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Walter, Consultant
Category: Parenting
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Experience:  Mentoring Parents on Understanding and Accepting the Challenges of Parenthood.
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I have a 9 year old daughter that want to make her own decisions.

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I have a 9 year old daughter that want to make her own decisions. This includes not doing what I have told her to do. She decided yesterday to not get any vegetables at lunch time and to not do any homework in her after school program. I was furious with her and even went to far (I am sure) and told her that she would not be able to live with me if she did not follow my rules. This lead to a lot of crying and fear (I am sure) on her part. I dont want to use fear to control her but I need to impress on her that she must follow my rules. I have taken TV, the Wii, and music away from her until the end of the month. I am trying to follow through with this punishment because I usually dont, which may be part of the problem.   What should I do to be more effective? I should mention that I am a single parent, she is an only child and we moved to NC 5 years ago and have no family here.



Using fear to control her isn't going to work, it may work for a little while but in the end she will quickly learn that A) You are bluffing and B) She will begin to resent you doing this to her. Not to mention the fact that it is not helpful for her to be afraid of you. You want her to learn that you are a team and that team must work together.


Keep in mind that she is 9 years old and is starting to feel her independence and wants to see who and what she is. Most parents assume this starts in the teenage years, but the reality is this starts around 9-10 years of age. A month of groundment is allot at this age......and you have to look at this for what it is. If you ground her for a month over this, what will the groundment be for something major? A Year? That's something you have to keep in mind, if she becomes more afraid of the punishment then she is going to become sneaky and hide things, and with a young girl that can be a VERY scary situation!


Punishments should be age appropriate. I am never a big fan of being grounded to begin with. If she refuses to do something you have asked, then consider making her do something instead. I like having the child do a extra chore each night. (If she is not doing a chore then this maybe something you should consider implementing) You may also want to consider having her write a essay on her behavior and why it is not acceptable. A punishment should be something she is doing.....not something she is not doing. What I would suggest is a week of a extra chore each night and maybe no TV or video games.


The key is to teach her that you are a team and though she should have some rights to make her own decisions she can not make them all.


One way to deal with this is to sit down and talk. Ask her what kinds of decisions she would like to make. The key is involving her in this, compromise....if she does not want her veggies then ask her what she would like. Give her the eating her veggies at lunch time the biggest battle you want with her? The key is compromise. Maybe she can pick out what she wants for lunch within reason......that way she is making the decision. Then use that as a opener for the more important stuff. such as:


Now sweetheart, I gave you the right to choose what you want for lunch, so I need you to respect my decision on homework. Sit down and look at the things she can make decisions on. Here are a few that are age appropriate.


  • Her clothing, she should be able to choose what to buy within reason. Only veto anything that is not appropriate.
  • Food. Allow her to choose what to eat for lunch, as long as she is willing to eat her veggies at dinner.
  • Menu. Give her 2 or 3 days to decide what to have for dinner and when shopping allow her to pick up the food and put it in the cart.
  • Activities. Allow her to pick what activities you do together at least once a week. Wither it be the movies, the park, or just watching a movie at home.
  • Give her the right to decide when she wants to do her homework. This seems like a biggie, but in reality as long as she is doing it then fine. If she wants to do it after dinner then OK that.


Another thing you may want to consider is setting up goals for her. All children her age are looking for independence, so give it to her. Set up goals on where you want her to be in a month, 3 months, six months and a year. Then give her a reward for reaching those goals. For instance if you want her grades to get better, or her to clean her room more or her behavior to improve. Explain what it is you want and then ask her what she would like as a reward for that. Some good rewards include.


  • Allowing her to have once a month sleepovers with friends.
  • Allowing her to experiment with makeup at home or on the go (Not at school, or on important trips)
  • Allowing her a cell phone (This should be a big reward for a big goal)


The key is to find a situation where there is something she can work for. Push her on the whole teamwork thing as well. If she feels like she is working with you......not for you she will find this more enjoyable. At her age she wants to be independent and by acknowledging what she wants, and picking your battles you will find things will go a lot smoother in the end. The last thing you want is to fight with her over everything. Learn to let go of the small stuff and she is more likely to respect the big stuff in the end.




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