12 Tips For Parents To Deal With A Disrespectful Teenager

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It is quite annoying to deal with a disrespectful and insolent teenager who constantly disobeys you, and does not adhere to your values or beliefs. Although you may be worried about their behavior, it is a normal part of the physical and mental changes teenagers undergo while transitioning from childhood to adolescence.

These changes may alter the brain’s structural attributes, contributing to mood and behavioral changes. This could also be why your teen displays changes in thought processes and views.

It is important to remember that these swift hormonal changes and growth processes could be confusing for your teen, causing them to behave rudely. Therefore, you should try to understand the emotional changes your teen is going through and be patient while dealing with their rebellious nature.

Read more about how to deal with the disrespectful behavior of your teenager and things to avoid while doing so.

In This Article

What Does Disrespectful Behavior Include?

Generally, when teenagers try to establish their position in this world, they are often questioned and criticized, making them moody and upset. If this continues for a while, the teenager concludes that no one understands them, and that is when they start exhibiting disrespectful or disobedient behavior.

Disrespectful behavior may entail (1)

  • Arguing and talking back.
  • Using offensive language.
  • Demanding things.
  • Ignoring and refusing requests.
  • Slamming doors during conversations.
  • Texting or using mobile phones while talking.

12 Ways To Deal With A Disrespectful Teenager

The following are a few practical ways to deal with disrespectful teenager behavior (2) (3) (4) (5).

1. Understand the teenage brain

Uneven brain development can make teens impulsive

Image: IStock

Studies suggest that as children reach adolescence, the circuit connecting the prefrontal cortex to the midbrain reward system starts developing.

As this region of the brain associated with reward is activated, teens tend to ignore the risks associated with certain actions and lean towards the rewards. Thus, they may indulge in risky behavior that is often troubling. The uneven brain development is also known to cause extreme mood swings and make them impulsive (6) (7) (8).

It is essential for you as a parent to understand the biological development of your teenagers to deal with their behavior appropriately.

2. Focus on the behavior and not the person

Often, when your child is disrespectful or displays impolite or ill-mannered behaviors, it is a sign that they have emotional needs that are not being met. It is also a means to grab your attention. In such situations, sit with your teenager and tell them that you are available for them and are ready to listen to what they have to say. Assure your child that you love them unconditionally. Do not interrupt your child while they are sharing their thoughts with you. Listen first, before giving any advice.

While dealing with a discourteous or disrespectful teenager, it is easy to get caught up with your emotions. This can lead you to take things personally and make the blunder of attacking the child and not the behavior.

When they show impudent behavior, avoid commenting on their character or personality. Instead, focus on the behavior. So, for instance, instead of saying “You’re a prat” in anger, say, “I feel let down when you reply to me that way.”

Understanding your teenager’s behavior can help you look into your child’s emotional needs and empathize with them.

protip_icon Quick tip
It is okay to clearly express your feelings occasionally. For instance, you could say, “I am very upset now. It is hurtful to be spoken to in that way, and I am sure you would feel the same if the roles were reversed.”

3. Be a role model

Always remember that your children consider you as their role model. Whenever you are with your child, try to speak and act the way you want your teenager to speak and behave towards you. If you want your child to be respectful to everyone, adopt a respectful attitude towards people around you.

Try to be calm and patient towards them, and help them look at you and mold themselves.

4. Understand that your teenager is developing independence

Urge for autonomy, disrespectful teenager

Image: IStock

Developing independence is a vital step in growing up. You need to understand that some level of disrespect is a sign of your child becoming independent. Examples of this disrespect could be ignored requests, eye-rolling, unnecessary remarks, and wearing clothes of their choice.

Understand that your child is not young anymore, and it is essential for you to adjust your expectations and not treat your teenager as a child. At the same time, your teenager is not an adult either, and therefore, be prepared for some irrational behavior occasionally.

Encourage them to look at all the negative experiences as learning opportunities and learn to think independently. A teen with an independent mind has a strong sense of self and can resist temptations and peer pressures.

5. Ignore mild forms of disrespect

It is best to ignore mild forms of disrespect such as raised eyebrows, feigned boredom, muttering under one’s breath, and shrugging of the shoulders. However, the apparent rudeness should not be tolerated, as ignoring it might lead to an escalation of such behavior.

That said, do not let your child grow up in an environment where the balance of power lies solely with you or where they are surrounded by rules and expectations. In such an environment, the child may feel powerless and distressed, resulting in them talking back and getting into arguments with you.

Let your child express themselves and convey their ideas, and listen to them without judging, mocking, interrupting, criticizing, or offering advice.

6. Set clear boundaries

One of the most common causes of disrespect in teenagers is the absence of boundaries. Therefore, it is necessary to be firm with a few rules and regulations at home. Such firm rules include studying at a specific time every day, sleeping at the same time every night, and playing at regular timings.

It is also essential for both parents to be consistent with the rules and boundaries. Inconsistency arises when one parent is strict and the other is lenient. In such a situation, teenagers can exploit the inconsistency and turn parents against each other.

Here are a few tips on how to establish clear boundaries.

  • Set the boundaries after considering your teen’s strengths and limitations.
  • Discuss the boundaries and rules with your teenager, and make sure you both agree to them. Allow them to establish their own rules, which will more likely help them follow them through.
  • Write down the rules and boundaries so that there is no confusion.
  • Do not set unrealistic rules.

7. When you set consequences, follow them through

It is always good to acknowledge your teenager’s good behavior. Likewise, you have to set consequences for their bad behavior and follow through with the consequences. Many parents make the common mistake of threatening the child with consequences during the heat of the moment and failing to act on them.

Following through with the consequences makes the teenager understand boundaries. Your child will trust you because you stand by your words. Most importantly, they will learn that the behavior in question is unacceptable.

Follow these tips while setting consequences for bad behavior.

  • Set consequences for the short term. This will help the teenager to learn quickly and move on.
  • Ensure the consequences are not too harsh.
  • Do not be too strict, or the teenager might turn rebellious and resentful.
  • Do not criticize or insult them when something goes wrong; instead, state the facts and the consequences as agreed.
  • Do not use overbearing statements such as “This was bound to happen,” “I warned you,” and “Look at the consequences now.” Let the consequence speak for itself. These statements will further arouse feelings of anger and resentment.

8. Avoid unnecessary arguments

Let the teen speak when they feel comfortable

Image: Shutterstock

Engaging in an argument will never have a positive outcome. On the contrary, arguments tend to spiral out of control. Always remember that as an adult, you can handle your emotions better than a teenager. So calm yourself in such situations.

If your child wants some space, never force them to talk at that point in time as it might result in a huge argument. Wait for some time or end the conversation by saying that they can approach you when they feel comfortable speaking. In this crucial phase, always try to be available for your child.

protip_icon Point to consider
If there is a lot of tension between the teen and one parent, the other parent or any other trusted adult can try to talk to the child.

9. Avoid using “you are” and “you should” statements

When dealing with your child’s defiant or obstinate behavior, avoid using statements such as, “You are such a lazy/rude/selfish/careless/bratty/uncooperative person.” Such negative comments always result in arguments and tend to make teenagers more stubborn and rude.

Always use statements that focus specifically on the behavior, such as “When you ignore me/don’t listen to me/yell at me, I feel disrespected, and it hurts me.” 

This might help your teenager understand their behavior, and it opens up the possibility of change in their behavior.

10. Praise your teenager

When your child does something good, always appreciate them. This can build up their confidence and even bring them closer to you. Be vocal about their achievements or with the work they do. If your teen is interested in sports, artwork, or other activities, sign up with them and go to their events. This will help them understand that you are aware of their values and interests.

11. Use humor

Humor can help deal with a disrespectful teenager

Image: IStock

Always remember that shared laughter can resolve conflicts and bring you closer. Humor can offer a different perspective on a tense situation or lighten the tone of the conversation. Avoid mocking, ridiculing, or being sarcastic.

12. Shift to deeper thinking

It is important for you as a parent to understand what your child is going through. Have conversations with them and analyze the mood they are in. Humility and transparency are the main aspects that might lead to a turnaround.

Admit if you have made some mistake and apologize. By seeing this, your teen might learn the same and apologize if they are arrogant or disrespectful towards you. Such behavior helps them know that they don’t have to do everything correctly and that it’s okay to be wrong or commit mistakes sometimes. If they see that you treat them with understanding, care, and love, the arrogance and disrespectfulness can begin to melt.

Also, keep in mind that this is just a phase. The majority of the teens grow out of this phase with positive outcomes. It might take a longer time for a few, while for others, it might be shorter; but in the end, they come out of this as more robust and independent adults.

protip_icon Things to know
Avoid labeling your child for their disrespectful behavior. Labeling affects the way a teen sees themselves and limits their potential (10).

Things To Avoid While Dealing With A Disrespectful Teenager

Avoid doing the following things while dealing with a disrespectful teenager.

  • Arguing: When we get angry, we tend to say thoughtless things that we don’t mean. As an adult, you need to calm yourself and avoid arguments. If there is a need for any conversation, give yourself some time and then talk. This will help you avoid arguments.
  • Nagging: This might increase frustration at both ends, and your child might just switch off. No teenager wants to listen to the same conversation repeatedly. It is essential to either explain things at another time and in a different scenario or wait till they act upon what you told them. When you nag your teenager, they might feel you don’t trust them.
  • Being defensive: Never take things personally. Remind yourself that your child is trying to assert their independence.
  • Being sarcastic: This will undoubtedly create resentment and increase the distance between you and your child. Always draw a line between humor and sarcasm.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes a teen to be disrespectful?

Disrespectful behavior in teenagers is a part of normal development. Your teen’s disrespectful behavior could be due to an inability to handle disagreement, a lack of privacy, changing feelings and emotions in teenagers’ brains, or stress and anxiety. Your teen may also exhibit an uncivil or disrespectful attitude to impress others or due to the influence of the surrounding (9).

2. What are the signs of ungrateful teens?

Common signs of an ungrateful or disrespectful child include the inability to tolerate denial, refusal to follow the rules, refusal to offer help, and frequent tantrums.

3. How do I punish a disrespectful teen?

Punishing, nagging, or arguing with a disrespectful child may aggravate the situation. Instead, stay calm and discipline the child by establishing clear family rules and talking to them about the consequences of being rude or disrespectful to others (9).

While handling a disrespectful teenager might be bothersome, keep in mind that this behavior is often the consequence of physical and mental changes that teens go through as they move from childhood to adolescence. You may see that your teen has become demanding, arguing back and ignoring your demands. In such cases, instead of arguing with your child and becoming inconsiderate or defensive, try to understand their changes and communicate with them. You should also be wary of your actions and words in your teen’s presence and should employ humor and compliments for forming deeper ties.

Infographic: How To Communicate Better To Understand Teen Behavior?

Communication is the key to modulating teen behavior. Take help from the infographic below that provides tips on communicating with your teen effectively and helping them express themselves freely.

building an empathetic approach to communication (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Arguing, using offensive language, refusing requests are some ways a teenager may show disrespect.
  • Understanding teenage brain development, being a role model and allowing them to express themselves are a few ways to deal with such behavior.
  • To handle disrespectful teenagers gently, avoid fights, sarcasm, or nagging.
Disrespectful Teenager_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Navigating the teenage years can be tough. This video shares key strategies for dealing with your teen’s disrespectful behavior. Get tips on how to stay calm and communicate effectively.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Disrespectful Behaviors: Their Impact, Why They Arise and Persist, and How to Address Them (Part II); Institute for Safe Medication Practices
2. Dealing with Disrespectful Teenage Behaviour; HealthyFamilies BC
3. Keeping Your Cool When Parenting Teens; Stanford Children’s Health
4. Toughing out the Teenage Years; University of Utah Health
5. How can parents tell the difference between normal teenage mood swings and possible mental illness?; Tufts University
6. The adolescent brain: Beyond raging hormones; Harvard Health Publishing
7. Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens To Try Drugs?; National Institute of Drug Abuse
8. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development; National Academy of Science
9. Suitable for 9-18 years: Disrespectful behaviour in pre-teens and teenagers; Raising Children Network (Australia)
10. Avoid labeling your child; University of Nevada, Reno

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