While not all teenagers are rude or disrespectful, disrespect is often a normal part of teenage growth and development. This behavior is partly due to your child learning how to express themselves by testing out their own independent ideas. So, although there will be times when you disagree, developing independence is an essential part of growing up. It’s also a positive sign that your child is trying to take more overall responsibility for their actions.
Unfortunately, the road may be long and rocky, but keep in mind it’s important for them to distinguish themselves from their parents. In doing so, they’ll often challenge rules and values as a way of establishing their individuality. Adolescents cannot do this in a vacuum, remember he/she is still learning about how best to handle disagreements, differing opinions, and conflict resolution appropriately but families must develop
Mild disrespect, such as a teen shrugging their shoulders, raising their eyebrows, or mumbling under their breath can often be ignored as it is a normal part of development. Certainly, though, there are times when teenage rudeness must be addressed. But pick your battles wisely because it will be a trying time for both your child, your family and you. Here are some tips for handling disrespectful teenagers:
Understanding the Teenage Brain
By age six, 95% of the brain’s structure has already been formed. Even so, by the time children become teens there are still a lot of “loose wires” in their brains because of how the teenage brain develops. The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that weighs outcomes and forms
Furthermore, teens become more introspective as they get older, these deep thoughts can stir up new and unexpected feelings. Some young people seem to suddenly have conflicting, radical views on many subjects when they become teens. Don’t be surprised if they contradict most of your comments or comments made by other adults in your presence. Just remember to be respectful, “give them space”, and listen to their shifting point of view. Remember, it’s a normal part of their development.
Be a Role Model
The most important thing you can do to encourage good behavior from your teen is for you to model the kind of behavior you want to see in them. In other words, if you want your teenager to be respectful towards you, you need to adopt a respectful attitude towards them, your spouse, and people outside of your family.
Always try to rise above the level of your teenager’s behavior. You can’t win by descending to their level. You can only win by being calm, consistent and modeling a better kind of behavior. Ideally, this role modeling is something that should start early in your child’s life. Instill compassion, sensitivity and respect simply by being a kind, compassionate, respectful person yourself.
Set Clear and Consistent Boundaries
Children who grow up without boundaries often become disrespectful teenagers. Also, disrespect amongst teenagers is almost inevitable in families where there are very few firm rules. Furthermore, families in which the parents don’t enforce their behavioral rules are also likely to produce disrespectful teenagers. The bottom line is – be consistent in your discipline or your demands will not be respected.
Inconsistency can occur where a parent arbitrarily applies different rules on different days for no apparent reason. For example, allowing a child to stay up until 10:30 pm on one weekday but insisting they turn their lights out by 8:30 pm the next weekday is an example of inconsistent rules. Inconsistency can also arise where two parents apply different rules. For example, one parent might insist on no more than an hour of screen time in the evenings while the other parent imposes no time limit at all. It is important that both parents stay “on the same page” in order to enforce consistent expectations.
One thing you can do in order to make expectations clear is to have a written contract that’s signed by you and your child. This can include a rewards system such as allowing your child to stay out an hour later than curfew, as a reward for consistently making their curfew.
When You Set Consequences, Follow Through on Them
While it’s important to acknowledge your teen’s good behavior, sometimes clear rules need to be set as a consequence for bad behavior. And when the parameters are set it’s important to follow through to the consequences. A common mistake parents make is to threaten consequences and then fail to act on them. Bad move. Teenagers want to know where the boundaries are – that’s why they’ll test you. Therefore, when you follow through on consequences, your teenager feels safer because she knows where the boundaries are. She learns to trust you because she knows you stand by your word.
But most importantly, she learns that the behavior in question is not acceptable. Create rules that clarify which behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors won’t be tolerated. While some parents don’t mind a few doors being slammed, other parents have a zero tolerance policy. Make it clear that certain behaviors, like name-calling, threats, and put-downs, will result in negative consequences. Parents of teenagers must straddle a fine line. They must be both a figure of authority and a friend to their children. Be kind. But, make it clear that rude behavior will not go unnoticed and there will be implications if they are particularly disrespectful or behave in a way that is contrary to what is expected of them.