The teenage years are a time of growth, self-discovery, and to every parent’s dismay, rebellion. When this rebellion gently pushes the boundaries of what’s been established as acceptable behavior, it’s easy enough to manage. At least, as easy as any teen rebellion could be.
However, when this rebellion turns into a bad attitude—pessimistic, disrespectful, and downright rude—we parents need to do something to help them realize this isn’t a productive way to behave.
Not only is it unpleasant to be around, but a bad attitude can affect them later in life. Friends, schoolwork, getting or keeping a job, and their outlook for their future can all suffer for the sake of pouting.
After we’ve talked with them, however, what can we do to make sure we’ve gotten through to them?
It’s important to remember that talking isn’t enough. If your actions don’t back up your words, nothing will change. Communication is key, as with all relationships, but it’s understanding that communication and what’s acceptable that will help move past this bad attitude.
Don’t Accept Teenage Angst as “Normal” Behavior
A lot of parents of teens like to explain away bad behavior as simply being what teenagers do. This is not dissimilar to the sentiment that “boys will be boys” excusing poor, rude, or sexist and abusive behavior even at a young age. Unacceptable behavior is exactly that and should be treated as such.
Pick Your Battles and Allow Them to Win a Few
This is a tough one and up to the parents to decide exactly where the line is drawn. The idea is that if you were to try and react to every single infraction, not only will you drive yourself insane, but you’ll soon simply become noise to your teen. What do we do with an annoying noise? We tune it out.
However you want to measure what is deemed “bad enough” to be responded to, make sure your rules are clear, concise, and that you remain consistent.
Don’t Respond with Your Own Bad Attitude
On paper this can seem like a no-brainer. In the moment, however, when emotions are flying and you really want to make your kid understand what it’s like to make people feel this way, it can be tempting to toss an insult or comment back.
No matter how much this may feel like the right thing to do, no matter how well you rationalize it to yourself, don’t do it. You will lose your teen’s respect. It lowers you from authority figure to peer, rendering anything you have to say thereafter as hypocritical.
Instead, control your temper, and remain calm. Lead by example and demonstrate self-control and mature behavior. This precise moment has the most impact on driving this hard-to-teach lesson home.
Tyler Jacobson, father of three, writes on parenting and brings hope and healing to families with difficult teens. As a team member and outreach coordinator for Arivaca Boys Ranch, he offers blunt parenting advice, tips for improving teen education, social media use, mental illness and behavioral disorders, addiction, and abuse. During his free time, Tyler enjoys taking his family into the mountains to connect with a simpler side of life which he finds grounding and rejuvenating. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn