Dealing with disrespectful teenage behaviour

There are several ways to implement a great teenage behavior modification plan in your home. When you can modify your teenager’s habits you will find that your life becomes a little more tranquil.


Disrespectful or rude behaviour in teenagers is pretty common. Although this phase will pass eventually, there are some strategies that can help you handle disrespect from your child in the meantime.

About disrespectful behaviour in teenagers

Sometimes you might feel that interactions with your child all seem a bit like this:

You – ‘How’s that book project going?’
Your child
– ‘Why are you checking up on me? Don’t you trust me? I always get good marks, so why ask me about it?’
– ‘I was only asking. I just wanted to know if you’re going OK with it …’
Your child
– ‘Sure you were … mumble, mumble, mumble.’

As a parent, you might feel hurt, worried and unsure about what’s happened when you have conversations like this. Your child used to value your interest or input, but now it seems that even the most simple conversations turn into arguments.

There are reasons for your child’s behaviour. And there’s also good news: this phase will usually end.

Disrespect: where does it come from?

Not all teenagers will be rude or disrespectful, but some disrespect is a normal part of teenage growth and development. Your child is learning to express and test out his own independent ideas, so there will be times when you disagree. Developing independence is a key part of growing up.

Also, your child’s moods can change quickly. Because of how teenage brains develop, your child isn’t always able to quickly handle her changing feelings and reactions to everyday or unexpected things. And this can sometimes lead to over-sensitivity.

Teenagers are starting to think in a deeper way than they did a few years earlier, and they can have thoughts and feelings they’ve never had before. Some young people seem to burst into the world with a conflicting and radical view on everything. This shift to deeper thinking is a normal part of development too.

No matter how grumpy or cross your child gets, he still values time talking and connecting with you. You just might need to be a little more understanding if he’s short-tempered or changeable. It can help to remember that this phase will pass.

Handling your teen’s disrespectful behaviour

Tips for discipline

  • Set clear rules about behaviour and communication. For example, you could say, ‘We speak respectfully in our family. This means we don’t call people names’. Involving your child in discussions about rules means you can later remind her that she helped make the rules, and that she agreed to them.
  • Focus on your child’s behaviour and how you feel about it. Avoid any comments about your child’s personality or character. Instead of saying, ‘You’re rude’, try something like, ‘I feel hurt when you speak like that to me’. It’s OK to occasionally say clearly how you’re feeling – ‘I’m feeling furious with you just now. You’d feel the same’.
  • Set and use consequences, but try not to set too many. At times, it might be appropriate to use consequences for things like rudeness, swearing or name-calling.


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