Dealing With Teenagers Who Have Attitudes

by Damon Verial

Much of the “attitude” that goes along with being a teen stems from how well he can rationalize the behavior that ultimately gets him in trouble. It’s hard to deal with teens who have attitudes because they are constantly justifying and explaining away their poor behavior. However, this does not mean you cannot successfully handle your teen’s poor attitude.

Effectively Communicating

Before dealing with anything, parents should try to talk with their teen to understand the reasons for a poor attitude. Because some attitudes come from poor parent-child relationships, communication is often the first step in resolving problems. Keep your cool when teenagers want to instigate an argument, and instead change the conversation to ask your teen the reason for their attitude. For example, while your gut response to your teenage daughter’s “You always blame me” comment might be “That’s not true,” realize that this response may escalate conflict. Rather, try asking her why she thinks you are placing blame.

Teaching by Example

Teens with attitudes may be troublesome, and they may be children, but they certainly aren’t stupid. Teens are smart enough to see through empty threats and hypocritical comments. Parents can strengthen communication by thinking before they speak. If you suspect your teen has a problem but he is denying it, be honest and tell him you are only concerned for him. Some parents make the mistake of starting a conversation with leading questions such as “I know you have a problem” or “I can tell you are upset.” Such questions usually shut down a teen’s willingness to communicate. By being genuine and showing your teen respect, he will follow your example by being respectful back.

Not Being a “Friend”

Many parents think being a teen’s friend will fix a poor attitude. Teasing is met with teasing, and criticism is met with criticism. While it is tempting to fly under the attitude radar by “befriending” your teen, the fact remains that your relationship is a parent-child relationship. You are not your teen’s friend, and acting as such hampers your ability to communicate your values and expectations as a parent. Parents are the rule-setters and need to place reasonable limits on their children, even in adolescence.

Avoiding Labels

Teens often ignore your rules and make their own. When this happens, many parents use labels to show their teens how they feel, calling them names such as “selfish,” “greedy” or “lazy.” John Gottman, psychologist and author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” recommends parents avoid labels and speak in terms of specific actions. After all, your daughter can deny being lazy, but she cannot deny ignoring her chores. After you have established the facts, it’s easier to resolve issues.


  • Understanding Girls' Problem Behavior: How Girls' Delinquency Develops in the Context of Maturity and Health, Co-occurring Problems, and Relationships; Margaret Kerr, Hakan Stattin, Rutger C.M.E. Engels, Geertjan Overbeek, Anna-Karin Andershed
  • Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting; John Gottman

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.

Photo Credits

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