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Parenting a Mouthy Teen Girl

by Liza Blau, studioD

Teenagers who talk back with rude, insulting or sarcastic remarks are referred to as "mouthy." Your teen girl might become mouthy after you tell her to go to bed, do her homework, turn off the TV, complete a chore she'd rather not do, or when she's feeling angry or frustrated. Kids who talk back are attempting to be more autonomous and gain control over their lives, according to Jim Bozigar, head of community outreach at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Parenting your mouthy teen girl requires patience and skill to help her learn how to express herself more maturely.

Stay Calm

Although it's not always easy staying calm when your teen girl is rude and disrespectful, resist the temptation to get into a sparring match. Talking back to her with an equal number of insulting remarks will only provoke her into making more rude comments and escalate the argument. By responding with angry words, you're validating her mouthiness by giving her power to push your buttons. Moreover, teenagers often model their behaviors after their parents' behaviors. If you behave in the same immature manner that you're telling her to stop, it sends her a contradictory message that such behavior is actually acceptable.

Set Limits and Disengage

Set firm limits that rude and insulting back talk is no longer allowed in your home. When your teen girl becomes mouthy, immediately end the conversation. Don't become angry, but calmly say, "I'm not going to continue this conversation when you speak to me so disrespectfully." To let her know that words hurt, you might say, "We can continue this conversation when you learn not to use words in such a hurtful way." If she continues to act like a smart aleck, leave the room. Disengaging teaches her that all conversations will end until she begins speaking in a civil manner.

Negative Consequences

If your teen girl continues to be mouthy after you've told her that it's unacceptable, set negative consequences. Let her know what the consequences will be in advance. You might say, "The next time you speak so disrespectfully, you'll be grounded for the weekend." The negative consequence should be the loss of a privilege that's meaningful to her for a specified amount of time, such as no computer, cell phone or TV. Negative consequences teach the repercussions of her poor behavioral choices. And don't back down -- always follow through with the promised consequence after your teen mouths off.

Healthy Communication

Mouthing off is your teen girl's dysfunctional way of trying to be heard. You can teach her that she'll actually be heard much more effectively when she communicates in a healthier way. Show her that you're genuinely interested in learning her perspective, feelings and opinions. You might say, "I'm interested in hearing why you need to stay out past your curfew on Saturday night." This way, she'll learn to put her feelings into words more skillfully. Show that you respect her desire for autonomy by working with her and being open to compromise. By remaining flexible, you demonstrate that you're willing to honor her needs while still setting limits. You might say, "OK, you can stay out an extra hour past your curfew, but that's it."

About the Author

Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.

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