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.
★ You can “dial-up” more information about parenting your teenager by clicking these links:
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If you want to stop fighting with your teen, please press four.
But no matter what, when it comes to your teen—don’t get disconnected. Stay on the line.