4 Ways to Respond to Your Disrespectful Teenage Daughter

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How do you deal with disrespectful responses? How do you respond to appalling behavior coming directly at you?

You mean when I said, “Don’t look at me that was disrespectful?” she asked.

I sat across from a sixth grader who was in trouble, again, for disrespectful and insubordinate behavior. In talking with her, I realized she really did not know her direct, blunt, how-dare-you attitude was disrespectful.

I modeled for her responses what were more appropriate between a teen and an adult. I told her how adults receive disrespectful words and how learning respect in an important life skill. As I saw genuine responses on her face, I realized she didn’t really know what she was doing was wrong.

As parents, it’s easy to think our kids “just know” what’s respectful and what’s not. Depending on your daughter’s temperament, birth order or personality make-up, she truly may not know she’s being disrespectful when her teen or monthly hormones are raging.

How do you deal with disrespectful responses?  How do you respond to appalling behavior coming directly at you?

  • Model appropriate words for the child:
    Teens and preteens are still learning appropriate behavior and much of what they are learning comes from social media, technology, and peers. When you calmly respond rather than react, you’re teaching them something new.
  • Give emotionally neutral responses
    Saying, “That is not an appropriate response” is neutral to a child because it sets boundaries around the action without it becoming personal.  “You’re so disrespectful” becomes personal to a child and may cause that child to enter into a power struggle.  Stay with firm words like “not acceptable” or “inappropriate” or “unhealthy” which defines the behavior but doesn’t attack the child.
  • Give opportunities for your daughter to change behavior before giving her an ultimatum:
    Giving your child a warning and allowing her to rephrase her words more appropriately gives her a chance to make a better decision and teaches positive decision-making skills.
  • Don’t enter into a power-struggle:
    Teens and preteens will argue just for the sake of arguing.  They also won’t see your point of view. Don’t verbally push them in a corner. They will fight back. Teaching them healthier ways to respond helps them in the long run.

There isn’t a text-book answer for dealing with rebellion and disrespect, but as you study your daughter and think through past arguments, reflect on how you can better respond even when their words are out-of-line.  Giving her options and modeling different, more acceptable responses provides learning tools she can build on.

Because sometimes, she really doesn’t know.

Written Brenda Yoder

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