The Defiant

Q: We have an 11-yr-old son who is disobedient and defiant. He simply won’t do what he is told. He is chronically late getting ready for school, often telling us he isn’t going (6th grade private school), as well as many other things. He has had all privileges taken away (extracurricular activities, computer, time with friends). Do you have any suggestions regarding his getting ready for school? My husband has to take him and his sister to school before going to work. It often puts him in a position of being late for work.

A: The wonderful, wacky world of tweens. One minute, they’re little kids, the other, they’re acting like teenagers. It can be infuriating to have a kid who can’t get moving in the morning, can’t it? And tweens start wanting to sleep in more, which can make waking them up harder.

You don’t say how much sleep he gets, but I would move his bedtime to no later than 8:45 p.m. He might want to stay up later, but he still needs at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.

For the morning, have him make a list of everything he has to do to get ready for school. Examples include: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get shoes/coat on, get backpack ready, and any morning chores (feed an animal, make a bed, wash dishes, make lunch, etc.). Now look at that list and see what he can do the night before. If he has trouble getting dressed, perhaps he lays out his clothes before bed. If he gets bogged down making breakfast, he can get the bowl, spoon, glass and cereal out on the counter before bed. That sort of thing.

Then use a kitchen timer set at 10 minute increments to prod him along. Give him the list so he can check off his morning duties, and tell him he has 10 minutes for each or something like that. Then instead of telling him what to do, simply set the timer. When it goes off, he needs to be on to the next task.

This will take some training and patience on your part, but you need to shift the responsibility onto your son’s shoulders. If he makes your husband late to work, then he should have a consequence, like directly to bed after supper that day.

One final thing: instead of saying to your son, “It’s time to do X,” simply tell him that he needs to do the next thing on his list. That helps you to step back from micromanaging and helps him learn to manage his own tasks.

3 thoughts on “The Defiant”

  1. Michael says:

    Sorry, I can’t resist adding to the list–eat Bacon and Chocolate!
    Seriously, Sarah offers some solid advice.
    We’ve raised and are raising three boys who are young adults, a daughter who is a teenager now, and a soon to be 11 years old daughter. I’ve found that positive consequences for good choices have more lasting effects than negative ones for poor choices. That’s not to say to offer a treat every time he rolls over–out of bed of course. The thought occurred to me whether there’s something going on at school that is affecting his behavior? There are so many factors. Sleep is a major one. Lastly, from one that was too authoritarian too often and not enough being authoritative–look for as much humor in things as possible. I don’t know if any of this helps, I just couldn’t resist–M&Ms?

    1. Sarah Hamaker says:

      Everything’s better with bacon! And M&Ms, of course:)

  2. Mary L Hamilton says:

    I wholly agree with Michael’s comment about using humor. We did that as much as possible with our three and it defuses so many situations. I’d also suggest tying the amount of time the child is late to the earlier bedtime. For example, if he makes his dad an hour late to work, he goes to bed an hour earlier.
    I also wondered as I read it if something is going on at school that is making him reluctant to go. I’d definitely investigate that.

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