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Argumentative 10 Year Old

Question

We have been attempting to correct our 10 year old son's attitude. He argues with EVERYTHING, is so disrespectful, and always has to have the last word. He is also rude to his sister. We have taken away every privilege (electronics, toys, play dates, sports) and even if the rest of the family wants to watch tv, he has to leave the room. This has been going on for 100 days. It's so so frustrating, though, because he doesn't care. He hasn't changed. He comes home from school and either takes a nap or complains or nags his sister. Please tell is what to do. We are exhausted.

Answer

Yes, it does sound exhausting--I got exhausted just reading your letter. But relief is just around the corner! Don't engage. Your son will argue as long as you let him, so learn to say "because I said so" (or some variation thereof) every single itty bitty time that he asks "Why?" in response to a command or instruction or anything else that challenges what you told him. Also learn to say, "This conversation is over"; "I have said everything I have to say on this topic and have nothing more to add"; "There is nothing to discuss, end of story;" or the like and walk away.

Make sure it's clear to your son what he has to do in order to earn his privileges back. For example, he must do as he is told and no back talk. If he gets three strikes, his four weeks start over (do not take away his privileges indefinitely or he will give up without trying; instead give a time limit like four weeks). Once he gets four consecutive weeks with fewer than three strikes per day, then start restoring his privileges. His behavior doesn't sound outrageous enough to remove a margin of error, which is why I recommend three strikes. Without a margin of error he will also give up without trying. This appears to me to the case--not that he doesn't care but that he knows he can't win.

I highly recommend John Rosemond's The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works!.

Please let us know if you have more questions.

Dinah Bucholz
dinabucholz@gmail.com

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