our everyday life

How to Improve a Teen Boy's Negative Attitude

by Shellie Braeuner, studioD

Eye rolling, heavy sighs and even back talk are all hallmarks of a bad attitude in teenagers. It’s more than just irritating. Optimism and a positive outlook keep your teen healthy and happy. A positive approach to life protects the teen against depression and makes him more resilient against stress, says KidsHealth. Helping to erase the negative attitude in your teenage boy may not be as hard as you think. With some understanding and practice, you can encourage a positive and optimistic attitude in just about anyone.

Recognize the root cause of attitude. Some of his negativity comes from ego-centrism, according to Dr. Paul Ciborowski, professor of counseling at the Long Island University. Teens go through an ego-centric phase. This is completely normal. As a child, he couldn't really understand what the world looked like from another's perspective. As he moves into his teen years, he begins to understand others' perspectives, but he still filters that understanding through his self-awareness. So he honestly believes that others are as aware of his blemishes and shortcomings as he is. This can make many teens self-conscious and contribute to a poor self-image.

Focus on the behavior, not the attitude. Dr. Ruth Peters, author of the book “Laying Down the Law” tells parents that when the child’s behavior is under control, his attitude naturally changes. This means focusing less on what the teen feels and more on what the teen does. If you ask your teen boy to mow the lawn and he does, but mutters under his breath the entire time, ignore it. Instead, if he’s done a good job, praise him. However, if he refuses or does a poor job, hold him to whatever consequences are necessary such as losing allowance, access to a vehicle or some other privilege.

Avoid catering to your teen boy's every whim. Teens who grow up with parents who are willing to be slaves learn a sense of entitlement. These young men don’t learn to value the work of others, so they don’t value their own efforts. Instead, parents can teach their sons a sense of gratitude by encouraging the use of simple manners such as please and thank you. Parents must also model gratitude by showing genuine appreciation for tasks the teen completes.

Train your teen to recognize positive things, says KidsHealth. Encourage your teen to talk about at least one good thing that happened that day. It doesn’t have to be something huge. It might be as simple as: “I studied for my math test and got a C plus instead of a C.” Celebrate each achievement. Model a positive attitude by sharing good things that you have noticed. Say something like: “I have noticed that you are rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. I really appreciate your help.”

Help your boy learn how to deal with things that go wrong. That doesn’t mean jumping in with suggestions or solutions. Instead, ask questions that will encourage your child to think more deeply on the subject. If your teen studied for a test, but still did poorly, don’t jump in and tell him he should study more. Try asking him where he thinks things went wrong. This also means helping the teen separate things that are out of control from what he can change. Not every teen will end up a 7-foot basketball star. If basketball is your teen’s dream and he’s short, he may have to work harder on running, passing or jumping to make the team.


  • If your teen remains sad over a long period of time, talks about suicide or harms himself or others, he may be dealing with depression. Talk to the boy's doctor or a counselor for help immediately.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images