simple.

We use Love and Logic (we are foster parents and the public schools use this also). You could try some of their techniques, they have books, tapes, videos, lots of information that might help you also. Website is www.loveandlogic.com

You could also start a chart with goals or things want to improve with their behavior. You could track it that way and see if that helps. You can also have rewards for good behavior, if you feel that is necessary. What works for one child, doesn't always work for another child.

I know we had a borderline MR child that needed lots of help, tutoring and help with homework. We had another child also and he got very jealous when he saw we were giving extra attention to his foster brother. He would do bad things just to get any type of attention.

He may be wanting more attention or feels he is not getting enough attention.

Good luck, C.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

i call it preteen attitude. yes it starts early! i have no answers, but empathy!



answers from Dallas on

I to have an almost 9 year old boy and a 7 year old girl....and they are the same way???? If you find a solution please let me in on it!!
my son backtalks and has an answer for everything. but i have noticed that my daughter is always under his nose and she is very "sneaky " about things she does to him. SO i am trying to give him his alone time each day to see if that helps....but who knows i feel like i have tried everything.



answers from Dallas on

WOW! Aleisha could be describing my kids right down to their ages. I too have a 9 year old boy and a 7 year old girl. I should just DITTO what Aleisha said.

I think it is just they way they are at this age. My son thinks he is grown. My daughter thinks she is some sort of princess.

I figure, pick your battles on this one. I know that making faces and groaning is irritating, but as long as he is doing what you ask, is it really that big of a deal? Now when it comes to all out back talk, then that is a problem. He has pretty much stopped that unless he is angry.

My daughter is often the reason for my son's attitude toward her. Somehow she set him off, and at that moment it could have been the slightest little thing. Who knows. I try to hear both sides and then they both are usually in the wrong. Her for starting it, and him for the follow through.

Hope that helps. At least you know you are not in it alone.




answers from Dallas on

Wow. You just described by now 17 year old when he was 9. I'm not sure what to do to entirely change it. He has become a very nice and caring older brother although he still gives his younger brother a difficult time on occasion. I know he has worked very hard on his attitude toward his family. He used to act like that toward everyone, but we worked it out of him. It took quite a while. Mostly telling him that kind of behavior is not tolerated by us for ANY reason to ANYBODY. I know some of it had to do with my divorce not too long before he reached that age, but I gave him the various examples of people he admired who had it "harder" than he does. Like I said, he has turned out to be a good and kind young man. Don't give up. Kids are worth it (I didn't need to tell you that).



answers from Dallas on

Hi T., if I understand correctly, Jacob is home-schooled with a younger sister, but no brothers, which is all fine. My question: has Jacob a chance to develop friendships with other boys his age and share activities with them? Perhaps meeting more of his "boys" needs and interests, would make him more willing to listen to your requests. If his attitude still doesn't change, and you know the things that he's really enjoying, at least then you can make them conditional pending on his behavior. But beware, from my own experiences I know children will watch if you live up to your promises. I hope this helps. E.

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