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What Should I do when my Teen is Disrespectful?

Parenting Disrespectful Teenagers

By Kevin Hedrick, Vice President of Residential Services

Disrespectful Teenager

Children, especially teens, are going to have struggled. At times they may even be disrespectful toward authority. The number one factor that will determine how they get through that struggle is you. It is your action, reaction, response or lack thereof that will strongly influence the subsequent behaviors.

You must first remember that you are the parent and they are the child and the responsibilities that come with each role. You must recognize that they may be emotionally flooded and first need your support and love to return to a normal baseline behavior. You must also wait to teach until your child is no longer emotionally flooded.

Don’t Respond with Anger and Frustration

Often times the natural human response is to react with anger, frustration, or sarcasm when your child is disrespectful or acting out. Therapeutic Crisis Intervention by Cornell University states this initial reaction must be delayed while you ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What does my child feel, need, or want?
  3. How is the environment affecting my child?
  4. How do I best respond?

This pause to ask yourself these questions (I would also suggest a quick prayer for patience and wisdom in handling the situation) will help you respond with what your child needs instead of how your emotions want you to react.

Do Respond Calmly and Respectfully

At this point, you can respond with love to help your child calm down.  Appropriate responses according to Therapeutic Crisis Intervention are caring gestures, hurdle help (helping them through a task), proximity (give some space), redirection/distractions, or directive statements.  Remember the goal is to help your child to return to their normal behavior so you can continue to teach.

Once your child is calm, you can then teach more appropriate behaviors and actions. Your child will respond more appropriately since they saw you respond with love and not react with emotion. Give more positive attention to the positive behaviors that you see moving forward than you do negative attention to negative behaviors. Every one of their behaviors is a cry for a response. Every response you give them is a teaching moment.



Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, College of Human Ecology Cornell University

Additional Resources:

  • Beyond Boundaries: Learning to trust again in relationships by  Dr. John Townsend
  • Toe-to-Toe with Your Teen: Successfully Parenting a Defiant Teenager Without Giving Up or Giving In– Myers,
  • Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World by Jill Rigby
  • Have a New Teenager by Friday: How to Establish Boundaries, Gain Respect & Turn Problem Behaviors Around in 5 Days, Dr. Kevin Leman
  • “Boundaries with Teens:  When to Say Yes, How to Say No” by Dr. John Townsend
  • Parenting Today’s Teen by Mark Gregston