Disrespectful 9 Year Old

Updated on January 15, 2016
D.M. asks from Clayton, NC
9 answers

My son has always been very sweet and very sensitive to other peoples feelings, especially those he cares about the most. But over the last 6 months his behavior has taken a turn for the worse. People who have always compliment us on his behavior are now saying they are seeing a change in him. It is not all the time but just randomly and sometimes out of nowhere and for no reason. Last week he was a complete angel, he is in third grade and they get a daily grade (A, A-, B and so forth) he has always brought home an A, A-/+. But over the weekend I notice his attitude getting worse, we do the timeout and sit on the stares to think about it. Then when his time is up he comes to us tells us why he was punished and to come up with his own solution as to how he needs to change. This usually works BUT not the last few days. We had some neighbors over for a going away party (they are moving to Africia with the military) and he through a fit because he didn't want anyone playing in his room. Understandable they always leave it a mess, well said family came over for dinner on Monday because the movers have packed up everything in their house but the air mattress and a few clothes and he through a HUGE fit. Whining because they do not watch the same kind of TV show, whining because we added more chairs to our table and he wasn't in the exact same spot (6 inch difference) he normally sits in. Tuesday we got a note from his teacher that he was being rude and talking in line about repeated warnings (ok kids talk it happens I get that). Wednesday I get a note from his Technology teacher saying he was rude, disrespectful and very hateful. He had trouble signing into his account and she asked him to try again, he rolled his eyes at her and in a yelling manner told her he already did it once. When she went to correct him he told her it was a free country. We have taken away all technology (which he loves), no TV for 5 days, and no friends. He had to write an apology letter to BOTH teachers and hand deliver it with a verbal apology. Again this is not all the time, we will have a great week or two where he is perfect, helps out in the house, does his chores without us asking. Then we have HELL week, and it takes everything not to loss our [email protected]&%. We really don't know what else to do, nothing in his environment has changed, that was the first thing we looked at, nothing in school has changed so we really have no idea what is going on with him. As he is our only child we are not sure if they is normal behavior and a stage we need to work through or if something else is going on. So my question is (after a long explanation) has anyone been through something like this and how did you get through it or handle it?

Thank you.

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answers from Portland on

Have you just listened to him? Like not when you're upset or he's upset - but just taken him someplace, the two of you (or with your husband - whoever he relates and opens up to the best) and just said "Hey .. anything going on? Anything you want to talk about?". I got that advice on here - the listening, and mirroring emotions back to the kid. Because he may have hit puberty. They say it's around 9 or 10 now - one of my boys definitely hit it that early. It was like night and day. Hormones galore. I didn't even know boys had emotional upheavals. So we took our guy to counselling. The therapist said oh his emotions are just all over the place. Cut him a bit of slack. Totally not what I was expecting. I was thinking he needed to be pulled in a bit - boundaries, rules, consequences. Well those hadn't changed. Always had those in place. He had.
So ... I listenened. My word. That boy had drama going on in his life out of no where. But it was more just that he was taking things far more to heart, far more sensitive, things bugged him that hand't, etc. I remembered what I'm like around PMS. I can lose it over the smallest thing. Can tear up over nothing. So ... maybe kids experience puberty a bit like that? Anyways, we're over the worst of it now. But I just gave him plenty of downtime, if he was being snappy off to his room he went (but not a time out, just so I didn't yell at him and he could collect himself). We just kept reiterating that you don't get to treat us like ... just because you feel upset. So he knew he had to tone it down if he wanted to be included.
When we punished ours (which we did at first) it didn't help at all. He felt more misunderstood, that the world was against him, that we didn't care, that we didn't understand .... so we stopped. So we just did the consequence thing. If you talk to me disrespectfully, you don't get to join us at the table tonight. You don't get to watch American Idol with mom tonight. Kind of thing.
If you are disrespectful at school, then you lose hockey.
If you don't finish an essay, you lose hockey.
I found not participating in fun stuff with family or with friends or team mates - biggest way to get through to them. So it's not long term punishment. It's not grounding. They lose one event they want to do with us or friends. If they don't clean room no kids over.
That works pretty well here. Some days it doesn't. Some days I just wonder why on earth they are so horrible. But that's been my approach so far. I keep learning on this site though. The listening/mirroring one is a good tactic though. Works better than anything I had tried before. Good luck :)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Your Nine Year Old: Thoughtful and Mysterious – by Louise Bates Ames

Is a great book about nine year olds..she has a book for each age up to ten...then the tween group is lumped together.

I have recommended this series to every mom I know and it is so good...tells you what to expect with each age.

Every time I have though my son or daughter is doing something so strange...I have picked up the book for their age (and the one behind it and in front of it) and discovered that for the most part, wow that is totally normal for the age. And it gives great advice on how to handle each age best.

This is based on years and years of research on each age group. The books are a bit dated but kids haven't really changed sense they did their research.

I looked for my nine year old book to read on what you are discussing about and can't find it, so I probably loaned it out.

Hope this helps...the series has really helped me...

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answers from Portland on

Nine is sort of a banner year for this behavior. If you mine the Mamapedia annals (oh, what I'd give for a good search engine on this site), you'll find a lot of " attitude/ 9 Year old" questions.

I really do think some of it is hormones. Some of it is getting older and, dare I say it, wanting more autonomy/hating to be bossed around. For some kids (like yours and mine), being confronted with their own mistakes or incompetence (eg: the password for computer) is an affront to their ego. I'm not surprised about the proprietary feelings regarding his room (I never force my son to share his room with other kids, that's his personal space)..... what certainly needs addressing, of course, is the backtalk and rudeness to others. It sounds like that was handled appropriately with apologies.

When our kiddo (nearly 9) is out of bounds with behavior, we sort of take it by degrees. There's a difference between being angry and defiant just to assert ourselves and being angry because there's a deeper upset. So, I handle those differently. Attitude-- we remind him what are acceptable ways to express himself ("I am fine if you want to talk about this, however, if you are yelling, you need to go take a break and come back when you've cooled off"). Upset-- sometimes I just need to let him find a way to feel better AND really listen without judgment. Sometimes these coalesce and the sense of incompetence will be compounded by anger toward another situation and then I really try to let him talk, give reflective listening feedback ("I hear you saying that when X happens, you feel angry. Yeah, I think I would find that frustrating too.") and do some problem-solving, asking him to come up with ideas.

Of course, there are times when, as parents, we need to say "please go do X, no more arguing" and have it done with. Again, I really try to base my response on what I'm seeing. I try to listen, not shut him down automatically, and then offer solutions. Last night Kiddo didn't want to take out the recycling-- he'd already struggled with some other moments. So I asked him to find a solution to getting the task done. He wrote a note stating that he'd do it today and we both signed it. Sometimes, giving them a bit of control over things that don't really matter (like, we aren't missing a garbage pickup day! :) ) helps them have balance. Honestly, the biggest complaint my son has at this point is that he 'hates being bossed around', so any time I can give him autonomy, I try to. Sure, that means that he might miss out on some things if he chooses not to manage his time well (homework isn't done? No media time.), however, it gives him the self-direction he craves AND it teaches him how to follow through with making a plan for himself.

I suppose I don't have much more to offer than my own experience. Nine is tough. It's okay to send them to cool off in their rooms and it's good for them to learn to apologize and make amends for their offensive actions-- so I guess my advice is to make sure you are offering balance whenever possible. Don't over-indulge complaining and don't shut it down out of hand, either. There's a lot of listening going on in our home. And be sure to do some fun things together unrelated to the stressful stuff. Take a walk together. Go out to play at the nickel arcade. Go for a hike, go to the library. Go explore something *he's* interested in. Play a cooperative game or something which he can handle losing because 'losing' is funny. Kiddo thinks it's a treat to go spend time looking at fish at the aquarium store--- it doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Just spend time together. Try to cultivate those softer moments in the relationship.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

It could be he is approaching puberty with it's influx of hormones. Or growing pains. Or a new bully at school. Or he is developing a food allergy. Or any number of other causes.

Whatever the cause, he needs coping strategies. I started making my son run laps around the block when I saw he was about to lose his cool (he now runs cross country). It wasn't about punishing him, but a way to burn off the extra energy until he could think clearly again. Keep expecting respect and good behavior, listen patiently, and allow him to set some of his own boundaries. And if the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde act continues, talk to his pediatrician.

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answers from Springfield on

This is just so normal for a 9 year old. That doesn't mean that it's ok for him to behave this way or that it isn't something to correct and try to improve. You do want to continue you correcting his behavior and showing him that you expect better. But it is very, very age appropriate for him to have bad days and situations that he doesn't handle correctly..

I think the previous posts really hit the nail on the head. Kids are always developing and always dealing with new and different things in their world. When they have more to deal with, they are going to get overwhelmed and not always know how to cope and are sometimes going to lash out.

I don't think the answer is always to take things away or to punish. Sure that plays a role, but recognize that he might need more attention and a listening ear to help him figure out if there is something going on that is stressful for him. When things are calm and neither one of you is upset, talk to him. Ask him some casual questions about school and his friends and see where the conversation goes. Even if you don't get any information out of him about what's bothering him, you will give him a better feeling about your relationship and possible help him to come to you later.

I think it's really important to not take these behavior changes too seriously. Yes there is behavior that needs to be corrected, but this is just part of growing up. Kids are going to go through changes and through phases where they are overwhelmed and will lash out. It's important to help him developing better ways to cope, but there isn't always a deep underlying problem. Sometimes it's just normal development.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree that it's normal. Have you read the book "how to talk so teens will listen, and how to listen so that teens will talk?" I found it really helpful. I know a 9 year old isn't a teen yet, but he's close and starting to go through the initial independence struggles.

Also, I want to point out that you should make sure that when he's talking, you make sure he knows that you hear him. The moving neighbors is a good example. It sounds like he made it clear that he does not like the neighbors to come over. You invited them anyway, so he was upset about it because he probably felt like you dismissed his opinion. I'm not saying that he calls the shots - of course having them over was the right thing to do. But did you sit down with him and say "I know you don't like to have XX over. But it's the right thing to do because they are moving. How can we plan their visit so that it's not too disruptive?" And let him help come up with the plan for the evening. I'm betting that if he had been able to choose some TV options (eg, he picks 3 movies that he would like to watch, and the visitors choose which one of those 3), etc, the evening would have gone better.

As for the stuff at school, my first reaction when a note comes home is not anger about them breaking the rules. My first question is always a very general "I got a note from school today. What happened?" Then I listen. The situation with the technology teacher in particular sounds like a kid who was at the end of his patience for some other reasons, and his teacher's actions were the straw that broke the camel's back. Again, I'm not excusing his behavior, and I agree that he needs to apologize for being disrespectful. Still, I would want to know why he was at the end of his rope in the first place.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hang in there Mamma, I have a boy the same age and is going through similar things for the past 6 months.
It is the age, I would also check if he has any allergies and is not getting restful sleep at night, often times thye have year round allergies and they don't know the difference and are just tired. Also look into a possibility that someone or something is pushing his buttons at school which he has not talked to you about. 9 year old do believe they can rule the world and solve world problems.
I hope this helps.

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answers from Washington DC on

he might be hitting puberty, with its hormonal surges and dips. not that it's any excuse for rotten behavior, mind you, and i'm glad you're not wringing your hands helplessly. it sounds as if you already discipline swiftly and appropriately.
the only thing i'd add would be to discuss it with him calmly and sympathetically when he's not in the throes of being a jerk, help HIM to understand what's happening so that he can start to learn to self-govern.
understanding and sympathy don't mean tolerance.
i love that you have him help come up with consequences and solutions.
the only thing i'd add is not to aim for perfection. it's nice that you have 'perfect' weeks, but that shouldn't be the expectation. look more to smooth out the peaks and valleys so that you have a mostly-nice kid most of the time, who maybe gets moody and crabby sometimes, but also isn't expected to be an angel.
i mean, it's possible there's something big underlying it all (bullying, health issue) but chances are he's just maturing and not prepared for the floods of hormones.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sounds like a testosterone surge.
Bummer that he's moody but he needs to learn to get a better handle on it.
In the mean time, lot's of sweating (whether it's sports or digging up a garden bed, or some other hard physical labor - it doesn't matter which it is) can help exhaust him and give him time to think.
Great thing about taekwondo is - if he mouths off to his instructor, he'll be doing a lot of push ups and running laps.
It's good for him in so many ways.

1 mom found this helpful
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