Curbing 9 Year Old's Attitude

Updated on July 12, 2019
L.S. asks from Levittown, PA
14 answers

Lately whenever my 9 year old ds#1 speaks it comes nasty or with an attitude. When I try to correct him, he flips out and says he can't do anything.

I'm not sure what to do about it. I've tried talking to him and explaining how he comes across and he seems like he understands. But nothing changed. He's not a bad kid. He's always been happy and nice. I never get complaints from teachers or other parents. I just don't know how change his attitude.

Side note: he does have a 3 year old younger brother. They share a room currently so I know that bothers him sometimes.

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answers from Washington DC on


Ahhh....the age of "Independence"!!! About nine is when my kids copped an attitude and felt they were smarter than their dad and I! We told them if they felt they could do it better, please do - show us how. When they realized they couldn't? Well, their attitudes changed.

What I can tell you is the more you push and demand change? The worse it will get. This is NOT the hill to die on. When he cops an attitude? You tell him he can go sit in his room until he can speak to you like a young man. NO Electronics. NO TV. It's not a fun time. He can contemplate his navel. Go in after about 10 minutes and ask if he can talk like a young man yet? If the answer is still copping an attitude? Then say - let me know when you are willing to talk like a young man. WALK AWAY. DO NOT fight with him. Do NOT give him an attitude back.

You be the role model and keep calm. BREATHE mama!! You've got this.

If you can move him into his own room? Do. Six years is a big gap for kids to be sharing a room now. Especially as he reaches puberty. He will need his own space.

Good luck!

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answers from Norfolk on

He's learning these speech patterns from somewhere - try to find out where.
If it's a show he's watching - he doesn't watch that show anymore - or you watch it with him and point out to him why the actors are playing a part but that's not how people really should act.
If it's some of his friends - time to get your son involved with an activity so he doesn't have a lot of time to spend with those friends - you control his contact with his peer group that way.
If it's the music/games he's listening to then introduce him to other types of music/games.

All of this will take some time so in the mean time, when he speaks 'nasty' - tell him "I cant understand you when you talk like that. Find another way to say what you are trying to say".
He'll eventually get better at speaking to you in a more polite way.

Our son was younger than yours when he'd try out talking like some of his friends from school did - and I'd have to tell him that I know other people talk like that but we don't do that.

Also keep in mind that sometimes our kids save their attitude up during the day and lets it lose at the end of the day with us parents because they know we love them no matter what.
It's an odd way showing us they love/trust us - oh joy - but it's kind of an unconscious compliment.
It's a strain sometimes being good all day - and strangers see the nicer side of them.
If the kid is tired/hungry and feeling grumpy - even a 9 yr old - a snack and a nap will do everyone a world of good.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Instead of wanting to "curb" the attitude, try thinking about trying to understand his attitude and how you might help him to express himself in a way that is kind and respectful.

Make sure that your communication with him is always kind and respectful. Fight the urge to be angry with him when he is nasty. Your job is to help him do better, but correcting will only get you so far, as you are seeing, unless you address the reasons for his attitude.

Ask him if something is bothering him. Try to understand whatever he tells you. Help him problem solve how to address his concerns. Remind him that his feelings are OK, but you can listen better and be more helpful when he speaks to you with kindness and respect. Let him know how much you appreciate how nice he has always been, and that you expect him to continue to be nice even if something is upsetting him.

If he says something nasty, use either warmth or humor to remind him of your expectations.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I went through this when daughter was 9 as well.
Try to get to the root of it by calmly listening to what he has to say. Give him the space to get it ALL out. You might learn there’s other things besides sharing a room bothering him - like wanting to be treated more like a big kid than a little kid,etc.

Time spent now giving them the chance to safely talk things out will be very helpful down the road if serious stuff happens when he’s older.

Hang in there!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It could be a few things.

Puberty hits around now - hormones, age, moodiness

Lack of sleep, routine (summer), boredom (summer months, maybe lack of seeing friends regularly, peers ... seeing too much of younger brother/sibling, etc.).

Mine were all like this to some degree at this age. Even my sweetest child had a bit of an attitude around age 9/10/11. It just happened and we all acknowledged it at this age - the 'tween' years. It's when it starts, but you just nip in the bud.

Just don't accept it, as you wouldn't from anyone. They need to know mom is a person too - and not to be treated with disrespect. If you don't take it, they will stop.

I don't reason with my kiddos. I just let them know whose in charge, because honestly, they want limits/boundaries - not a softie or friend. When they feel out of control or emotional (he may, if he then flips and says he can't do anything right) he needs you to be firm but still mom.

That's not to say you aren't loving, etc. Just don't take any nonsense.

Hope that helps.

*When mine were particularly bad, mouthy or rude - to me, or to each other - they just were removed from our presence, or even sent outside, until they could be respectful - until such a time, no dinner, or no watching of movie with us, no coming to wherever we were going (dad sometimes stayed home with the offender,...). It doesn't take many times for message to sink in.

If you allow it, they will think 'ok' and keep repeating. I have a friend who just rolls her eyes, and kid is now teen and most disrespectful kid - it's awkward to be around them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I went through this will all four of my boys. This is when puberty right now you need to stay firm but don't lose it.

When my boys were "nasty" to me? I would give them a chance to correct themselves. I would say simply "you meant to say....right?" and if they continued with their nasty attitude I told them that they wouldn't get what they wanted with vinegar, try some honey. They would roll their eyes. At one point? I charged them a dollar for each time they treated me with disrespect. I know. But it got their attention and didn't take long for them to change their tune!! I would ask if they had a dollar to hand over as I won't be their whopping boy for free....

The other thing I make them do if and when they are being jerks? Sit ups. Push ups. Right there in front of me. I tell them drop and give me 10 or 20. No laughing. REALLY I do.

When they are fighting or dogging each other and it gets out of hand? I make them sit on the floor with their knees touching and they have to say 5 to 10 things NICE AND GOOD about the other person. So when they are starting to get out of hand? I ask them, do you have anything NICE to say about the other? DO we need to sit and say nice things?? At first they didn't get it. When I showed them what I meant and that I was serious? Well, they changed their tune.

What I have learned is to NOT give the attitude back. You MUST be the example and YOU MUST show them what you mean. Just because they are children doesn't mean they don't deserve respect too. Listen to yourself. Are you the one teaching them this? Listen to your husband. They are learning it somewhere.

This is going to be a challenge. Why? Because you have to watch yourself as well. Knowing YOUR attitude and how you speak to them and others. You might learn by truly listening to yourself and others...

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

"Explaining how he comes across" is too much for a 9 year old to take in. When he requests or demands something with attitude, just calmly ask him to repeat it in an acceptable way. "Do you mean, Mom, can I please have ice cream?" Or, "Can you try saying that again more nicely?" Or, "Mommy can't hear you when you ask like that, can you try again another way?"

Keep really calm, keep your directions short, and don't respond to him until he says something in the desired fashion.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

how would you react if you were 'corrected' each time you expressed yourself?

how do you interact with him regularly?

kids learn what they live, not what they're told. you 'talking to him and explaining' doesn't mean diddly. if he's nasty, he's learned somewhere that expressing oneself with a 'tude is an effective means of communication. where would that be?

i'd focus less on explaining and more on modeling. when he smarts off, ignore him. seriously ignore him. he gets nothing when he's a jerk, not even an eyebrow twitch. he ceases to exist.

when he communicates pleasantly, or even neutrally, don't throw a party. just respond promptly and with courtesy.

don't expect it to change within a week. he didn't get here overnight and you won't correct it overnight.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

It's the age...they are getting hormones. When my 9 year old daughter speaks to me with attitude I say, well, that was not nice, try phrasing that again. If she's in a real mood most of the time I tell her to go get a snack and go chill and do something calm for a while. I try not to engage for a while bc everything I say will annoy her when she's like that. If she's REALLY really rude I send her to her room to calm down but this rarely happens. Her brother (who is a teen now) was really bad at this age. I had to send him to his room often. And take away electronics often. He would be extremely angry and volatile and later would apologize. He just could not handle his strong emotions at that time. He had to learn ways to handle things in a mature way - he did some therapy in 4th and 5th grades which was very helpful. The therapist worked on behavior and taught him how to handle things himself in a mature way...the right way to deal with anger...the right way to behave when you are upset and not getting your way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I am sorry to hear that, maybe what you could do is ask him a question about what happened. Nine is a common age for kids to hit puberty, so maybe the chemicals in the brain say to the kid, “you need to grow up and be a man, not a little boy.” It could cause discomfort in kids close to teenage years.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

This is normal (but frustrating) for this age. Maybe you can approach this from a problem-solving perspective? I'm thinking along the lines of getting his permission to record an interaction with him so that you can watch the playback together and let him see what you're seeing and hearing. Sometimes watching/hearing your own tone can bring an awareness of how you come across. If you can accomplish that and he can acknowledge that yeah, he wouldn't speak that way towards another adult, or he would feel uncomfortable if he heard a friend talk to his mom that way, then you can agree on a prompt that will help him take a breath and correct. In my house, I use "nope, you've gone too far, try again" as the reset prompt, or "take a break and come ask me again when you can be calm and respectful."

I can tell you that this is really common and gets better when they hit late teens/early adulthood. My 15 year old is still really nasty, a lot. He's got some issues that make filtering his words and attitude more difficult than normal (ADHD and some oppositional defiant tendencies) so we have these reset moments (or loss of privileges when he's really rude and obnoxious) pretty frequently, especially when his medication wears off or he's hungry or tired. My 13-year-old tends to be this way really only when he's over-tired or hungry. Their older brother, who is 21 and apparently forgets about how snotty and huffy and full of attitude he was at the same ages, will frequently call them out on their tone. He was probably 16 or 17 when the chip started to come off his shoulder and he could interact consistently like a normal person with pleasant conversational skills. It's like toddlerhood all over again, and then they become nice people after.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Nip this rude disrespectful behavior in the butt.
Have consequences to his rudeness.

1. Snap back and call him out.

2. Make a big deal that he is throwing another tantrum and treat him like a little baby. Because he can’t control himself, right? Tell everyone he is regressing and acting like his 3 year old brother.

3. Tell him he can’t go any where or doing anything fun, because of his bad attitude is too embarrassing and rude, he says he has problems controlling himself.

4. Don’t answer him completely ignore him when he is acting rude.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I’m loving reading all of the responses because it is always challenging when our kids reach this point. I know I’ve learned some great techniques through this post.
If this behavior is out of character for your son, one thing to look at is his diet. Is he eating too much sugar/junk food? I took note of this when my oldest started giving responses that were out of nature for him. Sugar can have a negative effect on hormones, causing behavioral reactions. Making a diet change was my first plan of attack and it helped dramatically.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Funny story: I was at a kids' sports event last week. A teen (likely older brother of a kid on the team) walked over to his dad and asked a question. I didn't hear the dad's response, but I heard the teen's response to his dad which was "I asked a question, I didn't ask for an attitude." I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud because I imagine that these are words he took straight from his dad and turned them back around on him.

So, a few pieces of advice. 1) Make sure you are modeling polite behavior because as the story above shows, your kids are watching you. 2) try the things below until you find a response that fits you and your kid's personalities. My own is to cock an eyebrow and say "Would you like to rephrase that?" 3) pick your battles. If you know the underlying issues is a frustrating situation or that he's starving or exhausted, let it go in the moment. If it's really rude, discuss it later after the underlying issue has been resolved.

ETA: Oh, I forgot that at one point, I told my kids that they owed me 5 pushups for every deep sigh I got when I reminded them to do a chore. After about 3 days and many pushups, both my kids stopped that annoying reaction.

1 mom found this helpful
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