Disrespectful 8 Yr Old

Updated on September 11, 2010
C.H. asks from Little Rock, AR
15 answers

I have a daughter that is 8yrs and has become increasingly disrespectful. She started out talking back and has now started nudging me out of the way or hitting me lightly, her disrespect is very embarrassing when it happens in public. I usually take her to the side and explain her behavior is unexceptable and that she will have to have time out. She always responds I don't care. And she doesn't seem to. I have tried taking away TV, and Computer but that doesn't work either. I have two teenage daughters and I do not have this problem with them or never did. My older daughters sometimes try to intervene which ampliflies the problem so My husband and I always ask them to stay out of it. When we try to talk to her she constantly interrupts and will not listen to us. We usually get so discouraged we send her to her room. But the problem starts again as soon as she is out. It is to the point where I do not want to go in publc with her because I feel she is being judged as a bad kid and I do not have control as a parent. Not sure what to do at this point any advice?

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So What Happened?

wow thanks for all the advice. Update is she is once again the loving sweet girls she was before. I felt all along that there must be some underlying reason for her change in attitude. It wasn't until I grounded her and stayed home from a football game, where the rest of the family went that she finally....after a long and exhausting couple of hours came forth with her true feelings. I did send her to her room with journal and asked for her to write down her feelings since she could not express them. She had a hard time with this task but finally came down with a few feelings written down. This was very helpful since she then opened up and discussed with me why she felt that way. Turns out she has been feeling she is not as important as her sisters. I can see this since her sisters are very active and the family activitives usually center around their activities. She enjoys going but is never the center of attention. I have since put her in girls on the run in which I now help coach. She loves having my attention and something that she participates in and feels the accomplishments that her older sisters feel..She is not a runner but loves the program and all of its games and lessons on self esteem and confidence. It is a great program and she is even enjoying the running. All in all she is happy once again and we finally have peace again in the family....yay! Thanks for all the advice.

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answers from San Francisco on

You need to put a major spanking on her!!! I remember one time my son tried to slap the side of face and I spanked his butt... and that was the last time he ever raised his hand at me!! He is only 4yrs old. He must have not been thinking that day, because I don't play that!! She needs to know that you are the mom and you are the boss of her, how dare she do that to you.. send her to my house and i will set her straight!!

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answers from Portland on

I can't say enough good things about the approach used in the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. I've watched it turn around some alarming behavior in some young families I've recommended it to, and in a very short time. For many kids, there will always be personality problems, but even there tremendous improvement is possible.

The book focuses on learning to really listen to a child's issues, which helps the child understand her own issues and learn to take responsibility for them. And kids will do that once they know their parents are on their side, and not at war with them.

This not a book that condones pushover parenting. It also helps parents understand to most clearly and effectively make their own needs understood by the child.

Try this. I think you'll really, really like the results.

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answers from Portland on

First, take a look at how you treat her. Are you always respectful with her? Do you talk to her in a similar manner that you would talk to an adult? I've watched many parents demanding respect from their child while being disrespectful themselves. Do you ask her to not interrupt when you're talking or do you order her to stop? for example. Your tone of voice is very important. Its so easy to slip into a disrespectful tone of voice when we're frustrated.

I'm sure your frustration level is high and it shows in your actions and tone of voice. Find a way to regain control of yourself so that you're not reacting to her in frustration. You must show her in your tone of voice and in your actions that you are in charge. It's a subtle but very important difference. When you react in frustration you're modeling for her that when one is frustrated it's acceptable to be disrespectful.

I suggest that you immediately intervene with an immediate consequence whenever she talks back or nudges you out of the way or hitting you, by immediately sending her to her room. Use a calm, unemotional tone of voice. Tell her she can come out when she's able to say she's sorry for being disrespectful and can act respectfully.

Talk to her ahead of time about this new way of discipline. Explain to her that this is not punishment. It is a way to allow her to regain control of herself and a way for you to maintain control of yourself. Perhaps even tell her you're in this together; that it's your responsibility to help her learn how to be respectful. Be sure to let her sisters know that this is the plan.

Just this week my 7 yo was telling me he was not going to bed. I left the room and when I came back, he was in bed and told me he was sorry but I started it. He has a speech disorder and I thought perhaps I'd misunderstood and so I just looked at him puzzled and asked what he'd said. He said, "we're in this together?" I chuckled, picturing how so very much we were in it together and said, "Yes." He then again said he was sorry and snuggled up next to me. The fight was over.

At first you probably will have to stop what you're doing and literally stand firm and repeat that she is to go to her room until she's able to tell you she's sorry and be respectful. BTW how long she stays in her room is up to her. Don't physically force her to her room. Just do the stare down.

With some kids you can take their hand and lead them to their room. If your daughter will follow and you can maintain your cool, try this.

The idea is to immediately send her to her room. She knows she's been disrespectful and you've reinforced it by telling her she's to go to her room until etc. Don't try to teach or explain with words. You've already tried that and it isn't working. Do not allow any space for anyone to continue a conversation or get involved.

If she doesn't say she's sorry or she says it in a sarcastic way, she immediately goes back to her room. No discussion. Remember you are showing her that you are in control not only of whether or not she goes to her room but also of your own emotions. Be matter of fact. It might help for you to think of pleasant things even while you're being firm with her. Definitely do not go over and over in your mind that you are going to make her behave.

Whether or not she behaves is her decision. She knows that when she chooses to not behave she will be in her room until she chooses to behave. You are in charge of what you will allow in your presence and she chooses how she will be in your presence. If she chooses an attitude or action that you won't allow in your presence then she has to out of your presence in a space so that she can think about her choice.

My daughter allows her children, 10 and 7, to play in their room if they want to do so on the theory that we often need a break in the way we're thinking in order to make a better decision. Even tho they're playing they are working thru the issue in the back of their mind.

Remember, the choice to be respectful or not is her choice. You're sad when she chooses disrespect. You're respecting yourself by requiring that she go to her room when she's behaving this way. You're pleased when she chooses respect. Give her praise. Along the way tell her you know that she will make a good decision.

Don't take her out in public until she can be respectful at home. Let her know this in a respectful way. Tell her you're hurt and embarrassed when she's disrespectful. If she responds with a so what, that is more disrespect. Stop talking with her and send her to her room. This reminds me: always make your statements based on describing her effect on you. Avoid blaming her. Just make a statement about your expectations that she be respectful. "I expect both of us to show respect to the other one." "When you talk back, I feel angry and want to yell at you. I'll tell you to go to your room so that both of us can rethink this issue."

You are in it together. Remember that lecture and explanations don't work. You're to the expect good behavior phase because she already knows the details of and the reasons why you expect what you expect.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Dear C.H. --

I am so glad your older daughters did not act this way.
It sounds like you have raised two well-behaved, caring,
compassionate young women. Congratulations.

Some of the answers here are quite long.
The emphasis there is not on DD's behavior
but on possible REASONS for the behavior.
On what may be going on inside your daughter's mind.
The behavior is a symptom of something else.

An 8-year-old cannot perform thoughtful introspection
and consider what's meaningful and important in her life.

If there is any confusion or fear or frustration,
for whatever reason(s), she may develop some behaviors
that are like a barrier, a wall to keep people from
seeing into her vulnerable, fearful inner confusion.
She's unable to explain this.

Please follow up as others have suggested here . . .
talk to her teachers, consider getting some counseling . . .
together, not just DD.

Has she had a check-up with the pediatrician lately?
Maybe there are some physical symptoms happening
that are frightening her. Early puberty? Hormones?

Or, you could simply do what Vallejo mom suggested,
whale the tar out of her bottom and show her who's the boss.
That is likely to ensure she'll start running away from home
at her earliest opportunity, and will never TRUST you,
the special person who will always be there for her, no matter what.


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answers from San Francisco on

She sounds angry...any idea why??
Have you talked to her teacher to find out how things are at school? Sometimes school and home have different behavior from a child. If she has no trouble in school and her grades are good, then that is a good sign, and might indicate that it isn't a personality thing, but a family relationship issue. Some schools have free counseling offered--you might look into it, either way.
The backtalk can come with the age, for some, but the nudging/hitting is way out there. That sounds like serious anger to cause that kind of aggression.
Keep in mind that often the kids who say "I don't care" about consequences often care very much. They don't respond, but inside, they really feel negative feelings. The ones that act tough are sometimes the ones who are scared inside. Sometimes the "I don't care" is another way of saying "I am strong, I'm not going to let anyone hurt me or control me"...like they don't feel they have enough control in their life, and this is a way they have chosen to take more control.
Sometimes at around that age kids feel like they are treated "as babies" and wanted to be treated as more adult. They don't realize what treatment is age appropriate for them, they just know what they want.

I have had to sit down with my son and make him talk about what is going on when he has been acting out for no apparent reason---he hates talking and yells and cries, but eventually something comes out.
Sometimes what comes out is NOT the real truth, however...but at least from whatever he says, I can learn something about what is going on in his mind. Sometimes kids don't want to tell the truth because it is embarrassing, private or they just think they might get into trouble.

Also, keep in mind that some kids start puberty early...I know of at least one girl who started her period at 9. This could be partly a hormonal thing.

Of our three, two are well behaved and one has (so far) turned out surprisingly selfish, rude and immature...we hope that this will change in time, but we know it is not that we did anything wrong, just that he is stubborn and his world view is still very mixed up, and he doesn't know as much as he thinks he knows...some kids are like that.

One more thing to add: I tell my kids that when their behavior is bad, people don't want to be around them. That is true for all people--no one wants to be around nasty rude behavior. Parents don't want to be around, friends don't want to be around...so if they don't want to be alone all the time, they need to have some self-control and some communication about how to solve problems. I think your daughter will recognize the truth of this statement. She might say "So what?" or "Good, I want to be left alone", but she will be thinking about it.

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answers from Honolulu on

Has anyone talked with her.... openly, and asked her why she acts this way? What is going on in head or emotions when she does this?

... try to correct it before she hits the Tweens and Teens... Tweens age is from 9-12 years old...
maybe look online and do a Google search for "Tween Development"... there are lots of articles about it.

Does she have problems at school with her behavior?
What are her friends like?
Does she have friends?
What does her Teacher say about how she is at school?
Try looking at her whole life... and see if anything is amiss...
Or, if this is behavioral problems that need outside intervention, ask your Pediatrician for resources... suggestions...

To a certain extent... how does she feel about HERSELF? Is she confident and self-assured? Many times, insecure kids, act this way...
A sibling of mine was like that... and she basically was real insecure... but acted all "tough" on the outside and let NO ONE tell her what to do.
So investigate that perspective too... maybe your daughter has self-esteem issues.... as well....

It is 'good' that your older daughters try to help... at least compliment them on that... acknowledge their help... then say its best if you/Dad handle it. Because otherwise, they may feel that they are not being 'good' either... and they may then not even want to help, at all.

all the best,

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answers from Little Rock on

I have a 2 friends whose daughters were like that. You couldn't get them to help with chores, they were always in a mood, one was always angry and the other was always in tears. Both girls were diagnosed with ADHD even though they did fairly OK in school. Both girls were put on medication and they are now the most polite and happy girls you ever saw and the their grades in school improved as well. One friend even said that her daughter does chores now without even being asked. I'm not saying that your daughter has ADHD, just giving you something to think about. If she has always been disrespectful and moody since around 4 or 5 years old, this may be the problem.

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answers from Stationed Overseas on

have you ever heard of a spanking? That always works. I know now a lot of parents are like we don't want to hit our children. What the hell do you think people back in the day did. Didn't your parents ever do it to you? I know mine did. If what you are doing isn't working try that. Then she will know if she does something bad that's what she gets plus a punishment. Trust me it will work. My mom did it to me and my sister and we came out pretty well. I now have a 5 month old and one on the way. I plan on doing it too when they get older. I won't tolerate my child hitting me or telling me what to do. I am sorry if this comes off as rude, it's not meant to be. It just irritates me when parents complain that their child isn't caring about time out or things being taken away and then not knowing what else to do. If nothing else works do that. I wish the best of luck to you and your husband.

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answers from New York on

in public.. bring her home.. tell her go ahead act out.. no matter where you are... just say to the others well as you can see my daughter is acting like a baby... so i must bring her home.. if she decides to stop acting out.. (you say this to them... so she can hear) if she decides to be good.. we will stay... she has 1, 2 3.... she owes everyone and you an apology.. or you take her by the hand .. and go home.. she'll learn...

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answers from San Diego on

why don't you try diferent tekniques, like everytime she is good reward her with something small and shel know that she will get something for for being good. or try doing arts and crafts with her so you can have the time to talk to her like a friend and a mom about her behavier maybe she will understand.

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answers from Detroit on

Sounds like your 8 year old *may* need a reminder of how good she has it. I remember one time, my sister slammed her door so hard, it almost broke an expensive painting. So....

My dad took EVERYTHING out of her room! She had her bed, her dresser, and basic stuff for toiletries. No frills, no tv, no phone, no nothing! She went to school, came home, did chores, set the table, and had to "earn" the right to have her luxuries. It took my sister 2 months to earn the t.v/cable, computer-time, etc back.

It's not being mean, it's returning her to the basics of life.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Dr. Phil would say you need to find her currency. What is it that she values more than anything? Cell phone? Tv? an activity? Explain why it is being taken away. I know my boys currency! I tell my boys all the time "you never hit your mother and you don't say ugly things with the same mouth you kiss me with". I do like the idea of Allison H. of "embarrassing" your child like her bad behavior embarrasses you. I also always tell my kids they can tell me anything but I may not like what they have to say or what they did. Could she just need more parent time to feel loved? I mean real one on one time doing something fun. Good luck!



answers from Fayetteville on

For those who recommend spanking, which is another word for hitting, remember it's the easiest and certainly the most justified release of your own anger, but you're supposed to be the adult. Cure hitting with hitting? Mummmm--a strange message to "don't hit," isn't it? I admit to giving it back as hard as I've gotten it at times, but it's been more of a, "You hit me and I'll hit you back" moment, which I've explained to the child as it happens. Generally when he realizes he's causing his own pain with each hit he makes to me, he wises up and stops, gaining self-control, while being aware what he's doing is really not a fun game. But being stronger and more powerful and spanking as punishment is a totally different thing, one of exertion of might and physical dominance. Keep in mind also that spouse abusers were usually abused children--it becomes a never ending cycle of violence as a solution to frustrations by adults too immature to outsmart their own child with parenting skill. At times, however, a child truly has a physical/mental make-up that causes him/her to act out aggressively, but that's still not an excuse for physically causing him pain.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Sounds like she has anger issues and if possible, needs to see a counselor. My daughter was very rebellious as child of that age, and I never abused her. However, she hated her dad, disassociated herself from him when she got older, and is just now at the age of 45 decided she might go visit him at least just once more.

Personally, I feared my father who used the belt on me. I think the belt might be good idea, but done with love and not anger. When it is done in anger, the child feels rejected. You don't want that. I think she might need a healthy fear of authority, since she is such a rebellious child. Of course, this is just my opinion, and I didn't beat my children. But, as I look back, it might not have been a bad idea since she has control over you and your feelings as it is. Just one person's opinion. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

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