My 9 Year Old Keeps Breaking the Rules ~ Help!

Updated on January 17, 2007
K.B. asks from Riverside, CA
15 answers

We have a 9 year old daughter that pushes every boundary we give her. Here are a couple examples.
She plays with the 10 year old at the apartment upstairs after homework and dinner but she has to be home by 8:30...She was constantly late, saying she lost track of time, so we got her a watch with an alarm. Now she is late because she says she had to clean up. We set the alarm on the watch for 15 earlier but she is still late. Every time she gets some sort of punishment (bed 1/2 hour early, no music for couple days, no going to friends for a week, etc.) It doesn't seem to help.
Another example, she has to put the dishes away and pick up her room everyday. She puts it off, I remind her after her homework is done, then have to ask again did you do it? If I don't stop everything and physically watch her do it, I have to keep on her all afternoon.
I tell her she has to do something or she will get a punishment. She then asks what the punishment will be to decide if it is worth doing or not. I've even tried a reward chart listing the things she has to get done every day from brushing teeth to chores but it doesn't work either. I just want her to do the things I ask her to do with out all the punishing and constant authority struggle. I have 2 other kids 4 & 3 i can see them watching her and know they will soon be doing the same things if it doesn't stop soon.
My husband and I are at a loss what else to try. Any advice would be great!

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answers from Spokane on

I wouldn't let her play with her friend upstairs if she keeps coming home late. Take that privilege away for a few days.

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answers from Seattle on

Hi K. :)

We have a 10 year old daughter and went through something similar with her recently, we are very unconventional parents when it comes to doing things but I really believe each child is unique and really needs to be reached in a way
that they understand. #1 be consistent in whatever you decide to do. Kids sense weakeness in us like a metal detector finds metal. #2 be honest and upfront. #3 keep your sense of humor. Kids respond well to a parent that isn't afraid to laugh.

I believe what finally changed it for her was a good honest, heartfelt talk. We sat down and explained to her that when she is late getting home how much it makes us worry, and why it makes us worry (insert list of thoughts that run through mind here when chid isn't home when they are supposed to be) . I also had trouble getting her to do her chores. Again we had another long talk about why it is important for her to do her chores when asked.

Our situation is a bit different there, as I explained to her that since her daddy deploys often (military family) that we really have to work together as a team to keep things running smoothly. And that like any team, if we don't all work towards the same goal then we're going to loose the game. (if your daughter is 9 she might be into hannah montana (aka Miley Cyrus or Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter), if she is there is a good example there as well, that she wouldn't be where is is now if she and her dad didn't make a good team. they both star in the show together)

I try very hard to give examples of how things work with her and relate them to what we are doing now. If you can find things she is into that you can relate to the situation you are trying to resolve, it will be easier to get through to her. You mentioned music, I would ask her if she knows how a CD player works, and if she said no, then I would explain that there are alot of parts that have to work together, the lazer, the spinner, the timer, the CD, etc... and how if they are not all doing their job, the CD player won't work.

You could also add in that even if everything is working if there is something wrong it doesn't work right (dirty lense to the laser, or scratched CD) Ask her what she thinks her place in the house would be in regards to the CD player, (You are the spinner, you keep things running smoothly, Dad is the Laser, he makes sure that everything is read right, She is the CD, the two younger kids are the volume control (cause you know how loud they can be)

Explain that a family is like a Team or even a CD player, each person plays an important role in keeping it all working right. If one person isn't doing their job it affects everyone.

Be sure to allow her input into the conversation, you really want the end result to be just as much her discovery as it is something you are trying to tell her (just keep in mind it is a discussion and not a lecture) When you start the conversation make sure that you don't start with 'we need to talk about this' and don't start with something negative. start with your analogy first, then after it makes sense move into how it relates to your family life. Have this conversation while doing something together (typically I will allow her to help me prepare dinner so we talk while we cook) Just a mental note here, choose something special to cook (like her favorite food) and something that will take a while to prepare (like pizza, you can find excellent recipies on Kids do not listen to lectures, but you can have a talk with them without having a talk with them. I never bring up important matters such as behavior over dinner, as this only feels like a lecture to a child.

We found that punishments don't typically work around here, unless we allow her to set them herself. We have a list now of punishments that are set for different things, in which she had just as much input as we did. Like any child would, she tried to say no phone calls for an hour if she was home late, I slapped my hand over my forehead and ran in the bathroom to look intently in the mirror, she followed just as fast and asked what was wrong, and I told her I was looking for the 'stupid' tattooed on my forehead. She of course laughed and I said really baby girl, you know the punishment has to be something more than no calls for an hour, as that really isn't a punishment at all. So we created a list of punishments 3 of them, and they apply to everything. each instance of unacceptable behavior results in one of the punishments coming to be, (like the three strikes system). and they 'stack' within one period of time. So say she comes home late and doesn't have her homework done before dinner, then punishment 1 and 2 would both apply (no phone calls or friend visits for a week). If things don't get better after all 3 have been implimented, then have a 'family meeting' to discuss what additional punishment should be implimented. This meeting should not be plesant, but she should be allowed input again. keep in mind all the things she really really hates to do (maybe throw in extra chores)

You might find in talking with your daughter that she is jealous that the two younger kids do not have the same responsibilities as she does. We faced this with our daughter as well and again I found myself explaining to her that there are age differences (Our son is 4) and that while he doesn't have huge jobs right now, he will have to help just as much as she does as he gets older. I also began assigning him small tasks, breaking a chore into steps to make it easier to accomplish. so that she sees he does have to help out as well. This made a DRAMATIC difference in her attitude about things.

Allow her input into what her chores are as well. Really the point here is to ensure that you open the lines of communication with your daugher. Talk to her not only about the things that are important to you but about the things that are important to her as well. (I opened a neopets account for me so that I could relate with her on that, and I researched Hannah Montana so that I could have conversations with her about that too) Set up to record her favorite show and then watch it while she is sleeping so that you can instigate a conversation about those things that are important to her.

Just like a marriage, you really want to keep the lines of communication open with her, and the best way to do this is to learn about the things that are important to her, and to allow her input in both the benefits and consequences. the more she feels she is an important part of how things work, the harder she will try to do the things you're asking her to do.

sorry for being so long winded lol.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Here is another punishment to try and it may just work because she wants to spend time there. For every minute she is late she loses 10 minutes or 20 minutes whatever at her friends place. This means that she can't leave until that time is served not home earlier or it won't work. She loses time having fun this way and will catch on that it is better to be home on time than lose soooo much time for play. As for other problems try to make the punishment fit the crime such as Not turning out lights when she leaves a room make her carry a lightbulb for a day and the only time she can put it down is bath time and bed time. If she puts it down that day then the next day she gets one for each hand. Stuff like this directly links the crime and punishment. Hope it works for you B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Dear K.,
I can certainly relate to what you are going through. I have an 8 year old daughter who will try pushing the boundaries too. She is not allowed to visit during the weekdays. When she gets home from school she has a snack and then does her homework. Once homework is done she gets showered and into her pajamas. After dinner she can go to her room and play or watch a disney show. On the weekends she has chores that must be completed before she goes out to play. If those are not done then she doesn't go out, period. The rules are consistent and although she will try to bend them especially with dad she knows that the rules are the rules. If she follows them she is rewarded with freedom e.g. play time, friends visiting, bike riding, etc. however if she fails to do her chores and follow the rules she loses her free time. So far it has been working but somedays it is trying. Don't give up! Kids need boundaries and deep down inside I think that they want some boundaries too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Does the parent of the child upstairs know what time she is supposed to be home? It's not directly her responsibility to make sure your child comes home but if the parent(s) knew that she was supposed to be home and that you were having these problems with her constantly being late it might help. I don't have any older kids yet but I am the oldest of 7 kids so I know how kids can be with chores. I have a 9 year old sister right now that it's almost easier to do the chore yourself because IF she does do it she does it completely wrong on purpose to make everything think she doesn't know how to do it so she won't have to do it anymore because it makes everyone frustrated, I would say just don't give in, she's gotten away with not having to do much of anything around here because she doesn't "know how" and I'm always getting frustrated with my mom over it because she's never going to learn how to do anything (doesn't help that we are living with my parents for a few months until our house is done being built).

I think maybe taking the time away from her at her friend's house is a good idea- not letting her go until later, but will she just prolong coming home is my worry and be even later? I also think it's a good idea that the punishment fit the crime so that's why I think that might work pretty well. I wouldn't give a punishment that is completely unrelated.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Hi K.,

You got some great advice. I am just going to tell you what has worked for me and what I tell all my friends. I have been around children all my life and for some reason all the kids come to me for advice especially the teenagers, I think it is because I am very honest with them and I do not hold anything back. No subject is off limits. I raised my boys 22 and 19 to know that whatever the actions and decisions they make there is always consequences that go with it (good or bad). Everything we do in our life have consequences based on decisions we make. Continuous communication with your children is an absolute must don't be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about everything. Your daughter is at the age where she will really start pushing your buttons and it will just keep getting worse. Learn to pick and choose your fights but please teach her that SHE is responsible for her actions and she has to face the consequences for her decisions, and that it is your place as her parent to guide her and teach her to be that responsible person to help her make those right decisions. She will make mistakes along the way (because no one is perfect), and that she can learn from them. My oldest son rarely broke rules, my youngest was always testing the waters but he did stop to think about consequences several times and that is what kept him out of real trouble.I have been amazed by this as he is the type that likes to live on edge but believe me this works, he has told me so several times about times that he has stopped to think about the consequences of his actions if he drove drunk, instead he didn't drink and made sure all his friends got home safe and sound even though we got phone calls at 2:00 am to help him drive all his friends home and take him to pick up his truck. That is just one example of many. So take Heart, lots of love, patience, the right kind of decipline, and talk, talk, talk. I really am blessed as my boys are wonderful and really have not given me much grief but I will not tell you that it wasn't easy and I worked very hard to make it so. I wish you much luck and hope that I could help you, just a little. hugs, S. PS sometimes conventional punishment doesn't work, I used to take my boys to the park or out in the desert to pick up trash for an hour. I took my book and waters, if the job wasn't good then we stayed longer, (they hated it_)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I have three daughters (21, 18, 11) so I can relate to what you are going thru. This behavior is quite normal and don't expect it to correct itself anytime soon. Even with my teenagers I have to tell them 100 times to do what they know is expected of them. Yes they get mad and complain and to tell you the truth I get irritated with them. If you can just get a mindset that this is how it is going to be and your job is to keep on them, now you will not be winning any buddy of the year awards but consistency is the key. Eventually, it will sink into their brains that I don't get what I want to do until I do what I am supposed to. Honey...hang in for the long haul. I hope this helps.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Honestly, if my kids didn't come home on time, I would not allow them to go next time. End of storey. I talk a to them alot about trust and promises. They know how important it is that I can trust them. I tell them things like if they aren't home on time, I might worry that they got kidnapped and wouldn't be able to find them. They understand the importance of being trustworthy.
As far as the chore thing goes, you never let her get away wihtout doing it, even if she has to do it before going to bed. Take away tv time, or playtime. Be consistant. Tell her if dad didn't do his job he would be fired, and they don't put up with that noncompliant behaviour in the real world, adn you aren't going to allow her to do it either.
You can also explain to her that she is a role model to her younger siblings.
As far as her deciding if a punishment is worthy? Stop telling her the punishements beforehand and make the next one a very severe punishment next time. It will blow her away and she might think about that the next time she is told to do something. But you have to stick with the punishment or she'll know there is no real consequences.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

The one thing I can think to suggest is not telling her what the punishment will be beforehand. I would also make them for progressively longer, and would suggest any sort of punishment that isolates her from her friends. I know that drove me nuts as a teenager.



answers from Seattle on

We had similar problems with my 11yr old stepdaughter a year or so back. We unfortunately had to take drastic measures! We finally had to remove EVERYTHING from her room except bed, lamp & alarm clock. We took posters, clothes, toys..etc. We told her she had to start doing her chores & coming home on time to get her things back. Everytime she did something without being reminded she got an item back. like I said it was a bit drastic but here we are a year later & she's much more responsible! She admits it made her finally realize we meant business.



answers from Las Vegas on

Hi K.*Ü*
I have an 8 yr old daughter, and I don't let her do anything till homework is fully complete, she is only allowed to have a friend over till 6pm and I make sure i talk to the parent about the time issue's, so lucky for me, she follows the rules, but with my boys, I have a hard time same as you with your daughter,so when they break the rules, they lose something for everytime they do this, even if it is something like "lost trck of time" or maybe they might get a nasty tone with me, so everytime they do something, they lose something, and I stick to it and sooner or later they get the message, even if it is five minutes after getting in trouble the first time, and it usually is, so by the 4th time in 15 minutes, they are completely grounded from playing video games, no phone calles, no computer time, and they must write me a 100 time paper on I will be more responsible fro now on, or I will listen to my mom, so just stick with whatever it is your doing, don't give in and make sure she knows it gets harder as she gets older, there are rules out in the world when she gets older and is on her own, and she needs to get use to having rules. and there are harder consequences out in the big world, so for her to deal with them now will make her learn to deal with them later in life, so far it works for me, and don't feel quilty taking things away from her for breaking the rules, she hopefully soon will figure it out, just stick to your guns and make sure she see's you mean what you say, and your doing this because you love her and want her to be a responsible girl. Hope this helps and good luck to you*Ü*



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi there -- I feel for you and the testing your little one might be wanting something even she cant explain --

I had a travel client that happen to have a best selling book she wrote and I went on to purchase a used copy -- it was the best thing I did for my little one --

its called: "Loving without Spoiling" view on:

I hope this helps you as it did me!!!
Best of luck to you



answers from Portland on

i highly recommend the book "how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by faber and mazlich.

rewards are the flip side of the same coin as punishment - both fracture connection and do not achieve the long term goal of intrinsic motivation and open communication.

if you think about how little power you will have once your daughter is big enough/old enough to not follow your punishments (or care about your rewards) it can become much clearer that the path to "good" behavior and responsible decision making lies within a strong connection and open communiation, not fear of punishment or expectation of rewards.

another great book on the subject is "unconditional parenting" by alfie kohn. there is also a 2 hour dvd with the same title. check out



answers from Seattle on

Hi K., I am new to the group. I have a 6 year daughter and the only for now. Don't have much advise but like to say Hi. hope everything goes all right. sometimes kids won't listen because they want to keep your attention. Don't let her see your emotions and maybe sit down a little bit with her just you two and have little girl talk, ask her as you are her friend, see what she really wants from you or what she has in mind. :)



answers from Portland on

I was a foster parent and in their parenting class they taught several ways to discipline. One was to only acknowledge good behavior. Also to give rewards for good behavior. One way to do that is to have a chart with chores and rules and give her a sticker each time she does it and then at the end of the week, if she's been successful most of the time, provide something special. An example would be to take her for ice cream or to eat at McDonald's if that's something she doesn't get to do often. Make it something inexpensive that involves time with you.

She knows what she's supposed to do already but the chart will serve as a reminder; therefore you don't remind her. You say nothing. You could add consequences to that as long as you are also rewarding the good behaviour. As Brandy suggested make the consequence fit the crime. If she doesn't come home on time from the friends she can't go the next day or subtract the minutes.

I think that we parents get into a rut, focusing on the negative behavior which then increases the negative behavior. I believe we usually get what we focus on. A part of this rut is reminding (nagging), lecturing, and in general making life so uncomfortable for the child that they give up being good. They get the message, unconsciously that they can't do anything right, anyway, so why try.

I've read several good parenting books that emphasize giving lots of praise and equally as important to turn over the responsibility of doing their chores to the child. When we remind and lecture we are keeping the responsibilty. And we are also setting up a situation which could turn into a power struggle. Kids always win in a power struggle.

It's difficult to be unemotional and consistent with our kids when they're misbehaving. But when they get a reaction from us they do continue doing what you're wanting them to quit doing.

It will take awhile for you to be comfortable backing off and giving her the responsibility of getting her chores done and following the rules. It will also take her awhile to catch on that she is control of whether or not she is successful. You're not going to remind her or get upset when she doesn't do as expected. But you are still going to give her consequences. At the same time you are going to focus on her good qualities and praise her when she does get them done.

This method changes the whole atmosphere. We all do better when we are positively reinforced.

It's not easy. I hope you find a way that will work for you.

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