How to Handle a Teen Who is Disrespectful to Others

It’s not unusual for parents to suddenly be faced with the realization that their once sweet, happy, and innocent baby has become a disrespectful, know-it-all who seems like he always has something to prove. Being disrespectful to peers and authority figures is often simply a teen’s way of asserting dominance, especially when they don’t feel like they have any. On the other hand, some teens are disrespectful because they don’t know any better way of communicating their thoughts.

Can parents teach disrespectful teens to change their ways and begin seeing themselves and others in a better light? The answer is yes. Here are five tips for parents who want to inspire a better change in their disrespectful teenagers:

  1. Be an example – Many young people who are disrespectful towards other people interact with individuals whose way of living teaches them no other way to act. If parents want to teach their teens how to respect other people, they must show a good example of it too. Parents must not underestimate the impact of a good role model. Aside from respecting their spouse, parents should also respect their children. When teens are treated with appropriate respect, they learn to look at themselves differently and, consequently, learn to show respect to others as well. Children who are being bullied at get the wrong idea that being aggressive, talking over people, and treating people with disrespect is the only way to feel good about themselves.
  2. Teach them – Sometimes, teens don’t recognize social cues immediately, or they need to learn a better way to communicate what they want to say without being disrespectful to other people. Parents must give their teens the tools they need to be respectful individuals. It’s unreasonable to set expectations without teaching them how to meet these expectations. Too many times, parents complain about what their children learn from TV, music, movies, or bad company without realizing that they too must raise their voice in their children’s lives in order to be exert their influence. Take the time to teach them how to express frustration, what kinds of behaviors are not acceptable, and what does being “respectful” mean.
  3. Expect it from them – Set reasonable, attainable expectations from your teens and watch them rise to the occasion. Showing them that you expect them to be respectful of everybody tells them that you care about how they conduct themselves.
  4. Correct them – Bad habits start from little mistakes that went uncorrected for a long time. The habit of being disrespectful may start from little things that parents choose to ignore about their children. Correcting a bad behavior as it starts out (without putting your teen in an embarassing situation) is a good way to call their attention and set them straight. It’s important to not make the learning experience an exceedingly negative experience. When you see your teen being disrespectful, talk to them privately when emotions are not running high anymore. Contrary to what some people may believe, the more you shout at teens, the more they try to tune you out.
  5. Acknowledge it – When teens are showing improvement and are becoming more respectful of the people around them, take notice. Some teens get the idea that their parents and other adults around them only notice them when they’re doing something wrong. The sad fact is, most of the time it’s true. If parents take the time to correct negative behavior, they should also take time to commend good behavior. You may not realize it but your approval helps set the groundwork your teen needs to have a healthy self-esteem.

What exactly does being “respectful” mean?

The Golden Rule says it best, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” In other words, if you wouldn’t want other people doing something to you, then don’t do it to them either. Granted that not all people follow the Golden Rule, but being respectful means that you live by it anyway. Here are a few examples of showing respect to other people:

  1. Do not make fun of other people.
  2. Do not talk over other people.
  3. Listen to what others have to say.
  4. Show consideration for other people’s feelings.
  5. Don’t insult people, even if you feel they deserve it.

Teaching teens how to be respectful is an important building block in their lives. It takes time, effort, and a lot of patience, but it’s also the kind of lesson that will help them live at peace with the people around them as well as with themselves.