I have a boy, 10 years old. I think he is quite smart and can understand all the reasoning as good as any intelligent adults.

Unfortunately, he can be quite difficult to deal with. He has some bad habits, such as shutting himself up and refuse to have any outdoor activities because he is quite addicted to computer games and comics. Another bad habit is that he would often make his sister cry for no reason ( or as he often puts it, "out of pure pleasure"). I try to reason him out of his bad habits, but it simply doesn't work. He would just frown and shout at me. It should be noted that I won't getting into a shouting match with him, not even once ( unlike so many of other parents). When he shouts, I just look at him in his eyes intensely and call him out for this poor behavior: "boy, you are losing your cool, and I don't like your manner, if you continue this behavior, no one can talk to you at all"

He would then just walk off and lock himself up again. And he would just continue his bad habits. He does not respect my authority as his parent, neither does he behave like a grown up person.

How to deal with such a problematic kid? Should I just cane him in order to restore my authority?

  • 12
    I don't think beating the child is a good solution. It's a cop out. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 7:58

4 Answers 4


I think you are falling into the trap that so many parents (including myself sometimes) get into, which is trying to win. You aren't engaging in a shouting match (which is to be commended), however you are engaging in a battle of wills with the strong eye contact and body language. You both see it as a contest, and a contest must have a victor. It's the same thing deep down as 2 males from many species fighting for dominance, reasoning doesn't enter into it on either side.

If you continue to engage in contests he is going to get stronger and more defiant. Your relationship could deteriorate and you could end up in constant battles.

What you have to realize is that as children grow up they want more control of their own lives, and if you don't give it to them they will often take it whether you like it or not. There's actually a lot to be happy about with your son. He has spirit, and if he stands up to his own dad he's not going to let some bully take advantage of him! Rejoice about the fact that you have the makings of a strong, confident man in your boy. Realize at the same time that that same spirit is going to make him want to strike out on his own, and take control of his life. He's entering the phase where he goes from being a child to being an adult, and it's natural and good that he wants some control.

Your job now is to help guide this young person rather than trying to control him. Control is out. Throw away the word obey, and bring in the words compromise and cooperate. This means you have to give sometimes, remember it's not about winning, it's about guiding. Give him a bit of responsibility, and praise him for good work and effort. Once he handles a bit of responsibility give him a bit more, and tell him why you're giving it to him. Let him make some decisions, give him choices. If he wants to be treated like an adult then do so, but in increments.

Some parents set up a written contract that states expected behavior on both sides. This sounds a bit legal, but what it really does is provide a framework for you and your child to discuss how things will happen in the future. It helps start a dialog when both sides are fighting. You could use it to set limits on TV and video games, for example, and get him doing chores. If he doesn't do his chores then he could lose video game privileges for example. Most importantly your son must be involved in drawing up this contract he has to feel it is his, not something forced upon him.

If you fight every battle then your life will be nothing but battles and home won't be a good place for either of you. Pick your battles and fight only the things that really matter. Establish some give and take, use choices to avoid arguments.

Most importantly you need to keep your relationship with him healthy. He's obviously trying to get your attention, that's why he's making your daughter cry: he knows it pisses you off and will get you interacting with him. He will keep hitting that button if it's the only way to get you. He's not doing it out of spite or malice, it's desperation! He wants you, and acting out is the most effective way to get you for certain. So, do stuff with him: get a ball and take him to a park, go to a movie, go for a walk. Teach him about life, about how to be a good person. Boys look to their dads to teach them to be men, that's part of what he wants from you.

Ask yourself what kind of relationship you would want if you were him, and how you would like to be treated. Use that to guide your behavior. It's not always easy and you will make plenty of mistakes, but he will recognize the fact you are putting effort it and overlook the mistakes.

  • 1
    @GgD thank you thank you for bringing up the chores/privileges relationship. Although, I have add that in my opinion, doing chores doesn't automatically earn privileges. Doing chores is a necessary component of being a family, a team, and having a domesticated existence (as in, not living in a cave,which, probably also requires chores of the variety that are far more miserable than loading a dishwasher!) My son has to go above and beyond basic pitching in to earn privileges. And boy, does he appreciate them!
    – Jax
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 5:33

When dealing with a two year old, we are often reminded "tell them what to do, not what not to do." For example encouraging a child to "use your inside voice" rather than "don't yell" or "walking is safer on the stairs" rather than "don't run". It's not that different with a ten year old. You are just telling him "don't tease your sister". What should he do instead? Perhaps you want them to "play together and both have fun" or "find some fun that is fun for everyone" or "be generous and loving" - in our house we used the phrase "loving team" as a reminder of a longer speech about how we expect the children to treat each other.

One other thing: I believe that 10 is far too young to have internet and games in their own bedroom. They can stay up far later than they should playing, they are vulnerable to chats and the like with random strangers who may not be well meaning, and they can easily get cut off from the family. Studies have shown that children with a TV in their bedroom are not as skilled at sharing and negotiating as children with a single living room TV. Games, computers, and TV should be in family areas only. Perhaps you can have two such areas - one for fairly quiet and shareable activities and one for louder or more intrusive activities.

Finally, if you want him to undertake outdoor activities, undertake them yourself and invite him to join. Yes, 40 years ago parents would say "go play outside" but the skills are rather lost. So "let's go for a bike tour" or "it's time for the family weekend hike now" or "come on everyone, it's time for yard work" (mowing, trimming, weeding etc). Set a good example, and make it fun for everyone. By having the siblings work side by side at something and be praised together, you may also reduce his motivation to tease her.


It's easy enough to shut off his computer. Remain calm, and take the power cord or the keyboard. He may scream, shout, curse, lock himself in his room, but if you can't take that for a couple of days, he's already won.

And about him locking himself away . . . it's really easy to remove a door. Just remain calm. Whatever you do, remain calm.

As for him respecting your authority, he won't because you don't have any. You need to forget "authority" and move on towards addressing his behavior. Remain calm yourself, and consider you and he may very well need professional help. I know of kids* who behaved like this, and turned out to have serious emotional problems. Of course, I know others that didn't, but it's an important question to ask.

Remain calm yourself. Two angry, screaming people is a lot worse than one.

*I've been teaching eighth grade for 28 years. I've seen thousands of kids.

  • 1
    +1 for the computer part, using it is a privilege and it sounds like he might need to be reminded of that. Pulling his network/wifi connection, or isolating the power for his room can be a powerful reminder. Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 23:08

Hasn't been a lot of posts in this thread... my opinion on that is because I think people see it as a lost cause. To answer your question, I think the situation is beyond fixing it yourself. I would suggest getting a professional involved, child psych.

Let me put this out here based on my own experience with my own kids: At this point with my 10, I'm working on personal motivation and responsibility, helping him discover himself what makes him tick, external interpersonal relationships (read: dealing with bullies and cute girls) and a number of other specifics. All of these topics are based on the foundational aspects of general respect, following rules and personal responsibility. By 10 years old, a parent/child relationship should be well beyond these foundations. You are not.

Here's some tough love: If you're trying to talk sense to him and he's of the opinion that it's acceptable to turn and walk away, then your relationship with him is already damaged. He is 10 years old, he's not respecting you as a parent, he's not respecting your thoughts or opinions (let alone attempts at discipline), and he's selfishly putting his current sense of self (where he's experienced zero of the world) above your knowledge and experience.

Therefore anything you say to him, at any time, could lead to him walking away. If you think for a moment that you're making progress and happen to push a button the right way, he will likely turn and walk away rather than admit to anyone, especially himself, that a person he doesn't respect is right and he wasn't.

Your relationship is damaged, but not irrevocable. He's only 10 and he's still learning about the world. The goal here is to help him understand that you're there to help him with it. That he can learn from your experience.

By the time I write this, you've already selected an answer. However, I urge you to seek a pro, someone that deals with teens and families. You'll sit there for an hour, boxed in, no walking away, dealing face to face and working things out with a neutral 3rd party. And I mean neutral... they're not on your side, they're there to help you fix your relationship and that will take work on both your parts.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .