How to Raise a Disrespectful Teen

By Judy Arnall, director of Attachment Parenting Canada,

There have been a lot of opinions published online regarding the Dad who shot his teen daughters laptop. His whole point is that too many parents are being lax and ineffective and are raising spoiled, entitled children. I view it not so much as lax parenting, but uninformed parenting – the kind that increases the likelihood of raising the kind of child that the Dad is speaking of.

So, if you want to raise a disrespectful teen, here are some sure-fire ways to do it:

  • Yell often at your children and even more so in public. Discipline, punish, and criticize them in public.
  • Embarrass your children in public, especially in front of their peers.
  • Don’t apologize. Ever.
  • Tell them to “suck it up” or “be a big boy” if they display any kind of feelings that you don’t like.
  • Use your child’s possessions, break them, or give them away without your child’s permission.
  • Go into your child’s room, computers, drawers, closets, and snoop. Let the siblings do it, too.
  • Criticize your child’s abilities.
  • Use sarcasm when addressing your child’s behavior, such as “I’m not your slave.”
  • Punish your children. Give them groundings, timeout, withdrawal of privileges, and hit them.
  • Call your child names. Put down her ideas.
  • Talk about them disapprovingly in front of other people.
  • Make faces at your children, roll your eyes, and mimic them. Use words dripping with sarcasm.
  • Treat others, especially people in service roles, impolitely when your children are watching.
  • Treat your parenting partner with the same disrespect: name-calling, put-downs, and sarcasm in your words. Treat their treasures and accomplishments as garbage.
  • Never say “please,” “thank you,” or “I appreciate…” to your child.
  • Have an angry tantrum, rant, punish, and then let it go when your child is disrespectful to you. Request no efforts from the child toward change.
  • Call in the forces and go in full frontal when your child is disrespectful to you. Engage in a full power struggle and fight anyway you can until you win.
  • Turn away and let it go when your children are disrespectful to others. Don’t call them on it by insisting on restitution, fixing the situation to make it better, or steps toward building your relationship.
  • Don’t ever confront with your I-statement (“I feel unappreciated when I upgrade your computer and you don’t express thanks for my time and cost.”) Don’t ever problem-solve the situation (“You obviously feel upset about the amount of chores you have to do. Let’s go for a walk and talk and see if we can find a solution that meets both our needs.”).
  • Ignore other people’s children when they are disrespectful to you and others in public. Don’t confront and insist on civility and politeness.

In other words, ignore disrespect in others, promote it yourself, and wonder why the kids dish it out back to you.

If, on the other hand, you want to raise a respectful, caring teen, you may want to do just the opposite of the above.

Good parenting involves mutual respect in a love relationship. Mutual respect is treating another human being as no less and no more than one would like to be treated. Good parenting also involves addressing the disrespect in a respectful way. Having a teen in the house doesn’t guarantee disrespect. It is possible to sail through the teen years with a kind, mutually positive relationship between teens and parents.

9 thoughts on “How to Raise a Disrespectful Teen”

  1. Here are some other suggestions:

    – Making disparaging comments when your teen gets surprisingly good grades in school and then praise the sibling(s) for getting mediocre grades. (One term, I got a 95 out of 100 in English and a 99 out of 100 in Chemistry. I really worked hard for those grades. My mother put down my Chemistry grade, because I got extra credit for solving a very difficult problem that required graduate school level mathematics. English was my weakest subject in high school and I was surprised that I got a 95 that term. No matter how good I did, it wasn’t good enough for her. That term, my brother got mediocre grades, which was expected, and got praised to high heaven.)

    – Pick fights with your child hours before an important exam. Try to cause your child to do badly in school. (My parents did this–they found my assignment calendar and picked fights while taking me to my SATs and ACTs. I refused to take the examinations. I rescheduled the exams and got a friend’s parent to drive me to the exam site.)

    – Promise to give your child a ride to an event, then ‘forget’ about the promise. Don’t pick up your child when planned–either ask your child to wait somewhere for over an hour and then give a lame excuse.

    – Don’t give your child age appropriate privileges. Give younger siblings age inappropriate privileges.

    – Plan a family trip to Santa’s Workshop, Frontier Town, Storyland, or other very kiddie amusement park and force your teen to go.

    – Buy Christmas gifts for your children for next year at this year’s After Christmas sales. Get really miffed when your child’s interests have changed and he or she is NOT HAPPY with the gifts.

    – Fail to praise your child or teen when he or she behaves exceptionally well. (Example: An older friend who had returned to town from college threw a kegger–the drinking age was 18 then. There was more than just beer at that party–and teens were lighting up. Eight party goers wanted to go home and needed rides. I was planning to walk home, but I called home and asked Dad to bring the station wagon. I spread the word that everyone who wants a ride home has one (without my Dad’s explicit permission–but I knew that was OK). My dad and I spent well over an hour giving teens rides home. My mother ripped into me when she found out about how bad the party had become. My mom and dad had a rip roaring fight later about this.)

    – Accuse your good teen of doing drugs without cause. (Example: mistake a small piece of dried fern for pot. If you have a cat and your good teen has catnip, mistake catnip for pot. Hold onto the offending piece of plant material and regularly threaten to take it to the police and have it tested.)

    – Fail to take prompt action if your teen appears to be using street drugs, abusing alcohol or abusing prescription drugs.

    – Fail to take prompt action when a sibling is teasing/abusing family pets.

    – Don’t have a lock on the bathroom door. Enter the bathroom while your teen is in the tub, or shaving and use the toilet. Allow siblings to do the same.

    -Yell at your teen for going to a party that had turned bad and doing the right thing–leaving.

    – Treat your child as your personal servant/slave. (Don’t get up out of your chair to get a drink when you’re watching TV–always ask your child to do that.)

    – Talk trash about your teen’s other parent.

    – You’ve had a bad day and have had a fight with your child’s other parent. Yell at the child for every conceivable slight.

    – Permit siblings to verbally, sexually or physically abuse each other. Allow younger siblings to tease, taunt or provoke older siblings and punish the older siblings for responding.

    – Talk to your child or teen as if he/she was your therapist or marriage counselor.

    – Don’t allow your child to quit extra-curricular activities, ever. Nudge your child every day starting at least two weeks before sign-up, at least once every hour you’re with him/her, trying to ‘convince’ your reluctant child to continue. Do not take NO for an answer. After all, you wanted to do that activity when you were that age, so your child should like to do that activity as well.

    – Be an obnoxious, “Little League” parent. Lavish your child with praise when he or she does well and totally ignore your child when he or she has a bad outing. Be a bad sport. Be rude to the coach and referees/officials. Coach your kid from the stands, and be very loud and obnoxious about it.

    – Live vicariously through your child.

    – Insist on proofreading ALL your child’s homework assignments, and be hyper critical.

    – Treat your teen as if he/she was an unwanted houseguest.

    – Refuse to take seriously problems your child tries to bring to your attention–especially health problems. Take your child to a quack. Continue to have your child treated by a quack long after you realize that the practitioner is No Good.

    – Give your older child vitamins and medications without telling the child what it’s for. Refuse to take your child’s complaints about medication side effects seriously.

    Parents who behave this way not only run the risk of having a disrespectful teen, they run the risk that their child, now an adult, will have absolutely nothing to do with them. I’m talking from experience here.

  2. Bad behaviour is solving a problem. On my better days, I recognise that behaviour that I might label as ‘bad’ is just our teen’s way of trying to solve a problem. My job then is to work out what problem it is that they are trying to solve and see if I can be of assistance.

    For example, my teenager is banging about the house, he’s bored, he doesn’t want help with the homework that he’s stuck on, apparently there’s never anything decent to eat in the house, and it is all our fault because we live in the country rather than in the village. I can feel my anger rising at the way that he talks to me and how he dampens the atmosphere of wherever he slumps himself. However, if I pause, and look at him, I can see that he is unhappy. Really unhappy. Sure, the way that he is making certain that we all share in his unhappiness is not pleasant, but if I can refrain from reacting to that, and respond to his sadness instead, I might actually help him.

    Teenagers can not always be easy to reach. Each parent seeks to learn how best to weave through the prickles or the gloominess, to reach the child within. Everyone, no matter what age, feels better for feeling like someone cares enough to notice. Finding the right tone and the right words is not always easy – but better to try than to withdraw from them.

    A small change can make a big difference…

  3. I would like to suggest that above all, if you do ‘all the right things’ and your child still becomes someone you don’t know or didn’t expect, don’t blame yourself or give up on your other children…or even that child. Two of my teens went through very difficult periods. One in a car accident that resulted in the death of a friend and a short time in jail, that all resulted into drug and alcohol abuse and another who was addicted to drugs. They are both doing great now and are wonderful examples to their siblings. All the blame they directed towards us was caused by the circumstances and they thank us now for KNOWING they could always ‘come home’. Yes, sometimes it is the parents, sometimes it’s not and sometimes its a little of both. If their lives were built on an attached base, they just might come back.

  4. I feel moved to respond to “anonymous” above.

    I was sad to read your story. In my opinion, what you’re describing goes far beyond poor parenting and is abuse.

    My story is somewhat similar. I have found therapy to be helpful.

    I hope you are thriving.

  5. I have a 17 year old son. He has become increasingly disrespectful, verbally abusive/ rude to me his younger siblings, uncles, stepfather and even his grandparents. If I tell him do or don’t do something it’s a “fight”. When his brothers ask him simple questions he most often responds with a nasty remark. He has even become physical ( pushing/slapping ) with his siblings, (ages 12 & 8) over the slightest infractions. This behavior started about 4 months ago. I’ve always been very proud of what a good kid he is. Up until a few months ago, he was kind, empathetic, funny, respectful, and loving. Yes he had the occasional bad days, but for the most part he was a joy to be around. I’ve tried talking to him, asking him if there is a problem, telling him that whatever it is we can work it out. He either says nothing’s wrong ( but quietly pouts) or becomes angry, saying that he’s going to move out, no one respects him, and I’m holding him back, then storms out of the house. He doesn’t elaborate on what makes him feel disrespected, ( until recently he would tell me everything) or how I’m ” holding ” him back. he will be 18 in a month, so we bought him a car, but with the way he’s behaving, I don’t know if I should give it to him? He has a stable home with family that love him and provide him with everything he needs and most of what he wants ( cell phone, name brand clothes and shoes etc ) but he says nobody does anything for him and once he moves out he’s done with this family and won’t be seeing any of us. He doesn’t have to move out. I don’t think he realizes how hard it’ll be on his own, but I support his decision, I attempt to encourage him and give him advice, but that also makes him angry. He’s been in therapy ( his decision ) for 2 months, but his behaviors seem to be getting worse. Everyone one in our house walks on egg shells, not out of fear, its because no one knows whats going on with himI just don’t know why the sudden change? Is this normal for his age? Im confused! Any advice on how to handle this? I love my son and want the best for him,he so entitldj

  6. *siblings12and eight. * he’s acting entitled and I don’t know why. Help any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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  8. I have a daughter the same but me I’m tired and will not give in to her she makes bad choices it’s her she has a job and she calls in hang out with the wrong ppl when she turns 18 she can pack her belongings and move

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