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How to Deal with Disrespectful Teens or Teen Attitude

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Oh, the teen years.

Do you remember when you were a teenager?

Sometimes I still FEEL like a teenager…so, it’s hard to believe I HAVE teenagers!

With five girls and two boys, I KNOW how difficult it is to deal with disrespect. It’s DIFFERENT from sheer disobedience because you can’t always pin it down. It just smells…like wrong.

That’s actually what I tell my kids, “I don’t know where the funk is coming from, but I can SMELL it all over you.” I do a lot of circular hand motions to drive home my point.

Disrespect can come in the form of:

  • tone of voice
  • slamming doors
  • huffing and puffing
  • telling you “fine”
  • and much, much more (*says with cheesy infomercial voice)

So, how do you overcome teen disrespect?

How do you get through to your teen that it’s NOT OKAY to treat you a certain way?

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I’m going to tell you some of my tricks, but I need to remind you that it’s NOT A SPRINT TO THE FINISH…this is a marathon race. There is no one magic bullet, mama…you are just going to have to keep on working on this area until they are out of the house.

BUT…there are some things you definitely can do to help squash teen disrespect and teenage attitude.

How to Deal with Disrespectful Teens or Teen Attitude

GRACE, GRACE, GRACE

It takes youth sooooo long to really get the concept of “respect” (especially in this age). Being patient and gracious is of vital importance. Humbly explaining works best. Getting overly angry does not help.

The Bible says “a soft/gracious answer turns away wrath.”

Respond to their disrespect sweetly and you’ll find a lot less resistance (but not complete compliance…they are stubborn things after all!)

CONSISTENCY

Don’t give up! Keep repeating the same things, over and over..even if you are tired. Eventually all your efforts WILL stick!

The Bible says, “Do not grow weary in well doing, for in due time you will reap a harvest” and “train a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it.”

As Dory from Finding Nemo always says, “Just keep swimming!” in the area of consistent discipline.

HOLY PRAYER

Of course, I’m sure you are already doing this...but keep reading, because there is a secret prayer you can do!

I heard a sermon from a woman who prayed for 4 years for her disobedient daughter WITH NO CHANGE…then God gave her a plan: Say their name only, then pray in tongues over them.

Her logic was that Satan cannot understand heavenly tongues and therefore cannot combat your prayers. I don’t know if that’s true..but I have heard another testimony that backs this idea up.

CHECK WHAT THEY ARE READING/WATCHING

Oftentimes, teens watch stuff that give them the idea that it’s “normal” to treat parents with disrespect. They begin feeling like it’s some sort of strange rite of passage.

Keeping tabs on what they are watching or reading, can give you clues to different attitudes they might be portraying.

If you notice an attitude developing around a certain book series, talk to them. You don’t have to take the book away if you don’t want to, but you can address that certain attitudes AREN’T NORMAL IN YOUR HOME.

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We had to do this when my daughter started reading Dork Diaries. I loved that my daughter had a series she loved, but the tone of the characters towards their siblings was NOT one I wanted emulated. We expressed concern over it and told my daughter if she kept on acting that way toward her siblings that the books would be confiscated. 

RECOGNIZE THEIR STRESS LEVELS

My oldest daughter is a major over achiever. I think she gets it from me (7 kids, 4 active blogs, homeschooler anyone?).

I have to constantly remind her to take on LESS!

Teens are learning to be mini-adults. Which means they often start thinking about serious things, like earning money for a vehicle. This is super stressful even for adults!

Making sure you realize that disrespect can come from being stressed, can help you teach them how to properly manage their life so they don’t lash out at the world. It can also help you have understanding that sometimes their disrespect isn’t always personal!

HAVE MORE (OR LESS) FUN

Many times kids only hear you saying “No! No! No!” and they forget they like being with you. Try having fun with them a little more. This gives them reason to want to obey you when the time comes.

On the flip side, disrespect can also come when you ALWAYS say “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Kids can think you are some sort of Santa Clause and get used to you always doing what they want! I’ve personally dealt with this. Because we have sooo many kids, I can guilt myself into thinking they are “missing out” and so I’m prone to say “yes!” Yes to the library. Yes to taking them to Target. Yes to staying up late. I can “yes” myself into a pickle where I’m sooo frustrated I start telling them NO! They don’t like that. And they throw a temper tantrum (yes, I’m talking about teens here). Reminding them that you have a responsibility and a right to say “no” reminds them whose boss. You might have to practice this if you are a “yes” mom like me!

EXPLAIN THE TWO ROADS

Early on, the Lord gave me the wisdom to teach my children about the “two roads.”

It goes like this:

There are two roads teens take.

The first road is the one where the teen decides THEY are smarter than their parents. They try to assert themselves over the rightful boss (you) and chaos ensues. This is the road MOST teens take. They spend their teenage years in angst and anger. They don’t have a beautiful relationship with their parents. They might eventually come back to remember how much they love their mom and dad, but by that time it’s got lots of baggage.

The second road is the one less traveled. It’s the one where a teen decides they WANT to remain friends with their mom/dad during their teen years. They understand that “friendship” status is earned. “Friend” status goes back to “parent” status if disrespect ensues. They decide to honor and respect them NOT because the parent is always right, but it’s what is best for the relationship. If they find themselves at odds, they work hard to maintain the peace.

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(I’m always the parent, but I believe the teen years are a testing ground for the future friendship with your children…so don’t take this idea to the extreme).

In my house, when I have to revert to “parent” status with my teens I remind them of their TRUE desire to retain a beautiful relationship with me by saying, “Don’t you want to remain my friend as a teenager? You are NOT treating me like a friend right now and I don’t let my friends treat me like that.” This helps them to remember their place and their ultimate desire for our relationship.

SWIFT

Attitude needs to be dealt with swiftly.

It’s easy to “purchase peace” when you are worn out by a teenager’s attitude. “Purchasing Peace” means you decide to ignore the attitude for the sake of temporary peace. But be warned, delaying action only causes MORE disrespect and LESS peace.

Make sure your punishment is swift and not delayed.

For example, if tone of voice (disrespectful words/attitudes) is the problem, then perhaps something like 50 push-ups right then and there works vs taking away their phone for a week. One has immediate pain (in their muscles) where the longer one might not drive the point home fast enough.

CONSEQUENCES THAT FIT

Find what consequence fits your particular teen. Also, make sure that the consequence FITS the sin.

Some teens respond better to certain consequences. For example, more chores might make one child obey, whereas anther child responds to getting their stuff taken away.

I, personally, tend to dish out harsh consequences when I’m in the moment, then I have to undo them because they are too harsh.

Making a list of what consequence is for what sin, they know what to expect when they disobey or show disrespect. It also helps you not be a tyrant. If they are rude to their sibling, then you have one set of consequences that is different than if they slam the door. 

REINFORCE LOVE

Teens can be hard to love…and cuddle with.

They aren’t as cute as their toddler counterparts (which is what they act like…seriously…can we call this age teenoddler? They need more naps and more discipline than ever, right?) They aren’t cuddly or chubby (and if they are chubby PLEASE don’t squish their cheeks…they will start crying with emotional melt downs!)

But don’t let this stop you from showing affection after you discipline them for teen attitude or having a disrespectful tone as a teen.

They need to know that you love and care about them beyond their sin of rude behavior!

CHECK YOUR HEART.

Lastly, check your OWN heart.

Make sure your heart is always in the right place. Do you find the you are punishing too much lately? Maybe you’re getting annoyed. Maybe the kids are interrupting your “me time” – make sure you are punishing them out of true need and not aggravation.

One of my favorite books is called “Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit” by Teri Maxwell. It rocked my world as a parent. It’s one of those TINY reads too! So, seriously, go get it.

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