Q: One of our 8-year-old twin daughters has become more moody and disrespectful at home. Recently, I was surprised to find out that she has also not been acting well at school, for example, talking when she’s not supposed to. Today the teacher warned her 8 times, and when my daughter was caught playing rock, paper scissors at the end of a math test (most of the students were still taking the test), the teacher told her to move her clip (a form of classroom discipline). My daughter then tried to argue with her. This is very unlike my daughter. The teacher called me to let me know what happened (we have a good relationship). I made my daughter sit on her bed after dinner and do nothing for an hour except write a letter of apology to her teacher. Any thoughts on how we can turn this behavior around?
A: Kids who have previously been well behaved have been known to take a “bender” of sorts and cause all sorts of havoc. Since you don’t mention trouble at school with classmates or classwork, then it’s like just one of those things. But it’s not at all unusual—kids will generally act like kids, which is to say, like little heathens. You’re right to want to nip this in the bud before it becomes entrenched.
Stop with the penny-ante stuff of sitting on her bed for an hour (the letter of apology was spot-on!). You need the big guns to make her an offer she can’t refuse. At this age, curtailing her freedom usually works well. This weekend, pick a time when she hasn’t been misbehaving and have a short chat with her. Tell her that you’ve noticed she’s been disobeying her teacher and her mom and dad, and that you’re going to help her remember how to behave.
Simply put: when she is disobedient (and clearly define what you mean, such as “when you do not do what you’re told to do”) either home or school (and have the teacher send home an email or a red card when she wasn’t behaving at school), then she’s immediately confined to her room and directly to bed after supper, lights out.
It will might take several days or even a week or more for her to straighten up, but she will likely do so. Remember, though, sometimes things get worse before they get better.