Normal 9-Year Old Behavior?

Updated on January 25, 2016
N.S. asks from Buffalo Grove, IL
21 answers

We recently took my 9-year old SD on a vacation. I was very disappointed in the way she acted, but I'm wondering if it's just normal 9-year old behavior.

We went to a water park. What bugged me was the whole trip was about what she wanted to do, no compromise, no negotiation. If she didn't want to go down a slide again, then she would NOT do it. Even if we wanted to do it again. She just refused, and we couldn't very well drag her on the slide screaming. She wouldn't do it if we asked nicely, she wouldn't do it if we promised to compromised and do the slide and then do what she wanted to do. She didn't even respond to a stern talking-to about compromise. All she wanted to do was what SHE wanted to do. If she wanted to swim in the pool she'd pout or refuse to do anything else. If she wanted to go in the hot tub, then it was into the hot tub or she'd stand and pout. We couldn't very well leave her so one of us would have to go down the slide alone while the other one watched her. She loved the water slides, she'd come down laughing and saying it was awesome. But then she'd refuse to go down later on after we did what she wanted to do for a while.

Basically our entire vacation was around what she was willing to do. I feel like that would be expected for a small child of four or five. But maybe we were asking too much of a nine year old to compromise? Is this what all nine-year-olds are like on vacation? My husband and I talked to her many times on vacation about changing her attitude or we wouldn't take her anywhere else this summer. It helped for 5 minutes and then it was back to pouting and being a obstinate.

Right now I'm not happy that we spent our entire vacation doing what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it. I figured we'd have more compromise with everyone choosing different things to do. Instead it was do what she wanted, or deal with her being upset (or faking a stomach ache or headache, which would magically disappear once we were doing what she wanted). At this point I don't want to take her anywhere for a while!

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answers from Chicago on

Maybe I am just mean, but I would have found a hotel that offered child care and left her there for a day or two with the clear understanding that when she's ready to be part of the family and participate in FAMILY activities she was welcome to join you. No child should be running the show. I have only one child and we make it clear we all get input on what family activities will be, sometimes it will be his choice, other times it's mom and dad's choice.

I know it's hard to take that stance when you're already at a waterpark - why should everyone miss out? Have some strategies planned for the next trip. Hope things get better for all of you!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

This child got exactly what she wanted by pouting and being a pain. Next time, just take her out of there - bring her back to the hotel - no TV, no pool, no nothing. Just make her sit there. You can relax and read a book... It seems like a waste of money, to haul her out of there after a short time, but you'll only have to do it once.
Before you go anywhere, explain the rules. We are going to do xyz. If you do a, b, or c, we will leave. It has to come from her father, though. You need to present a united front, but he has to tell her the rules and HE has to follow through. She is a step daughter -- you are the step mother. The rules and consequences have to come from Dad.
You absolutely need to nip this behavior now. She'll be a monster when she becomes a teen...

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answers from Minneapolis on

No, this is not normal nine year old behavior. It's not even normal four year old behavior. This is the behavior of a child who has figured out how to get what she wants and how to work you. Unless you want a very intense and trying next nine years, you need to change this now.

I would highly recommend that you and her father get into some family therapy to find new ways to deal with her behavior.

I would also recommend the book, "No - Why All Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It" by David Walsh. Here is the Amazon link:

Let her be upset. Let her pout and simply ignore her. If she chooses to have a bad time, tough. Have a bad time. The rest of you should not be hampered by her bad decisions. She's nine and old enough to be left on the pool deck while the rest of you go down the water slide. Or, as someone else suggested, take her out and let her have a time out. Or, and this is my personal favorite, talk to the manager and ask if there is somewhere she can sit where she won't be a bother to anyone but away from the crowds (safety) and tell her you will come get her when the rest of you are done having a good time without her and that if she moves from that spot there will be consequence ________ (be specific and harsh). That way, she can see the rest of you have fun, another adult is involved (embarrassment does wonders sometimes), and she gets a totally natural consequence for her behavior.

Good luck.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Most kids will try and push the limits and do what they want if they can get away with it. My 4 year old tries this all the time but he knows that if he had a tantrum his chance of getting whatever is over (at least until he calms down and asks nicely). She has probably learned that she can get away with this kind of behavior (if her parents are separated she may have to deal with multiple sets of rules and other big changes). If you are taking her someplace again try a day trip and discuss what is expected first (everyone gets to do some of the things they want to do). The sulking and pouting are a big kid version of a tantrum. Ignore it when you can. With little kids and tantrums it works to just pick them up and leave wherever you are if they have a tantrum and sit in the car or go home. It is harder to do this with an older kid though you can still leave or have her sit someplace for a while. If she is a very stubborn kid she may make up her mind and then not want the "loose face" and change her mind. My mother lectured me repeatedly on this one ("Don't cut off your nose to spite your face" which was momspeak for don't be stubborn for the sake of being stubborn). If you can find a way to not get into a direct confrontation it may help.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi - you have received lots of great advice. I have a 9 year old daughter who tried to ruin our Spring Break to Hawaii - it was all about control but she also has a hard time with transitions, especially in a strange place with a 5 hour time difference and unpredictable weather.

The best advice you received is setting expectations of appropriate behavior and consequences when she doesn't behave that way. And you MUST be consistent. Once you don't allow her something she wants to do, she'll know you mean business.

Don't listen to those who tell you it's not normal. It's totally normal for a smart kid who has learned how to manipulate to feel in control. It's totally normal to want to be in control, but it's way too stressful for a child to think they need to be in charge of everything. Good parents relieve children of this stress by taking charge, setting and enforcing a loving way.

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answers from Chicago on

It does no good to make threats that you won't take her on vacation the rest of the summer. That's like disciplining a 2 yr old several hours after the incident happened.

The best way to make sure she takes you & hubby serious would be to do something drastic such as: 1)stop what you are doing & take her back to the hotel room & make her sit 2) see if the hotel had childcare 3)make her sit at the poolside while you & hubby had fun

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answers from Honolulu on

What I don't understand is... why... everyone has to do things her way?
Regardless of her age?

A family trip, is a family trip.
So, you the adults, plan it.
She is a PART of the family.. .and needs to go with it.

What was her Dad saying about it?

Put it this way, my daughter at 2 years old, 'understood" what "compromise" was. That is one of the FIRST words I taught her, when she started talking.
My son, is 3 almost 4... and he KNOWS what "compromising" is.

But she is a Step-daughter and who knows how she is 'raised' at home by her Mom, as well.

I would have.... taken her to the childcare on-site that hotels often have... and signed-her up for that... then you/Hubby go sight-seeing. See how she would have liked THAT "option." Instead of her pouting.

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answers from Washington DC on

Does your stepdaughter live with her mother and have visitations with you? If so, non-custodial fathers often have an underlying feeling of guilt about not being with their kids full time anymore, and therefore cater to their every whim. (Been there! I once witnessed my then 11 year old SD throw a royal hissy fit because her Dad made rice and put butter on it. So -- he quietly made her her own batch of unbuttered rice! Unbelievable!) Your SD has learned to manipulate him to the fullest extent. What you'll end up with is an insufferable spoiled brat, whose behavior will only get worse.

The other issue that you may be dealing with is this: if she lives with her mother full time, you don't know what the mother may be saying about her father, and possibly you. She may be acting out like that because she's internalized a lot of negative comments that she's heard at home (Been there, again! Got lots of horror stories there!)

Still, 9 years old is WAY too old to be having tantrums. You and your husband need to be united in stopping it and consistent in saying, "No" to unacceptable behavior. Since you're "only" the stepmother, he has to make sure she understands you have authority over her, too. Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

No not normal. She needs to learn to compromise. I would just let her know in the future you all are not going to take her to the water park, because she did not "share the fun" and "she was not willing to compromise".

Ask her if she behaves like this with her friends. If she says yes, then let her know it is not fair to her friends and they are not going to want to be around her if she continues this behavior. Then ask her why she thinks it is ok to to behave this way with you guys?

At first when I read this I thought well not everybody wants to go down a slide or ride really fast rides, but you were saying she liked the rides, but only when it was her idea? Not good for her to think she is the only one that can make these decisions..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It sounds like it isn't really about the water park or the vacation, something else is bugging her and this is showing up in her behavior in other ways (like demanding that everything be her way). I would step back and look at the big picture of her life, and try to figure out what is going on to cause this behavior.

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answers from Phoenix on

we just returned from a trip at ca first of june and my 10 year old kinda started out that way. i think it is a control issue and pushing their limits. i had a talk with her and stopped it right away. We were with other people so we could not just do what we wanted every min of the day . i told her that she needed to flex and she would eventually see that she is going to get all that she wants to do in due time. It worked out well.

I think that we really have to prep children as to what our expectations are prior to the trip or function so they know and it hopefully will go much smoother. i am a true planner and over plan everything, but it seems to help my kids know how to be for that event.

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answers from Boston on

Was she part of the decision making in where the vacation would be? Is she ultra-sensitive to begin with? Some other posts are about being the step-daughter and this perhaps being some kind of power play (with which I have no experience) but maybe she is just doing the best she can and was scared/overwhelmed (with which I have lots of experience unfortunately)?
My daughters are both very sensitive and the noise and crowds and smells of water parks/amusement parks freak them out. They would literally shake. We have left a restaurant where they were brewing beer because my child was gagging and we were not pleased with the strong odor either but would have been able to deal with it. This kind of sensitivity is part of them from birth - a need to observe and check things out before participating, leaving many educators and other parents to think they are either suffering from separation anxiety or they are spoiled and simply need to "do what they are told".
I can understand your frustration that the whole vacation was not what you expected. Maybe next time do a short vacation with her, and another short one doing exactly what you enjoy!

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answers from Columbus on

She sounds like a very smart nine year old who has figured out how to run the show, make you dance on a string, and get under her Dad's wife's skin. She is very successful, isn't she?

Normally, smart nine year olds will try to get their way, and good parents know that they are not ready to rule the world. I would absolutely disagree with you that the whole vacation revolved around her, it revolved around two adults who gave into a nine year old and who are looking for reasons to blame her for this situation. It would be much easier for you, if we would all say that this child has a developmental issue that exhonorates your husband from being able to take control. I don't see anything like that in your post. Quit blaming this little girl for the mess her parents have made.

I don't know what your diciplinary situation is as the step parent, but the person you need to be talking to is her father, and he needs to set some limits and be willing to let this child be unhappy once in a while. THAT is normal. Nine year olds are unhappy A LOT because they can't have everything they want, and THAT is just fine. Let her sulk. Let her have a bad time. Leave if she can't behave herself! Parents reap what they sow, and if you stayed so that YOU could have some fun and tolerated this behavior, you put a big rubber stamp on the continuation of the behavior even worse for next time. You will only have to leave one water park and she will catch a clue. She caught a BUNCH of clues, all of them are really bad for her, and the biggest one is that you are a helpless victim who can't do anything about this but vent about how bad she is. Parents have to make sacrifices, no it is not fair, but that is part of being a parent, and when you are alone with her and Dad, that is what you are, so start making sacrifices for the sake of her character development or quit griping about the result. Parenting is hard, and it is not about YOU having a good time. If you had an ablsolutly horrible trip to the water park that ended far too soon and taught her a long overdue lesson, it would have been the best vacation ever.

Have a talk with your husband and her mother. This cannot contine and you all need to be on the same page and help this poor girl learn to be a young lady. If someone actually applies good diciplinary techniques for this child all the time, and she cannot manange to change the behavoir, then you can start to question if she is typical or not. You all are not there by a long shot.


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answers from Jacksonville on

No, it isn't "normal" 9 yr old behavior.
It's not even "normal" 6, 7 or 8 year old behavior.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It sounds to me like there are some control issues here. Perhaps if you worked out a schedule with your daughter (i.e. 10:00-10:30 and 2:00-2:30 on the water slide, other times for other activities) or maybe give her, say, 10 "coupons" per day for water slide (some of which can be taken away if she pouts and acts stubborn. Talking to her isn't working, I suggest concrete actions and distrinct consequences to her (such as having some of her water slide time removed) if she isn't cooperative. Above all, don't personalize it, and be sure also to praise her when she is being flexible and cooperative.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think a lot of this is normal 9 year old behavior. Especially for a girl.

When my DD was 12 we went on vacation and she tried several of the same things. Hubby and I explained that we all got to choose something we wanted to do and that her behavior was not acceptable. We made her sit in a lounge chair at the pool, while the rest of us had pool time. That consequence helped to improve her attitude.

After her behavior, she does not deserve to go anywhere for awhile. This should be explained to her.



answers from Yakima on

Wow, I just read your story and my heart goes out to you and your hubby. We as parents go through so much pain and heartache with kids of today. Parents go above and beyond to give our kids a good life, a safe life, and our kids take it all for granted, they don't care or are least that's how they make us feel. I've always wondered where I went wrong, but other than being somewhat strict, and not a yes mom your kids will remind you every time they get a chance on how you ruined their lives every time something goes wrong in their life. Now with that said do something different so your child starts appreciating her wonderful parents now!



answers from Springfield on

Her behavior is totally normal. What 9 year old doesn't want to do exactly what she wants to do exactly when she wants to?

The first time whe complains I would talk about compromise and how everyone will get to do what they want, but then I would try talking less. If the majority want to go down the slide again and she doesn't, be very matter of fact and say, "This is what we're doing." If you are firm but fair, she'll get over it.



answers from Jacksonville on

WHAT A SPOILED LITTLE WITCH!!! I would not take her on vacation for a long time to come, if EVER again!! I have a 10 year old daughter and a 9 year old step daughter and would NEVER have been as easy as you were on her! What did her Dad say? She should have gotten a spanking and then had to sit out for the entire rest of the day and watch everyone else have a good time, heck I'd even let the other kids rub it in her face (if there are siblings or step siblings). Man oh man, she is LUCKY I am not her step mom!


answers from Norfolk on

There needs to be some give and take. A child not compromising ever is just not good. From an early age with my son, sometimes he'd want to stay a bit longer at preschool to play when it was time to go. And sometimes we could stay and play a little longer, but other times we just didn't have time. So I'd give my son a warning "We have to leave in 5 min" and if he still objected when the time was up then I'd tell him "Ok! I love you! Bye bye!" and walk out the room. Every time he'd come running after me. He's older now, but he knows sometimes we just have so much time to get things done and sometimes he has to get ready to go with no arguments. I can be flexible, but my son has to be flexible, too.



answers from Chicago on

your husband needs to stand up to the plate and be more strict with her and not let her get her way. It sounds like she's used to getting her way, so why (in her eyes) should going on vacation change anything? I'm not sure if a 9 year old is old enough to stay on the chair while you guys enjoyed yourself, but if she is old enough, that would have been my answer to the solution. She isn't old enough to call all the shots and it should stop.

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