Need to Vent: Sleep Deprivation Behavior Issue in Nine Year Old

Updated on September 10, 2012
H.L. asks from Seattle, WA
7 answers

I just need to vent about our nine year old's defiant behavior. She was diagnosed with sleep apnea last year and we got her treatment for it (tonsils and adenoids removed) and things were soooo much better. This weekend she didn't sleep well and school just started last week, so she's completely sleep deprived. I asked her to take a shower before bedtime and she said, "NO, I'm drawing". I asked her again and told her she just lost a dollar of her allowance and she continued to draw and say "NO". So, I took her notebook away and she started telling me that she would ONLY get in the shower if I would turn on the water for her. I realize she is trying to control the situation, so I refuse to bite and asked her again calmly to get in the shower. Eventually she did, but there was a whole lot of whining and procrastinating going on. I recognized the old behavior and told her she is emotional because she is tired. I tried not to lose it, but it's so challenging when she's so defiant. I'm proud of how my husband and I handled her. I didn't back down and I was fair, but firm. I understand it's partially not "her" and that it's an issue with her being tired, but it's hard to keep that in mind all the time. Thankfully we were able to get her to bed early tonight and she's working on going to sleep. She also apologized for her behavior.

Does anyone else deal with these defiant moments due to lack of sleep? It's similar to ODD or ADHD with the intensity of the episodes and the symptoms. I feel for everyone who deals with behavior issues like this. I wish everyone peace and patience. We've come a long way in 6 months, but nights like this take me right back to the chaos we used to live daily.

I appreciate the comments so far, but everyone is getting hung up on the word "asked". I told her to take a shower. Gave her a choice of which one to use and if she wanted one before or after dinner. This is only one example of the day's frustrations to paint a picture of her attitude. It's really not about showering. It's about wanting your child to do what you need them to do, but they refuse and only want to do it under their terms, which usually means it doesn't work for the parent. I agree that it is because she is tired and all day I had shown enormous amounts of kindness and love to her. At the moment of the shower incident, she's lucky I didn't lose my mind. I explained to her that I was angry and needed some space and then I'd be able to be my normal loving self again. She knows I'm a kind mother. She knows she has me for support and love. Honestly, with this kind of child it's challenging to be kind every moment. It's hard to explain if you haven't lived it. Thanks for the responses and I suppose I should be more general next time, so I don't appear to be talking about one incident. I wanted to find support from other moms and dads who have difficult children.

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answers from Boston on

When my kids are out of sorts and I recognize it and can connect the dots and understand why, I cut them some slack. I'm curious as to why you felt a strong need to "control" the situation. I probably would have said "wow you sound cranky. Feeling tired, eh?" And if she continued in her original cranky tone, I would have said "sure I'll turn on the shower for you because I can see that you're not yourself right now. Let's get you off to bed and start fresh in the morning."

Sometimes kids fall apart. It's OK to show them some kindness. Haven't you ever had a bad day when you just wanted to do something other than what you had to do because you were tired, frustrated, having a bad day etc (watch TV when you haven't done the dishes yet, or eat ice cream or waste time on-line instead of doing what you're supposed to do)? Isn't it nice when someone like your husband recognizes that and says "it's OK hon relax and I'll take care of..."? Being nice doesn't automatically mean that someone will take advantage of you the next day when they're back to themselves.

I'm also curious as to why you "ask" your child to take a shower. Asking implies that "no" is an answer and given the way you describe the rest of the interaction, she had no choice. So if you are really telling her that it's time to shower, then tell her and don't falsely ask. In my house, I generally do "ask" about showers because I don't care what the answers is, I need logistical information. "Are you taking a shower tonight" or "can you take a shower now" means exactly that. If the answer is no, or "I already took one earlier" or "I'll take one tomorrow" then that's that. I honestly don't care how often they shower - they're the ones living in their bodies and after a certain age, it's their responsibility to decide if/when to shower, within reason. If my son comes home from hockey and wants to go to a family function without showering first then I point him towards the bathroom but on a daily basis, as long as they're not noticeably dirty I don't care. If your expectation are such that tonight was a night she had to shower, then I wouldn't have asked her to do that, I would have reminded or told her.

My oldest has ADHD and sleeps poorly because of it. I can usually recognize when he's being ornery because he's tired. If it's self-induced exhaustion from sleeping over a friends house and staying up too late then I cut no slack but if it's because his brain and body couldn't rest, I react the same way that I would if he had a cold or was under the weather. It's not OK to be rude to me, but I will let a temporary lack of grace slide and remind him to get some rest or try to get him to take a nap. I know that I appreciate the same when I'm not at my best either.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi H.,

sending a bit of extra patience your way. you did good by not backing down and not loosing your temper. have you thought about chiropractic adjustments for her? it may help her with her sleep issues. also take a closer look at what she ate. I need to keep my son away from high fructose corn syrup. He gets defiant and very moody. Good luck and keep at it. yes they can be moody and sleep deprived but they still have to respect/obey parents. :) have a wonderful day! ~C.~

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

All four of my kids have gone through defiant phases, but my daughter takes the cake, and she tends to only do it with me, not so much her dad.
One thing that has influenced their defiance is our large family dynamic. There's a lot to be said for siblings defending the parent and the rules that need to be imposed. More than once, the perpetrator has backed down and conceded because one (or more) of his/her siblings got on his/her case about misbehaving or not following the rules.

Also, boys don't hold grudges, girls are more likely to. I try to make sure to talk about my daughter's defiance with her when things are calm and we can spend time alone away from her brothers together. It's important I make time to bond with her, as she is the youngest and tends to just run along with the "pack" sometimes and it's easy to temporarily forget she needs me in different ways than the boys do.

I think you handled it fine, I was also going to call you out for "asking" her not telling her, but I see you edited your post to clarify that. One thing I can't stand is hearing a parent in some sickly sweet voice "requesting" that a child follow the rules, as if the child had a choice in the matter, which they don't and it's confusing to them to think they do. But that's not what you are doing. And trust me, this phase will be all but forgotten in a few years. She is old enough to have a say in how certain chores get done, or the schedule she needs to follow for bedtime. When I gave my kids a little more control over these things they became less of a battle. Some things I don't move on, but most things are negotiable, even if I don't like what they want to do, sometimes I let them try it their way so they can see why it's not a good idea.

And above all, the hardest thing it to not take their behavior personally. It's just their personality, and with love and consistency you will all get through it relatively unscathed :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on


Seriously, is this my house you're describing?? I feel you 100%.
My daughter is 8 1/2 and we have gone through the same thing. I don't consider her a difficult child, but we do have our power struggles. For me, I believe that it's a result of not being firm enough when she was younger. While it's gotten much better and I can usually just say, "Why are your arguing with me about this? I told you to get in the shower," and then I do not engage her... we do still have days when she wants to drag it out.

Usually for us it is about her either not getting enough rest or getting sick with a cold. I let her know that I realize she is tired, but she still have to do what needs to get done.

My best advice is to keep doing what you're doing. Be understanding that she's not feeling her best, but be consistent that she needs to do what you ask her to. Be kind but don't get into power struggles with her. She is only 9. I think that it's a hard age when we expect them to do most things by and for themselves but there are still times when they just can't cope .

I am not always able to be patient and kind every moment. And the times that I show my frustration with her I apologize and we talk about it. I think it's ok to "mess" up as a parent. It shows that you aren't perfect either and you can talk about it and fix it.

Sending you a hug~ you're a good momma!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Ditto all that JB said.

~Best piece of parenting advice I ever got was to NOT ask a question IF the answer of 'NO' will not be accepted.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I think when you're fatigued your higher order brain functions tend to go first. Then you revert back to that primal part of your brain that keeps you alive by instincts, some of which aren't always pleasant.

Your daughter was tired, you were tired (and probably stressed about getting everyone to bed and ready for the next day) - and in the big scheme of things you did fine. All you can do is learn from it.

On a side note, neither of my sons did well with ultimatums - they never have - and they're very different from each other. I learned, over time, to avoid tests of will or power struggles. They're 18 and 15 now, and good kids and very responsible.

This will pass, though it doesn't seem like it! Hang in there Mom!

PS: You're absolutely right - people don't "get" it unless they have lived it.

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