My 9 year old step-daughter doesn't care and doesn't listen.
My 9 year old step-daughter is becoming increasingly more difficult to deal with. Her famous saying is "I don't care". She has to be told to do something numerous times before she listens, even once a punishment has been given. She is often defiant. If she is told to do something she doesn't like, she throws a fit and will hang her head and ignore you for hours. You can ask her questions or tell her stuff and you might as well be talking to the wall. She's even done it to her karate teacher. When you punish her for things, it doesn't seem to affect her. She doesn't care about anything. I've taken everything away from her before and she just doesn't care. I've tried raising my voice, spankings, time out, writing lines, extra chores, nothing seems to work. The only thing she cares about is watching TV, but when we take it away, she doesn't care. She has a lot of issues at home (her mom's) and I personally think she would benefit from counseling or behavioral therapy, but her bio-parents refuse to put her in it for fear that they would be "labeling" their child or that they have "failed" as parents to correct the problem without having someone else step in and help. I'm at my wits end with her. She has an older sister and an older step sister and neither of them behave this way. They often get frustrated when she behaves this way and try to coax her into behaving. Please help!
From your description, it sounds like you have tried the punishment route pretty thoroughly. You might try the opposite known as "appreciative inquiry". Work with her on the tasks you request so she doesn't perceive that anything she does for you will make you happy. Remind her this is for the whole family. It certainly sounds like counseling would be helpful. She may be depressed, and she is also nine years old which could be the start of a adolescent hormonal shift. Take her to your pediatrician and start there. Sometimes her recommendation to the bio parents will carry more weight and make it happen.
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics