The teenage years can be very difficult as your child tries to navigate their way from childhood to becoming an independant 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.
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?
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.
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:
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.