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When a Smart Kid Is a Smart Aleck

In a bright child, typical tween attitude may be multiplied. Find ways to respond.

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Q: My son just turned 10 years old. He's an extremely bright child and does well in school. However, he has a smart-aleck attitude, talks back to me whenever he can, always thinks he's right, and refuses to listen. Grounding him does not work and I am at the end of my rope. How can I turn this around before he becomes a teenager and it gets worse?

A: Bright 10-year-old boys can be a pain. Since he is academically gifted, your son must likely get good reports from school. However, he may be displaying a similar "smart aleck" attitude with some teachers and peers. I would consult with the school guidance counselor first to determine whether the teachers notice any unacceptable behavior. If the answer is yes, the counselor could help create a behavioral management program both your family and the school could follow.

If the problem is only manifested at home, you need to have a serious talk with your son about his attitude. I would involve the entire family in a meeting where everyone can discuss family concerns, and not make your 10 year old the sole target of complaints. If he refuses to cooperate, I recommend that you discuss the matter with a mental health professional who specializes in a form of brief therapy called Interpersonal Psychotherapy. You can find out about this technique from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

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