How to Deal with Disrespectful Teenagers

Why is it important to teach teens respect?

Respect is the foundation of a strong and healthy relationship. If parents want to have a satisfying relationship with their teens, respect is a key ingredient that one cannot do without. It goes both ways too, children need and want as much respect as parents do. To show respect for somebody, one must have a healthy sense of boundaries. For example, it’s okay for teens to speak out their minds and express their thoughts as long as it is done in a respectful, considerate manner. Overstepping boundaries can become a bad habit that teens will bring with them through their adulthood and will prevent them from having healthy and strong relationships with other adults.

Reacting to Disrespectful Teens

When your teen is disrespectful towards you, it’s so difficult not to use your parental authority and “show him who’s the boss around here”. It’s the natural response of parents whose children overstep the boundaries and challenge their authority. However, most of the time this approach only encourages hostility and rebellion and pushes a disrespectful teen to act out more. Having an emotional response to disrespectful teens may not produce the desired effect, and puts both parents and teens through a lot of stress.

How to deal with disrespectful teens

When dealing with a defiant teen, it’s important to let them know clearly what kinds of behavior are not acceptable. It may come as a surprise for some people, but teens do need to be taught. It’s unreasonable to ask teens to be “respectful” when they don’t understand what’s bothering you anyway. After all, they are bombarded each day with less than desirable examples from the shows that they watch, to the music that they listen to, the games they play, and on the internet. They are surrounded with teens who themselves are looking for a way to assert their identity.

What exactly does “respect” mean? The simplest definition of respect is taking other people’s needs, feelings, ideas, thoughts, and wishes into consideration. For many self-centered teens who have never had to think about other people before, this may not come naturally. The fact is, many teens are self-centered because well-meaning parents have shielded them from the responsibility of taking other people into consideration before they act or speak.

Respect is one of those things that return to you when you have given it away. When you respect other people, chances are they will also respect you back. This is an important principle that parents must understand. Even though teens act disrespectfully towards them, they can still choose to model respectful behavior. That being said, parents must show their children the kind of attitude they want to see in their teens.

It’s easy to dismiss teens as immature, but they do look at their parents and they see how their parents respond to people and situations. At this point, it’s time to take a hard look at yourself and the kind of example you are showing your teen. How do you respond to your spouse/partner especially during disagreements? Do you answer them sarcastically when they ask about something? Do you shout and scream to get your point across? Do you listen to them when they have something to say or talk over them and interrupt them while they are talking? How do you treat people outside your home who annoy you or argue with you?

The “do as I say, not as I do” way of parenting will never be as effective as the “do as I do” parenting. Live by example and see the change that you inspire at home.

It’s also important for parents to take the time to instruct their teens. Parents must proactively create “teaching moments” to their teens in order to teach them about life. Otherwise, the lessons that they learn will all come from different sources, and not all of them will be beneficial in the long run. Having a disrespectful teenager is a challenge, but taking the time to create teaching moments can give teens a new way of coping with their frustrations while at the same time cultivating a healthy self esteem. Teaching moments can be done by talking to teens during dinner, talking while enjoying a hobby you can do together, conversing while watching a movie, or similar activities. Some parents assert “teaching moments” when they are already correcting a bad behavior, attaching a negative feeling to these moments.

Living by example and teaching teens about respect while also setting clear boundaries (with corresponding consequences for broken rules) form the pillars of positive parenting. One cannot inspire change in disrespectful teenagers by engaging them in a shouting match nor by ignoring the disrespect until their adolescent years pass.