Too Little Structure, Too Much Disrespect

Q: It is the first day of summer vacation. I have 9-year-old and 11-year-old boys, and I work part time from home. My plan for the summer was to brainstorm a summer bucket list with them, then schedule some fun activities to do together. We would do the fun activities after daily chores and learning. I sat them down after breakfast to discuss, and they became rude and disrespectful when they realized that summer was not going to be a free for all.

It began with refusing to set down the nerf guns they were holding while we talked. Then it was interrupting with an argument every time I spoke. When it became clear they were not going to listen, I ended the discussion and walked away. These are some of the comments I heard, mostly directed at me, and some at each other: “Stupid, idiot, blind, she’s a bat, summer is supposed to be fun, unfair, annoying, I’d rather be in school, etc.” Also, one son proceeded to kick a ball repeatedly against the wall, while the other son started crying and having a meltdown.

This is not uncommon behavior, unfortunately. They frequently refuse to do what they are asked and act disrespectful to myself and my husband with nasty words, yelling or aggression. After about 20 minutes, they both apologized on their own, so we tried to discuss again. The same thing happened. I’m not sure what to do next.  

Image courtesy of chrisroll/

A: You have a couple of things going on here, so let’s tackle them one at a time. First, your boys are disrespectful because you allow them to talk back to you that way. This has become a bad habit with them, so you will need to do some rehabilitation in order to turn these brats into mannered young men. Since this appears to be a pattern with them, you can address it one of two ways: Kick them out of the garden for at least 30 days until they clean up their act or use Tickets or Chart/Strikes. Just really depends on what suits you best. Both discipline methods are described in detail in Discipline Methods on this website.

As for the summer, I’d simply list things they must do each day before they play video games, read books, surf the Internet, or however they spend their time. Examples include a half hour of outdoor exercise, chores (they should be doing LOTS of chores around the house and yard, such as vacuuming, dishes, cleaning bathrooms, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, etc.–I have a chore book with examples on this site), and an edifying activity approved by you but their choice (such as building a model, working on a scout badge, tinkering, hobbies—no electronics). Then restrict their electronics time (such as only online/playing video games between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. each day) and let them have free time.

I hope this helps, and remember—your sons didn’t get this way overnight, so it will take some time to yank them back into the land of respect.

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