Disrespectful Teens

Dealing with Disrespectful Teenagers

Eye rolling, curses, insults, backtalk, name-calling, ignored requests, snide comments: disrespect from your teen comes in many different forms.


If you’re dealing with a defiant and disrespectful teenager, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common complaints we hear from parents today. Today’s teen has zero respect for authority – it’s not like generation’s earlier. When our parents told us to come home at 10pm, there was never a question – we were actually home ten minutes earlier!


Backtalk? We wouldn’t dream of it, unless we enjoyed the taste of soap – or a good whipping! Yes, I said it. I’m not saying any of us were abused, I’m only saying our parents were allowed to discipline us – and we learned respect very early in our tween-age life.


Not so much today. We’re living in an entitlement generation.


Disrespectful or rude behavior in teenagers is something many parents face at some point.


About disrespectful behavior in teenagers


Sometimes you might feel that interactions with your child all seem a bit like this:


  • You – ‘How’s that project going?’
  • Your child – ‘Why are you checking up on me? Don’t you trust me? I always get good marks, so why ask me about it?’
  • You – ‘I was only asking. I just wanted to know if you’re going OK with it …’
  • Your child – ‘Sure you were … mumble, mumble, mumble.’


As a parent, you might feel hurt, worried and unsure about what’s happened when you have conversations like this. Your child used to value your interest or input, but now it seems that even simple conversations turn into arguments.


There are reasons for your child’s behavior. And there’s also good news: this phase will usually pass.


Disrespect: where does it come from?


Not all teenagers are rude or disrespectful, but disrespect is a common part of teenage growth and development.


This is partly because your child is expressing and testing independent ideas, so there’ll be times when you disagree. Developing independence is a key part of growing up. It’s a good sign that your child is trying to take more responsibility. But your child is also still learning how to handle disagreement and differing opinions appropriately.


Also, your child is trying to balance their need for privacy with your need to stay connected and show you care. So sometimes you might get a rude or disrespectful response because your child feels you’re taking too much interest in what they’re doing or invading their space.


Your child’s moods can change quickly too. Because of the way teenage brains develop, your child can’t always handle changing feelings and reactions to everyday or unexpected things. And this can sometimes lead to over-sensitivity, which can lead in turn to grumpiness or rudeness. Teenage brain development can also affect your child’s ability to empathize and understand other people’s perspectives, including yours.


Sometimes disrespectful behavior might be a sign that your child is feeling particularly stressed or worried.


Teenagers are also starting to think more deeply about things, so they can have thoughts and feelings they’ve never had before. Some young people seem to have a conflicting and radical view on everything, and might question previously held beliefs. This shift to deeper thinking is a normal part of development too.


And sometimes teenagers are disrespectful because they think it might be a way to impress others, or because they’ve seen their friends behave this way.


Things to avoid with teenage disrespect


Arguing rarely works for parents or teenagers. When we get angry, we can say things we don’t mean. A more effective approach is to give yourself and your child some time to calm down.


If you’re angry or in the middle of an argument, it will be hard to calmly discuss what you expect of your child. A more effective approach is to tell your child that you want to talk, and agree on a time.


Being defensive is very rarely useful. Try not to take things personally. It might help to remind yourself that your child is trying to assert their independence.


Even though you have more life experience, lecturing your child about how to behave is likely to turn them off listening. If you want your child to listen to you, you might need to spend time actively listening to your child.


Nagging isn’t likely to have much effect. It might increase your frustration, and your child will probably just switch off.


Sarcasm will almost certainly create resentment and increase the distance between you and your child.


When to be concerned about teenage disrespect


If your child’s attitude towards you and your family doesn’t respond to any of the strategies suggested above, it might be a warning sign that there’s a deeper problem.


You might also be worried if:


  • there are changes in your child’s attitude or mood
  • your child withdraws from family, friends or usual activities
  • grades are dropping, underachieving in school
  • loss of interest in his favorite activities (sports, hobbies)
  • your child runs away from home or stops going to school regularly.

Getting help


  • Consider seeking professional support – good people to talk to include school counselors, teachers and adolescent therapist.
  • Discuss the issue as a family, and try to work out ways of supporting each other.
  • Talk to other parents and find out what they do.


Source: Raising Children Parenting Website

If you have exhausted your local resources and therapy isn’t working, it might be time to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information.