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Effective Discipline Techniques for 9-Year-Old Children

Behavior Management Strategies for Kids in Fourth Grade


Autistic girl getting praise during therapy
Kim Gunkel/E+/Getty Images

Age 9 signals the start of the “tween years.” At this age, they’re no longer kids but aren’t yet teenagers. It can be a very awkward and difficult time for kids.

Most 9 year olds are very independent and their attention often turns to their friends. While younger children usually prefer same sex relationships, many children around the age of 9 begin showing an interest in relationships with the opposite sex.

Typical 9-Year-Old Behavior

Often, 9 year olds want to have the privileges that come with being a teenager but they aren’t yet ready for them. They may want to trade in their toys for a cell phone and may want to replace going to the playground with going to the movies with friends but they usually struggle to handle such freedom and responsibility.

Their desire to have more responsibility can lead to conflict with parents. They may be argumentative and may tend to beg and whine when told they can’t have something.

By this age, however, they should have a good understanding of social norms. This can deter a lot of behavior problems in public as kids wouldn’t want to be seen acting out at the store or in front of their friends. Parents may see more behaviors in the home.

Most 9 year olds have a good handle on their anger and friendships are usually very important. They are usually more aware of other people’s feelings and can empathize with other people’s feelings.

The desire to fit in with peers can be very important at this age. As a result, the choices they make in friends are important as their peers can be very influential. It’s important to get them involved in positive activities and to help them find their interests and talents, whether they enjoy music, art, sports or some other type of hobby.

Best Discipline Strategies for 9 Year Olds

Disciplining 9 year olds means balancing freedom with guidance. They need plenty of parental support to ensure they are making healthy decisions but they also need to have opportunities to try things on their own, even if it means making a mistake. Although every 9-year-old is different, there are some discipline strategies that tend to work best with kids at this age.

Praise – Many tweens suffer from self-esteem issues. They may be anxious about stressful situations and may worry about how others perceive them. Genuinely praise their efforts and it can give them the confidence boost they need to try new things.

Positive Attention- Tweens need lots of attention. Without enough positive attention, they’ll often act out to get negative attention. Provide plenty of positive attention to reduce attention seeking behaviors and can encourage your child to come to you with problems.

Time Out- Send a 9-year-old to time out to help him cool off when he’s angry or when he needs to think about his actions. A 9 minute time out is appropriate for a 9-year-old. Just be sure to use it sparingly, or it will lose its effect.

Give Directions Effectively- The way you give instructions can make a big difference in the likelihood of your 9-year-old complying. Be careful not to give too many directions and make sure you give directions effectively to help avoid power struggles.

Grandma’s Rule- Grandma’s rule is a great tool for 9 year olds as it can help turn a consequence into a reward.

Logical Consequences- Logical consequences can be very effective with 9 year olds. For example, if your 9-year-old doesn’t get off the computer when you told him to do so, take away his computer privileges for the next 24 hours.

Natural Consequences- When it is safe to do so, allow for natural consequences. It can be a great way to teach your child an important lesson.

Taking Away Privileges- Taking away privileges will only be effective if you take away the privileges that mean the most and you also do so for a specified time. If you take away your 9 year olds privileges indefinitely or if you give them back too soon, it won’t be effective in changing your child’s behavior.

Token Economy System- This is a great age for a token economy system as most 9 year olds are very motivated to earn things. A token economy system can be used to target specific behavioral issues while allowing your child to earn privileges.

Problem-Solve Together- If your child is exhibiting behavior problems at home or at school, sit down and problem-solve together how to handle it. By the age of 9, many kids can offer creative solutions and can be very honest about what would help resolve the problem.

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