Although raising children is often one of life's most fulfilling experiences, dealing with a disrespectful teen can make you want to throw up your hands. But you need to keep in mind that your teen's bad manners aren't entirely his fault. A teen's frontal lobe, which handles judgment, insight, dampening of emotions and impulse control, isn't fully developed, as noted in Dream Magazine, an online publication provided by Children's Hospital Boston. However, that doesn't mean that you should tolerate disrespectful behavior. There are effective ways to handle disciplining your teen.
1 Discontinue the interaction as soon as your teen disrespects you. If you don’t disengage, you run the risk of dealing with your teen out of anger, which will only escalate the situation. You don't want to argue with your teen because he isn't your equal, advises Mark Gregston of Heartland Ministries, a residential counseling center for teens. Instead, remove yourself from the situation if he gets out of hand, whether that means hanging up the phone, leaving the room or pulling the car over. Show your teen that you refuse to communicate with him until he can treat you respectfully.
2 Discuss the disrespectful behavior with your teen to get to the underlying cause of his disrespect. Try not to approach the conversation with anger, frustration or preconceived notions about how you think your teen should feel or what you think he will -- or should -- say. According to information provided by Fairfax County Public Schools, teens often feel that their parents don’t really listen to them. So as you speak with your teen about a particular incident, avoid of “communication blockers,” such as lecturing, being judgmental, allowing yourself to be distracted by other tasks, sounding irritated or rushing through the conversation.
3 Treat your teen with respect and love. You can’t ask for treatment that you aren’t willing to give. Even though your teen is wrong, you have to provide an example of how you want her to act. Tell your teen, “I love you, and I will always speak to you and treat you in a way that reflects that. I expect the same treatment in return.” If you were disrespectful towards your teen in the past, acknowledge that perhaps she's modeling her behavior after your own. Admit your mistakes, apologize and resolve together to handle things differently -- and respectfully -- going forward.
4 Impose consequences. According to EmpoweringParents.com, short-term consequences work best, like removing privileges for a time, denying a favorite activity or shortening a curfew. If the consequence goes on too long, you’re inadvertently encouraging your teen to feel resentful, rebellious and act out again. Also remember that you want to use actual consequences rather than emotional blackmail; you don't want to make your teen feel guilty for hurting your feelings or treating you a certain way. Maintain a position of power and don’t fall back on manipulative tactics. Let the punishment fit the crime, period.
5 Stick to your guns. It will be difficult for your teen to respect you if you don’t uphold your own rules. If your teen knows he can weasel out of a consequence by making you feel guilty, or that you’ll forget about it altogether, he’ll continue to engage in disrespectful behavior.
- Positive Discipline: How to Discipline Disrespectful Teens
- Focus on the Family: Handling Disrespect
- Fairfax County Public Schools: Positive Discipline
- Heartlight Ministries: Dealing With Disrespect In Your Teenager
- Empowering Parents: Why Harsh Punishments for Children and Teenagers Do Not Work
- Children's Hospital Boston: Dream Online: The Teenage Brain
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images