Dealing with a teenager’s attitude can be a source of immense frustration for parents. Whether it is eye-rolling, back-talking, breaking house rules, or ignoring household chores, it feels like your teenage child is constantly testing your patience and authority.
Here are some tips on how to deal with teenager attitudes.
1. Set the right tone
Show them how adults deal with disagreement the right way by staying calm and setting the tone for the conversation.
If you’re struggling with your emotions, take a deep breath to collect yourself. It allows you to step back and approach the situation with a clear head.1
Your teenager is always watching and learning from your behavior. They may not acknowledge it or even know it because it’s subconscious.
If you react with hostility or aggression when you feel disrespected, your teenager will likely do the same when they feel you disrespect them.2
Staying calm and composed shows your teenager how adults can effectively deal with disagreement without resorting to brash behavior or emotional response.
2. Calmly Call It Out
Call out the negative behavior by addressing it directly and calmly.
It may be tempting to react angrily to your teen’s behavior. But doing so often escalates the situation making things more challenging to resolve.
Instead, you might say, “What you just said was rude, and I felt disrespected. But I understand that you’re upset. Let’s first talk about why you’re unhappy with my suggestion.”
You are setting a clear boundary and making it clear that their inappropriate behavior is problematic. At the same time, you demonstrate that you are willing to address the issue maturely rather than simply reacting to emotions.
Deal with one thing at a time.
Resolve the issue at hand first and then handle misbehavior later. Otherwise, you risk getting caught up in a futile debate about who is right or wrong without actually addressing the main issue.
It is not about “winning” or “losing” an argument with your teenager. Instead, it’s setting a positive example and teaching your teen how to negotiate respectfully and effectively, even in a conflict.3 Being able to disagree on an issue and still discuss it constructively is an invaluable skill for your child.
Be a role model. Model consistent behavior you want to see in your teen.
3. Listen To Your Teen
To resolve the issue, listen actively to your teenager talking. Listen to their side of the story.
Try to understand your child’s needs and look for the root cause of the bad behaviors.
For instance, your child may say, “I don’t want to join the band. I hate that. You always make decisions for me.”
Then, there is a current issue related to joining the band, but underlying the issue is a feeling that they have no control over their life because you are making decisions for them without their input. So this child’s attitude might stem from feeling hurt or disrespected when their views weren’t heard.
Consider the frustration you feel when disrespected and the desire to scold them; sometimes, teens strike because they experience similar emotions. But due to the immature prefrontal cortex in teenage brains, teens have less self-control and express their “scolding” in a rude way.
Take the time to understand their perspective and their emotional state. Work together to find a solution that addresses their unmet need.
Doing this teaches them problem-solving and healthy conflict resolution, which are essential life skills for them.
4. Provide a Safe Space To Talk
For teenagers to speak openly and honestly with you, they need a safe place to freely express their feelings without the fear of judgment or punishment.
Parents who grew up with regular punishments may have a hard time adjusting to this approach.
Consider what your ultimate goal is.
Do you want to teach your child how to disagree respectfully and solve problems, or do you only want your teenager to fear you and never talk to you in that way again?
Punishment will do the latter, but not the former.
A teen with the skill to disagree respectfully will be able to regulate their emotions and naturally refrain from using a negative attitude.4 But a teen who hides their negative attitude solely out of fear will not learn that skill.
Besides, fear is not respect. It can make your child act respectfully for now, but it will not make them respect you.
Punishment may help the parent feel better, but it will not help the child acquire important skills.
5. Discuss Teen Attitude problem Only When Calm
Reasoning is difficult, if not impossible when emotions are running high.5
Criticizing your teenager’s behavior in the heat of the moment is unlikely to be productive. It’s a distraction from solving a problem.
The best way is to wait until both you and your child are calm before discussing. This can be done either after settling the primary issue or at a separate time when both of you are in a good mood.
Approach the discussion calmly, emphasizing you are trying to solve a problem, not accusing them of wrongdoing.
6. Clarify the problem
How we perceive the problem will make a big difference in what our children learn from it.
If your teenager shows a bad attitude toward everyone, including their peers, it indicates they have an attitude problem. But if your child’s behavior is primarily directed at you or other authority figures, then the attitude patterns suggest a relational problem.
In this case, your teenager may be struggling with the power imbalances between you, feeling frustrated and resentful that authority figures exert control mainly through their status without mutual respect.
A relational issue inherently involves two parties. If we treat such a problem solely as one of the “teenage attitude problems,” we absolve ourselves of any responsibility, which inadvertently reinforces the message that their feelings are not worthy of respect because we hold power and control over them.
A more effective approach is to discuss whether there is any underlying resentment and, if so, how to prevent it.
Invite your teenager to share any adjustments they wish you would make to prevent such conflicts.
You might have concerns that your teenager will request a total absence of rules, but this isn’t necessarily true.
Teenagers aren’t opposed to rules per se. What they often resist are rules that they perceive as unfair or unreasonable or that they were not involved in the rule-making process. Sometimes, they don’t understand the way you set rules. So, consider posing a question like, “I’ve established this curfew out of concern for your safety. If you were in my position as a parent, how might you approach this situation differently?”
It encourages your child to view the situation from your perspective and creates a more productive conversation.
7. Teach them how to express emotions
There will undoubtedly be instances when disagreements arise between you and your child, leading to feelings of anger. Teach them to express their negative emotions constructively rather than resorting to an angry attitude.
For instance, they could communicate their feelings respectfully by saying, “I am upset because you dismissed what I said even though I told you they were important to me.”
8. Build a Relationship Based On Trust and Respect
Trust and respect are crucial to any good relationship and must be mutual.
If you believe your child needs to earn your trust and respect, they are likely thinking the same thing about you.
Trust and respect are a two-way street. They cannot be demanded or forced; they must be earned through actions.
Give your child unconditional love. That means treating them with kindness, empathy, and a positive attitude, even in challenging situations.
Show them that you don’t abandon them even when things are tough, and you respect them even when they’re not acting like themselves, and you will earn their trust and respect.
Also See: Parenting Teens
9. Patience and Persistence
Addressing your child’s disrespectful behavior requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to put in the necessary time and effort.
Changes won’t happen overnight.
It may seem faster to punish in the short term. However, this shortcut always backfires in the long run.
Focus on building a positive parent-child relationship, and you will help them develop into a respectful and responsible adult.
10. Seek support
In extreme cases, such as dealing with an angry outburst on a regular basis, seek professional help from a therapist or counselor if necessary.
A trained mental health professional can provide a safe and supportive environment for you and your teen to work through issues and concerns. They can help identify underlying issues, offer strategies for effective communication, and provide guidance to manage difficult emotions.
- 1.Khng KH. A better state-of-mind: deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children. Cognition and Emotion. Published online September 26, 2016:1502-1510. doi:10.1080/02699931.2016.1233095
- 2.Dubi K, Rapee RM, Emerton JL, Schniering CA. Maternal Modeling and the Acquisition of Fear and Avoidance in Toddlers: Influence of Stimulus Preparedness and Child Temperament. J Abnorm Child Psychol. Published online December 13, 2007:499-512. doi:10.1007/s10802-007-9195-3
- 3.Moore J. A Challenge for Social Studies Educators: Increasing Civility in Schools and Society by Modeling Civic Virtues. The Social Studies. Published online July 2012:140-148. doi:10.1080/00377996.2011.596860
- 4.Ashiabi GS. Early Childhood Education Journal. Published online 2000:79-84. doi:10.1023/a:1009543203089
- 5.Tottenham N, Galván A. Stress and the adolescent brain. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Published online November 2016:217-227. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.07.030