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How to teach a 9yo to be a decent human.

Trying To Step Up's picture

To start -  In the beginning of my relationship with my fiance I developed a quick relationship with the youngest son 9 years old. He was loving and kind from the start, but it only seemed to be at the surface level with hugs and snuggling (he was 8 at the time). Over the last year and a half a lot has changed. Anytime I ask for a favor it's met with "No" and "Why". I don't feel that its him cutting me off or saying no because he wants to "show me". I truly feel he's just lazy and doesnt want to help period.

Over time I've heard things from him that support this lazy lifestyle but also things like "I was expecting more" when he's given a gift around the holidays from his father and myself. Those words hurt. Now I'm starting to see this selfish behavior even more through dramatic reactions to disipline and reactions when he feels hurt from others. My fiance tells me that he's trying to teach and help him and that I have to give the 9 year old a break because he's only 9. I believe that my fiance is trying and I'm trying to teach him to be a good person too. I'm beginning to get burned out and starting to feel like I just don't like the 9 year old for who he's becoming. This is an awful feeling, and I'm trying my hardest to resolve my feelings and continue to show how I care about him. However I feel like the way I show how I care and the way the 9yo shows he cares are two seperate things. He will come to me for hugs often and always wants to sit inbetween my fiance and I to snuggle but that's the only way he shows love. It's very surface level and it hasn't changed from day 1. I kind of expected a more developed relationship over the year that I've known him and been developing this relationship. Perhaps I haven't really gained respect or trust from him yet? And perhaps he only says "I love you" to me because he hears his dad say it to me?

I need tips on saving this relationship. 

I try to lead by example and show him deeper ways to care about a person more than surface level. His father and I often show the boys through our own actions towards each other and going out of our way to praise each other for the things we do for each other.

Are there any other ways to teach a 9 yo how to become a decent human being? I know this can be saved, but how do I move forward? 


STaround's picture


1.  I think  you have to disinguish between you want kid to be good kid and you want kid to be nice to you.  The former is fine, the latter is somewhat self-serving. 

2.  Talk to dad, Kid should be polite and civil to you and others.  You cannot expect kid to care for you.   There is a difference.  

If dad needs a parenting class, or even a book suggest one.  IMHO, you need to step back a little. 

To me, respect is a very broad word.  I can use it to say, I have tremendous respect for Martin Luther King, and it connotes that the person has EARNED respect.  Everyone should be treated with civility and politeness, but not that kind of respect.   Certainly not love.  You should expect that with fiance, but not with his son.  




ESMOD's picture

Well.. all you can do is address the shortcomings as you are faced with them.

When you ask him to do something ... take the garbage out etc.. and he says "no, I don't feel like it".. the adult response is "I'm sorry, I think you misunderstood me... I wasn't asking you to take out the garbage, I was nicely telling you to do it.  Everyone around here has to pitch in"

When he says "Is that all there is" after tearing through all of his gifts.. the adult response is "no.. now we are going to go through and pick a couple of things to give kids that got nothing for their holiday"  or "You know, SM and I went to a lot of trouble to get these nice things for you.  If you aren't going to show gratitude for what you did get... you will probably get less in the future."  or the jokingly said "I think you might want to focus on the fact that it could have been a lot less!"  "It really hurts grandma's feelings when you don't act like you like what she bought you".

Framing things with "How would you feel if....?"

It's not one big thing that makes the changes.. it's constantly modeling the behavior you want to see as an adult (you and your SO make a point of being gracious.. complimenting when someone cooks dinner etc...or gets a gift...)  and mild corrections throughout so that he is gently steered back onto a better path.  Now truly horrid behavior might need to be ratcheted up.. if he refuses to take out the trash after he is told and repeatedly told... there are consequences.  "You didn't take out the trash like we asked so there will be no internet/tv game tonight"

STaround's picture

OP needs to talk to dad, dad should communicate chore list etc to kid.  OK for OP to remind him, but I think far better for DAD to communicate rules. 

ESMOD's picture

If there are going to be regular chores.. sure dad should be the one laying it out.  Same goes for consequences etc.  But, for the "Please come help me bring in the groceries" type of thing.. where dad may not be around... she should definitely be able to ask for minor things like that and expect compliance.  But if he refuses.. dad gives him consequences..

Senebou4's picture

Your situation sounds frustrating. However, it seems the stepson is becoming more comfortable with you because he is showing more of his personality. Parents gets the attitude, the sass, the lazy all the time from their biological children, why would a step child be any different? This means your stepson is looking at you to be more and more of a parent. From your post, you seem like a positive person and legit concerns. Keep that positivity up! Overall, this is good because it is an opportunity for you to grow closer to your stepson and SO by leading by example of what hard work and respect look like. 

Thumper's picture

Decent manners are taught by bio mom and bio dad.  It would be interesting to  know if ss is this arrogant with his classroom teachers/scout leaders... IF he is generally a well mannered boy then you have big problems ahead.  DAD must correct his son right away IF dad hears it or addresses right away if not.  MOM should also do her part at her place AND prior to exchanges. "Be a good boy for dad and tryingtostepup, watch your manners and have a GREAT time"

HIs parents right now are key.