""No" is one of the most character-building words in the English language. Say it often, and mean it. "

Reining in Mouthy Eleven Year Old


Hello, John and coaches,

I really need help with my eleven year old. She just is so mentally exhausting to me and my husband. She is extremely strong willed and argues everything with me. I am very consistent with her, and she still treats me with no respect. Time in her room doesn't work. When she comes out, she still acts as miserably as she was before. She is always concerned with what her sister is doing, asking her, "Did you wash your hands," "Did you pick your nose," Sis, did you say something about me," to the point it drives all three of us looney. I am trying to get rid of this behavior before she is a real teenager instead of just acting like one. It's at the point where my own anxiety symptoms flare up. Please help. Thank you.


Thanks for your question.

You say that your daughter is argumentative, even though you are being consistent with her. She can only continue to argue with you if you continue to engage. Simply don't engage. When she becomes argumentative, say, "Daughter, I refuse to engage. You will do such-and-such because I said so." And leave it at that. Say it calmly, and walk away, leaving her to her own devices.

Even if she follows you and tries to engage, simply do not. Just repeat what you said the first time, and walk away. If she doesn't do as told, strip down her room to the bare bones, and send her there for the rest of the day, only allowing her out at mealtime, and then put her to bed immediately after. Period. Do it calmly, and don't waver. And do it each time she is disrespectful to you or to her sister. Be sure, also, to take away all electronics for a period of 3 or 4 months, and tell her that when you see a consistent improvement in her behavior, she can begin to earn them back, one at a time.

If you are detached and consistent about this, it will solve the problem. If you allow her to push your buttons or engage with her argumentativeness or disrespectful behavior, you will be back at square one in no time. Let me add that you and your husband must be on the same page with this, or the likelihood of it working is slim.

Good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

Laura E. Gray, PhD, CLPC

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