The Naughty Nines

Dear Janie,

I have a 9-year-old son who calls names, talks back, and – here’s the icing on the cake – got caught at school looking in the girls’ bathroom. What do we do?

Signed,
Frustrated


Dear Frustrated,

There is so much talk about the terrible twos but nobody bothers to mention the naughty nines! Yes, name calling, talking back, and peeking in on the girls are behaviors that need to be nipped or else they snowball into so much more.

Finding consequences that don’t last days on end, but are successful in stopping these naughty behaviors, are the key to winning this snowball fight. Making sure consequences are short in length but powerful is also important. We shouldn’t give long drawn-out “groundings” that are hard for us to enforce and make the child feel like he/she is in an avalanche. Parents also need to find their child’s unique consequence that will be effective to each child. You know you’ve picked the right consequence when the snow has started melting away.

Some ideas of short powerful consequences:

For name calling, have the child do something nice for the person that he called a name (clean up after meals or give them one of his toys).

For talking back, require silence for 2 minutes for each comment.

For peeking in the girls’ bathroom, have him clean the boys’ bathrooms by the urinals, clean the bathroom at home (since he appears to be fond of bathrooms) or sometimes a frank discussion about why he was going into the girls’ bathroom might be embarrassing enough and serve as a punishment.