Working with Disrespectful Teens

Has your once sweet and obedient child turned into a door-slamming, yelling, cursing, and disrespectful teenager? Are they showing an increasing amount of frustration towards you and a disrespect for authority? Once a child hits their pre-teen or teen years, it can often seem like this transformation happens overnight! Although this is one of the most widespread problems that families face during their children’s teen years, it is crucial to address disrespectful children early and often, as it can have serious consequences in your teen’s adult life.

Causes of Disrespectful Behavior in Teens

Disrespectful teenagers develop during a child’s struggles to find their identity as an adult, while still not being fully mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with this identity. Pray for extra grace and patience as they navigate through this confusing time.

However, there may be other factors also contributing to your teen’s disrespect for authority. Here are three questions to ask yourself to help diagnose the cause.

Is your teen consistently around peers or adults that speak and act disrespectfully? Teens often mimic the behavior of those around them. If they see their friends and other disrespectful teenagers treating their parents with no respect, or hear an older family member consistently bad mouth a boss, this kind of talk and behavior begins to seem much more acceptable to them.

Is your parenting style putting unnecessary frustration on your teen? It is absolutely your job as a parent to discipline and correct your teen. However, making unrealistic demands, inflicting unnecessarily harsh punishments, or not giving your teen the opportunity to be heard will frustrate and exasperate your teen, causing them to lash out at you and others.

Has something happened in your teen’s life to make them distrust authority figures? If your teen has been betrayed or abused in some way by an older family member, teacher, mentor, or family friend, it is not unlikely that they will have a distrust and subsequent disrespect for other authority figures in their life. If this is the case for your teen, start by connecting them with a therapist to help work through these deeper issues, and then see if the problems at home improve.


How to Handle Disrespectful Teenagers

Parenting a teen who has a problem with authority is frustrating and painful, but don’t stop trying to address the problem.  Try these strategies for helping your teen learn a healthy respect for those in authority:

  • Rather than viewing your teen’s growing disrespect as a personal attack, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to respectfully disagree with an authority figure. There is nothing wrong with challenging the ideas of those in authority—after all, this is one of the most important aspects of democracy—but they must be challenged respectfully. Teach your teen that they will have a much greater chance at being heard if they present their disagreement with you in a calm and respectful way.
  • Do not match your disrespectful teenager’s behavior with more disrespect. When dealing with a ranting teen, it can be easy to get into a shouting match, or give them a taste of their own medicine by throwing insults back at them. Do whatever you can to resist this urge! Matching their disrespect will teach them that this is an acceptable way for adults to act.
  • Make your requests clear and realistic. When you are asking your teen to do (or not do) something, clearly communicate your expectations and reasons behind it. If you have no logical reasons, it might be good to rethink if the request/expectation is realistic or not.
  • Reward respect. If your teen respectfully asks you to reconsider a decision, reward them by listening to their case. This does not mean you have to give in, but consider if there is a reasonable compromise that can be reached. If so, use it as a teaching moment to show them that people are much more receptive to compromising when talked to in a respectful way.
  • Consider outside intervention. Rock Solid Refuge is a program for troubled teens.  While we recommend family counseling as a first step, a therapeutic boarding school like ours may be the next step in assisting your teenager with learning respect for others.

We hope that this content has been informative and helpful. It is our desire to help families and bring struggling teens back together. We encourage you to share this information with others who may be in need.


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