We all know that kids can act in many disrespectful and rude ways to parents: they can slam doors, roll their eyes, and tell you they hate you, to name a few. It’s natural to get very worried and frustrated and wonder if these types of behaviors constitute out-and-out abuse, or just “rudeness and mild disrespect.” How can a parent know when these rebellious and rude behaviors have crossed over a boundary and gone way too far?
In the land of disrespect, people hurl insults at one another, put others down and hurt one another with intention. A good way to make the distinction between disrespect and general rudeness is to consider the intention behind it. Is your child simply expressing his unhappy feelings and his wish to have more freedom, perhaps? Does he express his frustrations with rude behaviors like slamming his door, stomping his feet, abruptly walking away from you while talking, having baby tantrums or rolling his eyes? These need to be understood for what they are – an expression of his frustration, rather than an intentional act of disrespect and defiance with the desire to hurt you. Stick with the issue and don’t get sidetracked about how he is delivering his upset. If the issue is about his chores, for example, stay with that – don’t let him deflect you with his rudeness. Let his problem of being rude be his problem, not yours. Don’t engage. Deal with your own problem of enforcing appropriate limits and sticking to what you believe is right, no matter how unhappy he might be.
“Let his problem of being rude be his problem, not yours. Don’t engage. Deal with your own problem of enforcing appropriate limits and sticking to what you believe is right, no matter how unhappy he might be.”
Let’s say that you’ve told your 13-year-old he can’t use his cell phone at night, but you catch him texting when he’s supposed to be sleeping. Would you consider this disrespectful behavior toward you? Would you react to it and punish him for his disrespect? Or would you consider this instead his clumsy attempt to exert control over his life and make his own rules? Would you punish him because you think he’s being disrespectful toward you? Would that change if he called you a bad name and threw something at you while you were taking his phone away and doling out consequences? And would his reaction be considered crossing over the boundary into the land of disrespect? The answer to the last question is “yes.”
Here’s a typical struggle between parent and child that you might relate to: you expect to be listened to and have your child comply with your rules while he lives under your roof. That’s reasonable. Meanwhile, your child developmentally seeks his own autonomy and strives to be more self-directed and to think more independently as he grows up, and does not want limits imposed on him. That’s reasonable. No one is wrong in what they are seeking here.
The problem is that kids often don’t know how to find more appropriate ways to express their desire for independence, accept limitations and learn to comply when necessary. On the other hand, parents may not recognize that their child’s rudeness is often driven by the push for more independence, and is not always meant as a threat to their authority. The child’s intentions really have nothing to do with disrespect. The child, of course, needs to learn how to listen to his parents while finding appropriate ways to seek autonomy and self-direction while the parents need to be careful not to label the child’s behavior “disrespectful to their authority” and take the rebellion personally.
The bottom line is that when a child breaks a rule, the parent should hold the child accountable. That’s appropriate and helpful. But when the parent misunderstands and believes the child is being disrespectful toward him by not obeying his rules, he is heading down the wrong path–and all-out battles can result. These battles are often fought using mean words, and at times even get physical. That’s because when actions feel personal between a parent and child, emotions get heated and highly charged. Make no mistake, reactivity will be high. And if there was disrespect before, there will really be disrespect now!
Here are six ways to handle disrespect in your home, and turn the dynamic around in your home:
1. Don’t treat this as a personal attack–even though it can feel that way. To help your child be respectful, understand that their rude behavior might be an expression of their frustration about their lack of independence, not an attack against your authority. In fact, it’s because you have that authority that they’re acting out! Don’t take it personally; just hold them accountable for any rude behavior. It also might be a good idea to consider whether you’re giving them enough reasonable independence. Is it time to allow your child to make more of his own choices and face the consequences, whether good or bad?
2. Take a self-inventory. To help your child be respectful, always take a self-inventory and see how you might inadvertently be contributing to the disrespect. What’s been your part in this negative dynamic? Observe how you are managing your relationship with your child and consider if his negative behavior might be an expression of his reaction to that management. In other words, are you over- or under-functioning for your child, taking things too personally, and being too reactive? Are you tangled in a power struggle that you need to step out of?
Another type of parent/child struggle that breeds disrespect is when parents don’t expect enough of their kids, and therefore, don’t hold them accountable for much of anything. The child grows up believing she’s not expected to follow the rules or listen to her parents while living under their roof. Parents in this situation might even say they do expect those things, but their behavior tells a different story. If you find ways to let your child off the hook over and over again by excusing, justifying, rationalizing and minimizing her poor behaviors, you aren’t expecting enough of her. A child given this message has independence, but doesn’t have boundaries or guidance. The end result is that she’s left feeling anxious and out of control. She will often act with disrespect because, for one, she can; two, she doesn’t respect her parents’ spinelessness; and three, she hasn’t learned to take responsibility for her own behavior. When a parent tends to “give in,” “give too much,” “give up,” or “flip out” with his child rather than take a clear stand, he is planting the seeds for more and more disrespect.
3. Expect Respect. To help your child be respectful, EXPECT him to comply with your rules and listen to you. Of course, you also need to be flexible, not rigid or dogmatic, and listen to him and get his input–but the bottom line is that you will expect him to listen and follow the rules that you have set forth.
A parent can demand respect, but the behavior that results probably won’t be authentic. Authentic respect comes from a parent behaving in ways that invite respect.
4. Behave the way you want your child to behave. To help your child be respectful you must live by your own principle of acting respectfully to your child NO MATTER how he is behaving. Act respectfully while holding him accountable – these actions aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s difficult to continue to act respectfully toward your child even when he is hurling insults at you, but it’s so important to be a good role model. Act with integrity without letting your child off the hook.
5. Choose your battles. In order to help your child be respectful, don’t make big issues of all the rude ways that he might express his frustrations. Again, don’t take these expressions personally. In other words, don’t give legs to (and make a moral issue out of) those rude child behaviors like stomping, eye-rolling, getting the last word, saying things aren’t fair, slamming doors, walking away and other behaviors that are simply your child’s way of expressing his frustrations. Kids are entitled to feel what they feel – that’s about them, not about you. Be careful not to take their feelings, their separate opinions or disagreements to heart, or believe your child is deliberately disrespecting your authority when they express those feelings. There will be a place and time for you to help them learn more effective ways to express their frustrations.
But do take seriously deliberately hurtful behavior that is directed toward you or another – that’s not mild rebellion, it is outright disrespect. Hold your child accountable to better behaviors. Don’t engage by reacting, but do decide what you will and won’t do in response to disrespectful behavior. Perhaps you won’t be willing to do that extra favor for your son because you don’t feel goodwill toward him when he treats you so unkindly. Or perhaps you will step away from a conversation with him when you are treated with disrespect, and continue only when he gains some self-control and stops calling you names or being condescending to you.
Again, if the behaviors cross the line into disrespect, make sure you do not allow yourself to be treated poorly. Decide how you will manage yourself in the future when being treated like this by your child. His disrespectful behavior is his problem to work out; your problem is what you will and won’t put up with.
6. Ask yourself, “Who owns this problem?” When it comes to your kids being mildly rude toward you, ask yourself each time it happens, “Who owns the problem of disrespect?” For example, if your daughter stomps off and mutters under her breath after you tell her she can’t go to the party, don’t let her rudeness belong to you. Don’t engage in it. Her rudeness is her problem. Your problem is deciding if she can or can’t go to the party and enforcing whatever you thoughtfully and non-reactively decided. Her next problem is to figure out better ways to communicate her upset. She can have a tantrum even if she is 3 or 18–that’s her business. You don’t have to give in to it, withdraw from it, or flip out about it. You have your own problems to figure out; that’s your business. Also remember that stomping off and muttering (even though it’s annoying) might be showing a lot of self-control on her part – she could have screamed at you or been physical if she hadn’t walked away muttering. The more you are able to act on behalf of yourself instead of in reaction to her, the more she will be able to see you separately from herself.
It’s difficult to respect another person for who they are if you can’t see who they are. Often with our kids and those we love, our anxiety gets us so emotionally tangled with them that we don’t know where we end and they begin. Work toward managing yourself instead of managing them and their emotions, and you will be better able to “see” and appreciate one another. This will help to breed respect between yourself and your child — and in all your relationships.
If you need help navigating the challenging obstacles that come up as you raise your kids, remember that our parent coaches are here for you. They’ve helped thousands of families just like yours come up with sensible, effective solutions to tough parenting problems, and they can help you.
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For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.
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A major part of dealing with a challenging child is focusing
on the things that you do have
control of, and that is how you respond to your daughter. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/4-tools-to-help-you-stay-calm-with-your-difficult-child/ can most certainly be a challenge, especially when
dealing with a tantrum in public, so it will be important to have a plan ahead
of time, of how you will respond.Laying
out your expectations ahead of time and helping your daughter make a plan of
how she can meet the expectations can be helpful, too. James Lehman offers some
additional tools in his article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/good-behavior-is-not-magic-its-a-skill-the-3-skills-every-child-needs-for-good-behavior/. Take care and be sure to let us know how it is going!
It can be
overwhelming and even frightening when your child is involved with the courts,
especially at such a young age. As Kim Abraham and Marney
Studaker-Cordner point out in their article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/is-your-child-engaging-in-delinquent-behavior-4-ways-to-manage-it/, allowing
your kids to experience the natural legal consequences of their actions is an
effective step toward addressing this behavior. Another option which
might be available is to petition the court to help you hold your children
accountable. Many times, this program is called PINS/CHINS (person/child
in need of supervision), or something similar. You can get more
information on this process by contacting your local juvenile or family
court. I recognize how difficult this must be for you, and I wish you and
your family all the best moving forward. Take care.
I can understand your frustration. It sounds like there are
a lot of issues going on at once. It is going to be most effective to pick one
behavior or area to focus on at a time. Trying to address everything at once
will most likely be overwhelming, for both you and your daughter. Carole Banks
gives tips for deciding where to start in her article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/.
As far as her grades are concerned, allowing her to face the natural
consequence of failing her classes may not be a bad thing. As James Lehman
explains in the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-you-should-let-your-child-fail-the-benefits-of-natural-consequences/,
allowing your child to face the natural consequences of her choices gives her
the opportunity to feel uncomfortable enough to change. I hope this helps to
answer your questions. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are
going. Take care.
Thank you for
reaching out; we are glad you are here! We have numerous resources for
effectively parenting teens with ADD, as well as grandparents raising
grandchildren. Here are some articles you might find helpful to start
reading: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/raising-grandkids-what-to-do-when-the-honeymoon-ends/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-arguing-and-start-talking-with-your-adhd-child/. In addition,
if you are not already doing so, it might be helpful for you to work with
available supports in your community, such as a kinship caregivers support
group, or services available for teens with ADD/ADHD. For assistance
locating resources in your area, try calling the 211 Helpline at
1-800-273-6222, or visiting their site at http://www.211.org
Please let us know if you have any additional questions; take care.
My 15 yr old son spends majority of his time locked in his room playing Xbox One. He claims he wants to be a gamer and go to college and get a Master's. His grades are A's & B's. He washes his clothes, and cleans up his room. Every once and a while he'll come or and engage in great conversations with me and his older brother (18). However, he constantly hits and bullies my 3 younger kids. (Boy-11,girls- 7&5)
And if I scold him for it, he locks himself in his room for days. And goes back to not speaking to me for weeks. I try my best to talk to him and hear him out. But he blocks me out.
I have a Degree in Psychology, and I use my knowledge the best that I can. But of course, I can always use other experienced parents' and other professionals' advice.
I hear you. It can be distressing when your child responds
to reprimands with the silent treatment. It may help to know that, as James
Lehman explains in his article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/does-your-child-give-you-the-silent-treatment-6-rules-for-getting-kids-to-talk/,
kids will often use this tactic as a way to have control in a situation they
may not really have a lot of control over. It’s a passive aggressive way for
your son to get the upper hand. After all, you can’t make him talk to you. It’s
going to be important not to give the behavior more attention than it deserves
by personalizing what he’s doing. Instead, follow through with whatever
consequence you’ve given him for the behavior. If you need to talk with
him about the choices he made, you can implement something we call Status B –
all of his privileges are put on hold until he has a respectful conversation
with you. For more information on how to motivate your son to follow
consequences and talk to you about his choices, you can check out the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/child-discipline-consequences-and-effective-parenting/. We appreciate you writing
in. Take care.
I hear you. Many teens I’ve worked with have shared similar
struggles, so, you’re not alone. Because we are a website aimed at helping
parents develop more effective ways of managing their child’s acting out
behavior, we are limited in the advice we can offer you. There is a website
that may be able to help, however. http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/
is a site aimed at helping teens and young adults find effective ways of
navigating the tough times they may sometimes face. They offer a Helpline you
can access by calling 1-800-448-3000, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/ways-to-get-help.aspx, as well as an online forum and chat. I encourage you to
check out the site to see what they have to offer. Good luck to you and your
family moving forward. Take care.
It can be so frustrating when
your young children are not listening and acting out at home and in public
places. It sounds like it has been pretty challenging for your daughter to deal
with, but the good news is your daughter is able to stay calm, which is half
the battle. Like Dr. Joan Simeo Munson says in her article http://www.empoweringparents.com/defiant-young-children-and-toddlers-parenting-tips-to-help-you-deal-with-a-difficult-child.php, staying calm is a crucial
first step in changing behavior. Your child is looking to you for guidance and
how to solve problems effectively. Also, loosing your cool often escalates a
situation further. While the behaviors you describe are very common and
normal for this age group, that does not mean that they don’t need to be
addressed. Setting clear limits on appropriate behaviors, like keeping your
hands to yourself and listening the first time, is a good place to start. While
your 2 year old grandson is a bit young still, your 4 year old grandson can
learn to practice good behaviors and work towards earning rewards for doing so.
Working with a positive reinforcement system versus taking things away is often
more effective for younger children. We recommend having your grandson work
toward a small reward every time he practices the desired behavior. For
instance, when he listens at the store and does not run around, he can play a
game with mom when they get home. Establishing clearly what is expected ahead
of time and offering an incentive to motivate him to behave should have a
positive effect. We hope this is helpful for your situation. Let us know if we
can be of any further help. Take care.
You are right on, in your thoughts about your son’s lashing
out to gain power back. At 5 years old, there is not much in a child’s life
that they have complete control over, however they learn quickly what words or
phrases get a response from you. When he says http://www.empoweringparents.com/i-hate-you-mom-i-wish-you-were-dead-when-kids-say-hurtful-things.php like this, you can say something like, “saying mean things isn’t
going to solve your problem”,or you can
be more directive and say, “you need to find a way to calm yourself down right
now”, then disengage from further conversation until he has calmed down. When
everyone has had a chance to cool off, then you can have a conversation with
your son about some things he could do next time he gets angry, instead of
saying mean, hurtful things to people. I hope you find this helpful in
addressing your son’s behavior. Take care!
When child so listen like i ve told no talking to boys on the and no boy friend
Ive took the phone i was monitoring the calls she was only to listen to music that all
This might be the most unusual post you ever see here, but I really need help at this point.
I am a young teenage girl about to start high school. I have a good mom who I think is probably trying to be a good parent. She always lets me have opportunities like trying new sports, buying me art supplies, she takes me on trips and allows me to have my own pets. I know other kids aren't this lucky, and I'm grateful that I'm allowed to do these things. However... there are some other things that I just can't tolerate that she does, and I can't figure out what else to try.
I think it started early last year. I was switching schools, and she wanted me to go to a religious school. However, I am not religious and I didn't want to go. I realize that there weren't many other schools around, but I would gladly have went to a public school instead of where she wanted me to go. At this new school, I was constantly in trouble with the teachers and principal for reasons that were often completely absurd (such as wearing the wrong jacket, being too creative in art class, expressing ideas that they didn't agree with...) Thankfully, my mother understood how crazy all this really was, and I switched to another school in the middle of the year. Good, right..?
Wrong. I felt that her putting me in this school in the first place was a total rejection of my personal beliefs. She has even said on numerous occasions that I'll "change my mind" when I'm older. This sets me off so, so badly. I try to hold back, I promise I do, but I can't figure out how. I end up shouting at her and we both end up fighting. Hearing someone say that is like saying that a part of me is wrong. Not only that, but she was always asking me why I wasn't mad at the school for what they had done. In truth, I don't even know. She kept saying that I should be, but I can't do it. I don't want to be mad at them.
After that fiasco, being at the school damaged my reputation with a nearby high school (the principal of the religious school had some connections there)... which happened to be the best in the area. I originally was going to have four choices, and that lowered it to three. In the end, my mother decided which one I was going to. I didn't say anything, and I haven't complained. It probably would've been my choice. I'm really not happy that she ended up choosing for me, though. I wanted to be the one to control my education, not her. My life, my choices, my career, my future. I need to learn how to make choices before I end up in the world. Plus, she said I could choose! It's upsetting that she took away a privilege she gave me when I did nothing to deserve getting it taken away.
While I know this shouldn't irritate me, she keeps insisting that I can make "great new friends" at this high school. I'm having so many second thoughts going here, and it's driving me crazy. I've tried to tell her that I'm worried about this and I'm not excited for school, but she keeps saying that I'll be fine and brushing off any of my concerns. I don't know anyone going here, I haven't met anyone at the events they've had before the start of the year and I'm scared half to death. I don't want to be told that I'm going to be fine! I want somebody to consider what I'm thinking!
There's one thing that makes me more angry than anything else. That would be her refusal to let me grow up. I'm not allowed to make a mistake. If I do, I get lectured and yelled at until I can't take it anymore! At first I tried to tell her that I wanted to make mistakes and I want the experience for growing up, but apparently I should be trying harder and not making them in the first place. I've just become so frustrated with her. I can't help but snap and yell now. I try to avoid it, but I can't figure out how to make myself stop. It's not even like these are big mistakes! They don't have to do with my grades or anything! It's little things, like cleaning something wrong or using the wrong pot to make popcorn!
Beyond that, she took me to Europe, which is great. I didn't really want to go, though. I just wanted to stay home and be with my friends, that's all. She keeps saying that I should be grateful... and I guess that's true... She also kept saying what a waste of money it was to have me there because I wasn't excited to see the touristy stuff. If I'm in a foreign country, I really just want to observe the people, not see their monuments. You learn so much more by watching. She thinks I'm totally insane and that the only way to see a city is the touristy way and that I just don't want to do things with her. This one really ticks me off. If I'm such a "waste of money", why didn't she leave me at home? Why is it that not wanting to do touristy stuff means doing nothing? Why didn't she pay attention to me when I was hesitant about going? She also says that I "don't want to do anything for her". I came with her because she wanted me to! We did all the touristy stuff she wanted to do! I don't get what more I'm supposed to do for her.
There are some other things and random behavior quirks that I've noticed with myself after all of this. I've started to get highly irritated by people chewing loudly or telling me to do practically anything. It never, ever used to be like this. Things like this only started happening since my mother has refused to let me grow a little. I hate being like this, but my mother seems to think these quirks are something I can control and not something she had any influence on.
I'm a very patient person by nature. I tend to be pretty docile unless deliberately provoked. While I don't have the most empathy for other people, I try my best to see things from their side. I've tried talking calmly to my mother and I've tried taking on more responsibility myself. Unfortunately, I think my brain shut itself down, and now I just snap at her, avoid her and am overly aggressive. I hate it, I don't want to act like this and I know it's not right. How can I make myself stop? How do I make her see? What's wrong with me, why am I doing this? She's not a bad person. She tries. She's a good mom. I just need to know how to fix myself for her.
Thank you for sharing a thought out and well written
perspective. It’s not uncommon for parents and kids to have different ideas on
how things should be. The differences can become even more apparent during
adolescence. At that time, a teen begins to pull away in an attempt to
individuate from the parent. It’s normal to feel this ambivalence as a teen –
wanting to be separate one moment and connected the next. I wish I could offer
you more support and solace. The aim of Empowering Parents is helping parents
develop tools to effectively address acting out behaviors. We are limited in
the advice or coaching we can offer in your situation. There is a website that
you may find helpful, though. http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/
is a website for teens and young adults. They offer really great ways of
supporting people just like you who are struggling with life challenges such as
relationship issues with parents or peers. You can contact a specially trained
counselor by phone, text, e-mail or online chat. They also have a forum of
useful tips, like this one - http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/tip-dealing-with-parents.aspx. I encourage you to check out the site to see what
they have to offer. Thank you for writing in. Best of luck to you and your mom
as you move forward. Take care.
I have a nine year old step daughter and a twelve year old step son. My partner and I have been living together for five years the child custody arrangement is week on week off. I have no children of my own so this has been a hard transition for me. My parents were firm and fair they made a conscious effort to keep things very equal between my brother and I. My partner is an only child her parents were very young when they had her. From what she has told me her parents had very little difficulty raising her, and she was considered a complacent child. My partners children have a father that is very dysfunctional abusive and a drug addict. He and his girlfriend off and on physically assault each other to the point that the sheriff is called. What I have had to deal with is a mother that checks out and over compensates for her children's bad behavior from her daughter punching me in the face to a son that is disrespectful. She does not go to bat for me just stands silently while her daughter finds something that clearly upsets me funny. When I questioned her about laughing at my distress the response is her storming out of the room then later tells her mother she wants to go back to her Dad's, and that she hates it at her Mom's house when I am in the house. I have dealt with being ignored to rude comments or flat out indifference to anything I say about rules or respect in our household. My partner parents out of guilt and disregards what I try to contribute then has this huge expectation of me to participate and love these kids that I feel are not nice people. My question to her and I have asked this is how can the kids respect me if you clearly indicate to them that my help and advice is not important. I have tried and sometimes things are good but for the most part the kids make it very clear I mean nothing to them. It is really hard to not take their treatment personally. I try to ignore the rudeness and be positive and firm with my responses. I have finally made peace with the fact I cannot control or change these people, and now I feel the relationship should change or end. What is the hardest thing to leave is the relationship we the adults have the best communication with each other and really love each other. When the kids are involved it is
not the best situation for me. I am frustrated and feel very ignored a non entity in the house hold.
Hi I'm a step parent to 3 great kids. The youngest one seems to be struggling the most with everything. She is 11 years old but acts like she's 16. She questions everything, talks back at every chance and is very needy of attention. As a step parent whatMore is considered acceptable for me to say and discipline?
You ask a great question. It can
be challenging to know what your role is as a step parent, especially in
situations involving discipline. Generally speaking, it is usually more
effective to allow the bio parent to be the one who handles discipline related
issues. This doesn’t mean, however, that you andMore your spouse can’t sit down
together and discuss common goals and house rules, as well as possible
consequences that could be implemented when your step children act out. In the
moment when the behavior is happening, it may be best to take a step and let
your spouse take the lead. With that said, you and your spouse are going to know
what will work best for your family. You may find these articles by James
Lehman helpful for determining what would be the best approach for you to take: “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page & “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You. I hope this information is useful for your
situation. We appreciate you writing in and sharing your story. Take care.