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How to Not Engage With a Rude Teen

by Chelsea Fitzgerald, studioD

Responding to a rude teen without escalating a conflict is challenging for many parents. Teens often look grown up, but they do not see life through the perspective you have acquired as a grown-up. They often don't understand that you have life experiences and wisdom to back up your point of view.

Ask your teenager what he wants to have result from this discussion. If he is in a circumstance where he feels he has no control, has had a bad day or is confused about an issue in his peer group, he might lash out at you. By asking him what the real issue is, he knows you care and are trying to understand.

Remind yourself that you are the adult and that yelling or threatening him with consequences can cause a conflict to escalate. You lose control when you start yelling and engaging angrily in the discussion. This response brings you down to the teen’s level and makes him feel in control, according to the Empowering Parents website.

Speak calmly and firmly and tell your teen you will discuss this matter later on when both of you have cooled down. Once this happens, clarify to the teen that you expect him to speak to you and other family members in a respectful tone. It is perfectly acceptable to express his opinions, but it is important he do so in a mature fashion. Discuss what he feels are appropriate consequences for rudeness. Letting him voice his opinions gives him a feeling of control.

Punish your teen fairly after you agree on appropriate consequences. Dishing out unreasonable consequences in the midst of an argument is often the response when the parent feels no control over the adolescent. You might later regret that the punishment is so harsh, but feel you have to enforce it to maintain consistent discipline. Tossing out an impulsive consequence is only going to make the teen madder and tempt him to continue the argument.

Enforce the consequence even if it means he has to walk to his part-time job, miss a prom or other important event in his life. When deciding upon consequences, he might agree to harsher-than-normal consequences because he feels he might never repeat the same mistake. Reaping the consequences of your actions is one of the best ways to learn from your mistakes. Allow your teen to learn from his mistakes.

Agree to discuss the rules and boundaries again later, if he feels you are treating him unfairly. Tell him that when he shows that he is trustworthy and is attempting to obey the rules, you will be open for another discussion of the rules. Depending on the age of your teen, the discussion can happen again in three to six months or even a year.

Admit that sometimes your behavior during an argument is not acceptable either, according to Education.com. Tell your teen you want to improve how you speak to others during times of stress and you expect him to do the same. He will appreciate your honesty and might feel you have a common goal.

Model effective problem-solving skills when your child is rude. If that means walking away from the argument in order to gain perspective, do so. Some battles are not worth starting a war over. Speak calmly and with a neutral tone of voice if you wish to continue the discussion. This helps defuse the conflict. Make comments to your child such as, “This is what I think you are saying; please correct me if I do not understand this clearly.” This tactic lets him know you want to clear the air and truly understand what he needs.


  • Using physical force to make the teen stop doing something isn't a wise idea. Many teens are stronger than their parents, and their response to someone trying to physically control them is to fight back. Using this tactic also teaches them that force is an option to handle their problems instead of mature, problem-solving behavior.

About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.

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