4 Ways To Deal With A Disrespectful Teenager
From rolling their eyes and being argumentative, to defiantly shouting “No” right in your face, if you have a teenager, you have undoubtedly experienced some form of disrespectful behavior along the way. But how do you respond in a constructive way as a parent?
We’ve come to accept that despite our best parenting efforts, the teenage years invariably come with some friction. Developmentally, their biology is undergoing tectonic shifts. Their brains and bodies, including hormones and other body chemistry, are all being completely overhauled.
Psychologically, they are transitioning from childhood dependence to adult independence. They’re also learning how to process the new emotional loads they are experiencing in their changing bodies. There is a built-in tension between their need for a healthy space to become an individual and their need to stay connected to their parental guides. So, we know our teenager has a lot going on…
But still… we want our teens to understand the importance of respect as a character quality that will impact their success as adults. As they are growing into a future that includes navigating adult relationships in their educational and career training, occupation, and a future family of their own, we know as present adults how important learning how to respect yourself and others will be. Research indicating that disrespectful teenagers grow up to be rude adults is really no surprise. And nobody likes being around rude people. So how can we address respect in the lives of our teens in a healthy way for our today and their tomorrow?
Here are four things to keep in mind when parenting a disrespectful teenager:
- Model the behavior you want to see. It always starts with our example as parents. This can’t be stressed enough: as a person and as a parent, make sure you respect and take care of yourself, and model respect toward others. Your life has a “live audience” 24/7 in the form of your teen and more is caught than taught. You are modeling how to respect yourself and respect everyone around you and your teen catches everything. Probably one of the biggest opportunities we have to teach is when our teen is disrespectful toward us and we choose not respond disrespectfully in return.
- Remember that this is a difficult phase of your teen’s life. This isn’t to excuse disrespectful behavior, but it is to keep it in context and put it in perspective. This is to help you choose your battles and how you approach them. When you catch yourself saying, “Well, when I was your age…” remember, things really are different today. Your teen is navigating social media and the bombardment of information and opinions. Let’s just say, there are some really unique circumstances in our world at the moment that could legitimately be making your teen’s life more difficult.
- Look for any deeper issues beneath the surface of disrespectful behavior. The disrespectful behavior you see might be the expression of deeper issues that you need to address as a parent. This doesn’t mean you ignore your teen’s disrespectful behavior, but you stay dialed in to what it could be connected with. Often, changes in our teen’s behavior are signals to deeper emotional needs or struggles. Open up the door for conversation by asking your teen, “I’ve seen more disrespectful behavior from you lately, are you okay? What can I do to help you?” (Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help for your teen if you feel like you are in over your head as a parent.)
- Don’t stop being their parent. You still set the standard for appropriate behavior in your family, and your teen needs healthy boundaries to grow and thrive. Disagreeing may not automatically be disrespecting, but as a parent, you can teach your teen how to disagree respectfully. That is a skill they need to learn to be successful in any relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring disrespectful behavior to try to become your teen’s “buddy.” As your teen grows as a young adult, they still need you to be an adult.
As a general principle, people can’t give what they don’t have. Take a second to think about that. Help your teen develop a healthy respect for themself. Give them the respect they need as a future adult. In doing these things, you’ll probably get more respect as the present adult and their parent.
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Sara and Ethan* started dating in 2012. One year later, Ethan told Sara he wanted to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He was seriously considering an out-of-town move.
“I was attending a community college at the time, but knew I needed to transfer to a four-year school,” says Sara. “I felt like our relationship was strong. But trying to keep things going from a distance didn’t seem like a good idea. Since UTC was close to where Ethan would be, I decided to move as well.”
Money was tight for Ethan and Sara. Living together made sense to them financially, but Sara was concerned about what her family and others would think.
Ethan and Sara are among the more than 70 percent of couples who choose to live together before marriage.
“Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to even greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together or childbearing,” say researchers Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades. “In fact, Dr. Wendy Manning noted in her 2018 address to the Population Association of America that almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the U.S. since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”
Stanley and Rhoades note that increasing number of couples who live together before marriage, as well as serial cohabitation, might be of no special consequence except for the many births that now occur in those unions. Some of these couples have a long-term commitment similar to marriage. But on average, cohabiting parents are much more likely than married parents to break up. This increases the odds of family instability for children.
Additionally, a CDC National Center for Health Statistics report found that cohabiting couples tend to be poorer and less-educated than married couples. This creates a greater disadvantage for children. For instance:
- 47.9% of cohabiting women had household incomes less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s compared to 25.6 percent of wives.
- 36.1 percent of cohabiting men had incomes less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s compared to 21.2 percent of husbands.
- 25.2 percent of cohabiting women had incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s compared to 48.1 percent of wives.
- 32.4 percent of cohabiting men had incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s compared to 52.4 percent of husbands.
- 25.3% of cohabiting women had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 43% of married women.
- 16.2% of cohabiting men had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36.5% of married men.
Large majorities of married, non-married and cohabiting couples believe that having and raising children without a marital commitment is fine. They believe that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce.
“This notion has had wide acceptance since at the mid-1990s, when three-fifths of high school students believed that, ‘It is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married in order to find out whether they really get along,’” Stanley and Rhoades say.
Based on their ongoing research on cohabitation, however, Stanley and Rhoades have strong evidence that some patterns of living together before marriage are associated with increased risks for less successful marriages, that experiences and choices impact future outcomes, and that cohabitation is definitely linked to relationship risks.
“What this means is that people who are already at greater risk for worse outcomes in relationships because of things like family background, disadvantage or individual vulnerabilities are also more likely to do any of the following: cohabit and not marry, cohabit before having clear, mutual plans to marry, or cohabit with a number of different partners over time,” Stanley and Rhoades assert.
There is significant research showing that people learn from experiences and that experiences change people’s beliefs, so it’s no surprise that the experiences of couples who live together can change their beliefs about marriage. Consequently, Stanley and Rhoades believe that the increase in cohabitation, serial cohabitation and premarital cohabitation has led to consistent downward trends in the belief that marriage is special.
Another concern is that cohabitation makes it harder to break up.
“Because of the inertia of living together, some people get stuck longer than they otherwise would have in relationships they might have left or left sooner,” Stanley and Rhoades say. “We believe some people marry someone they would otherwise have left because cohabitation made it too hard to move on. While the increased risk can be modest, numerous studies consistently show that those who live together before marriage report lower than average marital quality and are more likely to divorce. This is compounded by the fact that most couples slide into cohabiting rather than make a clear decision about what it means and what their futures may hold.”
Finally, since more children are being born to unmarried parents in relatively unstable relationships, studies indicate that only 1 out of 3 children born to cohabiting parents will remain in a stable family through age 12. That’s compared to nearly 3 out of 4 children born to married parents. This means that many who cohabit are entering future relationships with the challenge of children as part of the package.
Our society is in a complicated reality. A large portion of the population is choosing to live together before marriage.
There’s a lot for all of us to consider. Research shows that emotional, financial, educational and social stability of cohabiting impacts current and future relationships, along with the communities in which we live.
*Not real names.
Image from Unsplash.com
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The Cost of Delayed Marriage
Knot Yet, a report released in April 2013 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies, The Relate Institute and The National Marriage Project at The University of Virginia, explores the positive and negative consequences for 20-something women, men, their children and the entire nation concerning two troublesome trends:
- The age at which men and women marry, now at historic heights – 27 for women and 29 for men; and
- The age at which women have children.
Delayed marriage has elevated the socioeconomic status of women.
This is especially true more-privileged women, as it allows them to reach their life goals. It has also reduced the odds of divorce for U.S. couples who are now marrying.
But although they are marrying later, women have not put off childbearing at the same pace. The median age at first birth for women, 25.7, falls before the median age of first marriage, 26.5.
By age 25, 44 percent of women have had a baby, while only 38 percent have married. Overall, 48 percent of first births are to unmarried women, most of them in their 20s.
This phenomenon, called “the crossover,” happened decades ago for the least-economically privileged. However, for middle-class American women (those who have a high school degree or some college), the crossover has been recent and rapid. There has been no crossover for college-educated women, who typically have their first child more than two years after marrying.
The “crossover” is concerning. But why?
- Children born outside of marriage are much more likely to experience family instability, school failure and emotional problems.
- Children born to cohabiting couples are three times more likely to see their parents break up than children born to married parents.
- Middle-class and poor Americans and their kids are more likely to pay the cost of delayed marriage in America, and
- College-educated Americans and their kids are more likely to enjoy the benefits of marriage.
Does Sequence Matter?
Researchers believe that for the sake of today’s 20-somethings and their children, syncing marriage and childbearing would be beneficial. Becoming a parent requires intentionality, and relationships flourish within what Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill call “the success sequence”: Complete at least a high school education, get a job, marry and then have children – in that order.
Marriage is clearly not for everyone, but the decoupling of marriage and parenthood is deeply worrisome. The “crossover” fuels economic and educational inequality, not to mention instability. Knot Yet proposes a comprehensive approach encompassing economic, educational, civic and cultural initiatives to help 20-somethings find new ways to put the baby carriage after marriage.
The sequence of marriage – then parenthood – is not a guarantee for success. And, going out of sequence is not a recipe for failure. However, there is clearly a growing disconnect between sexual activity, parental intentions and marriage.
Most young adults believe non-marital childbearing is no big deal. They seem unaware of the toll that it can take on their lives and society. Unfortunately, the research shows that when people become parents before having a plan or a partner, children stand to lose the most.