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Teenage Disrespect

The teenage years can be very difficult as your child tries to navigate their way from childhood to becoming an independent adult. Throw into that the mix of hormones and physical changes and it is an explosive time!

So what level of moodiness and attitude should you be willing to accept as a parent? We recommend that a very basic and golden rule should be that your teenager communicates and behaves in a respectful manner towards you and other family members. Disrespect is not acceptable at any time. Of course there are times when the teenager will say something or do something that, while it is borderline on disrespect, it doesn’t actually bother you. In cases like that, trust your gut feeling – if you don’t feel disrespected then ignore the behaviour.

Many times parents ask us what constitutes disrespect. Often, you may wonder if you are overreacting and perhaps you should be willing to ignore certain comments or actions by your teenager. The golden rule is that if you feel disrespected by your teenagers behaviour, then you are right to treat it as disrespectful and insist on your teenager changing this behaviour. Again, trust your gut feeling to decide if the behaviour is disrespectful or not.

Always insist on respect from your teenager!

If you teenager is being rude or disrespectful to you, address this before you address any other request they have. For example, your teenager cannot find his/her trainers. They are shouting at you “where did you put them? I have to find them NOW, I am late”. In this situation, we are often tempted to jump to help them look for the items and at the same time, shout back at them. Does this situation seem familiar?

Teen shouting

Where are my trainers? I need them NOW – I am going to be late!!
Parent shouting

Don’t shout at me like that! You should put your stuff away properly.
Teen shouting

Well don’t pick up after me! That way the stuff would be where I left it. You are doing my head in!
Parent shouting

Someone has to pick up – otherwise the place would be a mess. Why do you always leave it to the last minute to find your stuff?

Now lets look at this a different way. Instead of reacting to the teenagers request to find the trainers, the parent first addresses the disrespectful way that the teenager is addressing them. The parent will not get drawn into helping the teenager to find the trainers until they speak respectfully. Lets picture the scene with different reaction from the parent.

Teen shouting

Where are my trainers? I need them NOW – I am going to be late!!

I cannot help you until you stop shouting and communicate respectfully with me.
Teen shouting

That’s no good to me. I need to find them NOW! I am sick of things going missing in this house!

I told you that I cannot help you when you are shouting at me. Ask me calmly and I will help.
Teen (Sarcastically)

Okay – will you help me please to look for my trainers (possibly puts his/her eyes up to heaven at this stage!)

I want you to be respectful when you ask me. Say something like ‘Mam, will you help me to look for my trainers please?’. Then I can help you.

Ok. Mam, will you help me to look for my trainers please?
Parent shouting

That’s better. Now lets look together. Did you check the hall cupboard?

As you can see, in the second example, the parent insists that the teenager is respectful before they address the problem of the trainers. In addition, when the teenager asks with a mocking tone (continuing the disrespect) the parent still asks for respect but goes a further step and demonstrates to the teenager how they should communicate.

So what happens when the teenager continues the disrespect and it is impossible to get them to calm down? In a case like that, you should remove yourself from the situation. Maybe you will go out of the room? Perhaps you can go to another part of the house and do something else until the teenager calms down. Whatever you have to do, do not get drawn into disrespectful communication.

When the teenager has calmed down, address the disrespect and enforce a consequence because of that. For example:

“Mary, I did not like the way you were so disrespectful earlier. I asked you to calm down and you continued to be rude to me. In future, speak to me with respect. Because of your disrespect earlier, I will be taking your mobile for for 30 minutes this evening. Please switch if off and give it to me at 7:00pm.”

Make sure that you follow through on this and carry out the consequence. Your teenager must be taught that you will not tolerate disrespect and a consequence will follow.

Article Provided by Help Me To Parent Ltd who are taking bookings for courses on Parenting Teenagers, Parenting After Separation or Divorce & much more. All courses are 1 full day (Sat or Sun) from 9.30am to 4.30pm. View more information on their website.