Much of parenting is about teaching children about limits and boundaries. Part of the limits that parents teach their children early in life is about the relationship that they share. Parents need to establish some boundaries in order to keep their leadership role in the family intact. Teens may sometimes walk that thin line between friendly banter and undermining the authority of their parents, and parents should know how and when to react.
Parents, especially those dealing with difficult teens, often need to choose their battles in order to lessen the level of stress at home. However, letting your child undermine your authority eventually will result to the loss of your authority as a parent and may cause even more complicated issues in the future.
Teaching teens about respect
It takes only a few hours of watching TV and listening to music these days to find out that young people may be getting the wrong idea of what “respect” really means. Immersing one’s self to today’s entertainment culture gives you an idea that the people who are the toughest, richest, most popular and has most “toys” get respect.
Gang culture defines respect differently too. There are people who equate respect by the fear they illicit from other people. They get what they want, talk to people however they want, and when people are intimidated by them, they feel “respected”. The same goes for how bullies interpret respect.
With all the mixed messages that teens get, it’s important for parents to teach their teens what kind of respect they expect to get from their children. Parents must often look at themselves as an example and a great influence in their children’s lives; teaching teens how to give respect to authority figures will help them understand how to expect respect in return.
What parents should overlook
When teens show parents an “attitude” through rolling their eyes, slamming the door, storming to their bedroom, stomping up the steps, and other dramatic displays of frustrations, it scares parents into action. Parents often think that if they let their teen get away with these things, the bad attitude will escalate and the situation could spin out of control.
The best thing to do is to deal with the disrespectful behavior when it actually becomes more than just dramatic expressions of frustration. Feeling frustrated is a natural part of life. As such, teens should be allowed to feel frustrated and parents should allow teens to vent this frustration at home. Creating a safe space for your teen to express emotions is a very healthy thing to do.
For example, it’s normal for teens to get frustrated about having to do chores, but they should do it anyway. Saying “washing the dishes suck!” is a pretty harmless way of expressing frustration over the imposed rules in the family structure. However, when a teen breaks the dishes in defiance or says to his parents “I won’t wash the dishes and you can’t make me!”, this is an entirely different issue that needs to be addressed.
How to deal with disrespectful teens
When your teen has an outburst that steps over the line of parental authority, deal with it calmly and assertively. When your teen has cooled down, sit down and talk with him/her. Say something like “If you want to stomp your feet and complain about doing the dishes, that’s fine, but when you start calling people names and breaking things in the house, I’m going to have to hold you accountable for that.”
If you already have a consequence set for disrespectful behavior, stick to that punishment. If you don’t have one in place, now would be the best time to consider it and discuss it with your teen. Discuss what kinds of behaviors are not acceptable, and hold your teen accountable for that.
Some teens challenge the authority of their parents not by verbal abuse but through the more subtle use of humor. Jokes, imitating you, laughing off your comments, and similar acts can be a bit more difficult to discern and even more difficult to confront. Parents want to have a lighthearted relationship with their children, and calling out teens who make fun of their parents can be a difficult call to make sometimes.
Confronting teens who make fun of parents should not be too dramatic. Calmly say, “I’m not joking around, go do your chores.” If your teen persists, leave until he/she has settled down and come back to reiterate your point that your teen needs to know the difference between good-natured joking and serious commands, and that disregarding your authority by making fun of you is not acceptable.
Remember that lashing out or using jokes and sarcasm are also coping mechanisms. Teens first learn about respect at home, and they also learn how to express frustration through their interaction with family members.
If your teen has problems with expressing anger and frustration, you can teach them other ways of venting their anger without harming others or themselves. Ultimately, parents can teach their teens that there is always a better way.
If your teen has become destructive and abusive and refuses to submit to parental authority, parents may find it helpful to have their teens go through therapy for anger management. In extreme cases, parents can opt to send their teens to therapeutic boarding schools in order to receive therapy and treatment as well as find out if their defiance and anger are symptoms of underlying behavioral issues.
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