Discipline, Support and Guidance of the Nine-Year-Old

We have peeked at both the traditional and anthroposophic views of the nine-year-old in two previous posts.    Nine is definitely a time of change, a time of feeling separate from parents and family, a time when peers become extremely important, a time of developmental “rebellion” in some ways (I don’t really like that term, but there it is).  A time to question what is real, what is not real, do adults know what they are doing, why are rules the way they are, and are things fair?

I think nine doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult if you have a generally happy and calm household and if you yourself feel balanced and calm.  I think this is why in general parenting and in Waldorf, we look to the family life and ourselves  first and  if a child seems consistently way out of sorts.  Even traditional parenting resources suggest this.  “Your Nine-Year-Old” by the Gesell Institute quoted pediatrician Sanford Matthews as saying, “ [he suggests] when mothers come to [him] distraught because their disciplining of their children is going badly, that these mothers concentrate on making their own lives more rewarding, rather than emphasizing merely their relationship with their child or children.”

Having realistic expectations for each age is highly important.  I talk about that time and time again on this blog.  Nine-year-olds in general may withdraw from the family and from you.  They may complain a lot, and gradually all this anxiety and complaining diminishes as ten approaches.

Nine- year -olds need detailed instructions and need reminders.  If you ask them to do something, they may want to do it later and then they forget.  If your child is sulky or cross when you ask them politely do to something, chances are if you ignore that and don’t make a big deal about their attitude, they will do what you are asking (although it may not be with a smile!).  Most nine-year-olds think in terms of right and wrong, and do want to do what is “right”.  Fairness is a big deal, and so is what peers think.  Most nine-year-olds are very honest, and will tell you things that they did and not really hide things they did that they thought were “wrong”.

Facing the natural or logical consequences of behavior is by far the best means of guidance.  Now is also the time you can really start to put family values into words, if that hasn’t come up in some many words before.  And although your child is past the age of imitation, what you model is more important than your words.  Being positive and loving your child is really the most important thing.

You have to maintain your cool and calm self to really be that wall they can bounce off of, that boundary they can push against and realize that the boundary doesn’t crumple.  Solutions and solving problems and fixing mistakes is much more important than blaming and dwelling on what happened over and over.

The other thing to consider is now that your child is feeling a bit more separate from you and  is concerned about peers  and what peers think, now is a great time to practice either “no comment” or being able to just say supportive things.  If a child says, “My friends don’t like me” it is not an opening to ask what they did to cause that, to go into the fact you didn’t like those friends anyway,  that they need to be at home more anyway, that they will make better friends in the future, etc.  First of all, emotions still can turn on a dime.  I think we all remember from our childhood days being really angry with a friend and then an hour later we are best friends again. Secondly, you do not need to own your child’s stuff.  This is their stuff, not yours.  It is theirs to start to work through, and you are the gentle guidance and support, but not The Great and Ultimate Fixer.

Some parents begin to worry – they see their child doing something they themselves did at that age, or think their child’s personality is similar to theirs and feel badly about this.  “I don’t want my child to do what I did!”  “I don’t want my child to be like me!”  I suggest to you to keep an attitude that this is a phase, your child is headed toward ten, be positive, model what you do want to see and choose your battles and your words carefully!

The other key piece of being nine, I think, is that the child needs another adult besides you to look up to and to trust.  Steiner talks about the importance of a trusted community and role models during this time.  If you have a limited circle outside of your family, perhaps consider expanding that a bit with some trusted friends to help you.

Just a few thoughts on the nine-year-old tonight!

Many blessings,


17 thoughts on “Discipline, Support and Guidance of the Nine-Year-Old

  1. Thank you so much for that. I have an 8 going to be 9 soon and am trying to prepare myself He will be my second child passing 9 and he and his brother are soo different! any thoughts on a 10 going on 11 or where I might find some. Strong will and why should I, seem to be the order of the day with him and I could really do with some helpful hints on how NOT to get pulled in to his attitude!! I’m new to all of this. I also have a 3yr old and almost 2 yr old and I would like to have some hints under my belt before we reach the 9 year change again. Many thanks

  2. “Facing the natural or logical consequences of behavior is by far the best means of guidance.”

    The biggest issue I deal with is physical fighting. It seems that the natural consequence of hitting your brother is that your brother won’t like you any more. But I feel like as the parent I need to impose another consequence or behavior on top of that. What do you do in those instances?

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  6. Carrie,
    You have described my child exactly. He is a little adult and I am trying to grasp that in my mind. He’s not a baby anymore and definitely has his own opinions about life. I am desperately trying to understand his mood swings (and mine). Even now I am in tears because I was searching for somewhere to send him to. He is a good child at heart. I have raised him to think independently and I guess that’s just what I’m getting in return. An independent, self aware 9 year old who is bordering between being my baby and adolescence. Thank you for the encouraging words. I greatly appreciate it.

    • Hi Rhonda,
      I am so glad that was helpful; definitely check out all the nine year old posts under the development tag and also you can go back through all the gentle discipline posts – there are many of those! I just want to encourage you – nine is definitely not a baby, but not an adult at all and I find most nine year olds really need a listening ear, firm boundaries in a loving and consistent way, someone to spend time with them, and being with family. In our family, we also find a place of worship a strong ally, but I know that doesn’t resonate for every family and that it can also take a bit to find the right place. I am happy to talk to you if you want to email me privately, my email is at the bottom of the About page.

      Thanks for reading and writing in, my readers are the best!

  7. Hello, I am seeking advise for my nine year old twin boys and my seven year old son. They are all really good kids but recently it seems they are pcking up alot of bad behaviors. My 9 year olds are picking up cursing, they know not use use it in front of us but they are using bad words in front of their 7 year old brother and he uses it in front of us. He doesnt know its a bad word so he doesnt relize he is not allowed to use it. I have had the sit down talk with all three of them before about using bad words. i asked the twins where they were learning it and they said their friends. I explain that it makes them look bad and it makes us look bad as parents, they know not to use those words, we dont use those words EVER in front of them. I do have family that uses those words in front of them and I am quick to correct any adult in front of the children. (in a nice way)(oooh uncle timmy said a bad word) My husband and I are conflicting on punishments for them. I believe they should all be punished for saying the bad words and he feels that the 7 year old shouldnt be punished because he didnt know it was a bad word. I want to be on the same page as my husband I dont want things like this to come between us. What do you think is a good punishment for them and do you think I should punish the 7 year old or not. (this has happened before where the twins said a bad word and the youngest said it in front of us and said his brother told him it. we punished the twins but not the 7 year old.)
    Thank you.

    • We found a book called 123magic and recently we have started using the program, it works wonders on my kids, plus they aren’t in trouble all the time now so we get more family time with them!!

  8. My daughter will be 9 in a few months, and we have been noticing so many changes going on with her. I’ve been searching the web for info on the 9 year change, and your articles are describing what we are noticing in her to a T! Thank you so much for the advice and glimpse into her world right now. It is really helping me stay calm and gently walk with her through this time.

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  11. Thanks Carrie – great advice. My 9 year old daughter is just going through some friendship changes which will lead to her being more comfortable in the long run. It’s hard to watch it all happening in front of you & as a “fixer” I so want to make it right for her but realise it will help her resilience & ability to cope with adversity in the future which as adults we now know it will only all come up again – the faces change but the story remains the same unfortunately. Love your kids no matter what & give them your time as I have noticed that the children who seem to have the need to be difficult really have limited exposure to quality parent time. Pleased to hear it settles down at 10 years old 👍

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