A common issue that comes up when talking to our program advisors here at Sundance Canyon Academy is how parents have been disrespected by their teens. While a certain amount of boundary-pushing is part of growing up, there are times where the line of outright disrespect has been crossed.
It can be tough for parents to know when that line has been crossed, particularly if they are aware that their teen is struggling with other issues. But, understanding when to intervene is an important part of teaching teens healthy boundaries and developing the groundwork for your future relationship with your teenager.
Balancing Obedience And Respect With Growing Independence
For many parents, a significant part of the difficulty of navigating the teenage years is the change in relationship dynamics. Even with outspoken children, obedience is generally expected, and young kids often believe their parents as a matter of course. The same is not true for teenagers.
Teenagers are undergoing many changes, some of which are targeted at their brain development. These changes pretty much guarantee that there will be a point where your teen challenges your authority as a parent. How you respond to these growing pains of adolescent independence will depend on a variety of factors.
For teens who are generally on track with what they need to do—i.e., has good grades, spends time with other good kids, is not engaging in delinquent activities, etc.—some grumbling about chores can be easily ignored by parents. Those parents who feel the need to demand total obedience often experience frayed relationships with their teens and those teenagers will generally resort to lying to gain some independence.
Instances Where Parents Should Address Teenage Disrespect
There are instances where parents can’t just shrug off their teenagers’ disrespect. By the time teens attend our residential treatment center, the relationship between parents and teen have become highly damaged by constant, extreme disrespect, and poor behaviors.
To avoid reaching this point, here are some common instances when you should address your teenager’s acts of disrespect:
Verbal abuse – Whether your teen is verbally abusing you or other members of the family, this level of disrespect is unacceptable, and your teen knows it is inappropriate. It is important to have set consequences for verbal disrespect, such as loss of privileges for swearing at you or other family members. However, be sure to leave an avenue that allows your teen to earn those privileges back so that they are motivated to do better.
Physical abuse – In no way is physical abuse acceptable. Some teens will try to skate by and say it was only pushing or some other diminutive to make the abuse sound less problematic. But physical abuse often escalates, and this kind of disrespect needs to be halted in its tracks. Depending on the severity of the physical abuse, you may need the help of health care professionals, from therapists to doctors who may be able to determine if there is an underlying condition triggering these outbursts.
Purposeful property destruction – Some teens try to “get back” at their parents’ efforts to discipline by purposely destroying the parents’ property. From smashed favorite mugs to pawning valuables, parents need to intervene. Sometimes the police are called, though that should be held back to the last resort, as there is a high likelihood that the offending teen can end up with a juvenile record, which will do nothing good in trying to help your teen live a better life. Instead, finding ways for your teen to make reparations for the destruction can do more to help your teen learn from their disrespect.
Breaking family rules – Knowingly breaking family rules that you have laid down for your children is an act of clear disrespect and needs to be addressed. This type of disrespect may be easiest to address, as you likely already have consequences laid out for the rule-breaking your teen engaged in. Be sure to stick to your outlined consequences, and allow your teen to make up for their poor behavior when the discipline has ended.
By correcting your teen when they have crossed the line of disrespect, while remaining flexible when it comes to less egregious behaviors, you can help your teen learn to self-regulate their actions and behaviors.