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The Disrespectful Teenager
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Almost as soon as children learn to talk, they also start to "talk back". Once a toddler has learned the meaning of the word "no" from his parent, he quickly figures out how to use the word "no" himself. "Time to pick up your blocks, Tommy!" says Tommy's father to his twenty month old son. "NO!" yells Tommy, as he throws a block across the room. (At this age of child behavior, "back-talk" can be both verbal and physical!) I once had the following conversation with my two year old daughter - in two languages!

Me (Mom): "It's nap time! Lie down and go to sleep now." Child: "No!" Mom: "Yes." Child snaps two fingers and thumbs together sharply (sign language for "no!") with a stubborn look on her little face. Mom vigorously moves closed fist up and down (sign language for "yes!"). The sign language portion of the conversation is repeated a couple more times, until Mom finally says "Good night!" and leaves the room. (Having no one left to argue with, child lies down in crib and goes to sleep.)

At this young age, the arguing is simple and sometimes humorous (like my daughter's sign language arguing), and the consequences can be simple and straightforward (Little Tommy can sit in time-out for throwing blocks, then go back and pick them up with Dad). But once kids hit the teen years, the issue of "back-talk" gets a little more complicated. The teen's language skills are very well developed, they want to get their way, and they are often quite impulsive, reacting emotionally in the heat of the moment. The result can be a very disrespectful teenager. So what can a parent do, other than yell back?

The first goal for the parent is not to react emotionally yourself. This is easier said than done, but here are a few helpful tips for dealing with teenagers in this difficult situation.

  • First of all, try to separate the issues at hand when disciplining teenagers. The subject of the argument is one issue, but the disrespectful way the teen is talking to you is another issue. Address each issue separately.
  • Address the way the teen is talking to you first. You can tell the child point-blank that he or she may not talk to you that way.
  • If necessary, refuse to discuss the actual issue the teen wishes to discuss (or talk or bully you into agreeing to) until he or she speaks to you respectfully.
  • There is a version of teen-age "time-out" - you can tell the teen to go to his or her room (or simply drop the subject) until he or she is ready to discuss the issue politely and respectfully.

The bottom line here in dealing with teenagers is to remember that as parents, we still have the job of disciplining, which actually means "teaching" - in this case, we are teaching our disrespectful teenager a better way to deal with conflict, with the ultimate goal of him or her handling conflict in a more positive way as an adult.

Dealing with disrespectful or problem teenagers isn't easy - as a mom of six (who is still dealing with the teen years!) I know - but there are resources out there to help you. For more information on those resources, please visit my blog.


Street Talk

Very useful article! Unfortunately, nowadays people no longer known how to communicate!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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