Teenage Disrespect - As a Parent, What Should You Do?

Aug 12, 2020

Have you noticed that your teenager has started becoming increasingly disrespectful?  Or perhaps your teenager has been disrespectful for a while now and you are at a loss about what to do.  If so, the tips below are for you.  Disrespectful behavior can take on many forms including yelling, rage, ignoring, insulting comments, chronic arguing, failure to follow rules, taking things for granted or not taking care of personal items. 

Any of these behaviors alone, not to mention in combination with one another, can be extremely saddening, frustrating and troublesome for parents.  The reason why teens become disrespectful varies but can include:  testing the waters, mimicking peers, wanting attention, trying to exert their independence, modeling after adults who they observe acting in a disrespectful manner or lacking the tools they need to express themselves more appropriately.

Below are some tips for you, if you are looking to decrease your teen’s disrespectful behavior.  Whether your teen is just beginning to show signs of disrespectful behavior or whether this has been going on for a while, these tips will help you manage this behavior in order to significantly reduce or eliminate it.

  1. Be a good role model for demonstrating respectful behavior and expose your teen to others who do the same.  Monkey see, monkey do – if your teen observers adults treating each other disrespectfully, they will do the same. If adults are treating your teen disrespectfully, your teen will treat others in this same way.  Even when frustrated, tired or upset, role model respectful behavior and ask that other adults do the same around your teen as well.
  2. Know that there will likely be times when your teen is disrespectful. Being aware that this could happen will help you prepare for it so that you don’t react strongly out of emotion, which can make matters worse.  Being prepared for disrespectful behaviors will help you manage them most effectively in the moment.  I am not suggesting that you ignore such behaviors, however, if you are prepared and can respond in a way that is respectful and effective, you will not give up your control of the situation. 
  3. Don’t let them suck you in. As you probably know, teens can be good at pushing buttons and when they do, you may react out of strong emotion and not always rationally.  If you have ever done this guess what…you are normal since most parents of teens have this experience.  Teens often try to be in control of external situations because they feel out of control internally.  If your teen knows they can take your control away from you buy pushing you to react out of emotion, it will be much harder for you to effectively parent them.  It’s not always easy but the more you can plan for it, the better off you will be.
  4. Make sure you acknowledge and appreciate when your teen is being respectful and communicating effectively with you. All research shows that positive reinforcement is far more powerful that negative reinforcement (or punishment).  So, if you are praising and letting your teen know that you hear them and appreciate them when they are being respectful, you will see more of this respectful behavior.
  5. Be clear, be consistent. Be clear about the line that cannot be crossed and be consistent every time that line is crossed.  Make sure your teen knows what behaviors you will absolutely not tolerate (it could be swearing, yelling, coming in late for curfew, throwing things, slamming doors, etc.).  Each and every time these behaviors occur, be consistent with your response and any consequences that follow.
  6. Make sure they feel acknowledged and heard on an ongoing basis. Teens often don’t know how to express themselves. They are insecure and often not sure how and where they fit in. Taking time consistently to make sure they feel heard and appreciated will decrease the likelihood that they will feel the need to lash out or act out to feel heard or understood.

While some level of disrespectful behavior in teenagers is not uncommon, it does not need to be chronic or destructive to your family. If you have a teen who is being disrespectful, read through the above tips often and really try to implement them consistently.  If you are consistent, things will get better.

For even more support and tips, join the private How To Parent A Teen Facebook Group.  I am in there often offering tips and answering questions. If you are struggling as the parent of a teenager, you are not alone. I hope to see you in our supportive and compassionate community.

Restoring Peace of Mind During the Teenage Years.

~ Karen

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