What Can We Do About Teenagers with Attitudes?

The teenager with an attitude does not usually listen when you are ready to talk, and may seem disinterested in activities you have planned for your family.
The teenager with an attitude does not usually listen when you are ready to talk, and may seem disinterested in activities you have planned for your family. | Source

What can we do about teenagers with attitudes? They expect everyone to listen when they talk, yet when others talk, they do not want to listen. They use language with phrases that turn parents’ stomachs and make grandparents roll over in their graves. It is embarrassing in public and private!

Teenagers with attitudes want everyone to look for anything that may be lost. The household is turned upside down for a set of keys or a drivers license just for cruising down main street. Parents are expected not to be shocked or dismayed at what is said, yet verbal language is so free and open that parents want to tie teens' mouths shut and lock them up to protect the world!

Teenagers with attitudes are tough problems to deal with, since by the time they get to be teenagers, we are entering those years of life that are unsure as well. One presenter put it this way, teenagers go through adolescence and parents go through "middle-essence." The characteristics of both stages are similar; including rapid physical changes, psychological instability, low feelings of self-worth, and a lack of vision about the future. Life becomes a dark tunnel with no light at the end!

Do you have a teenager in your home with an attitude problem?

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Are you entering a difficult stage in your life at this time?

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With this in mind, here are ten suggestions for dealing with teenagers who have attitudes:

  1. This, too, shall pass.
  2. Live and let live.
  3. Advise, don't give advice.
  4. Focus on preparation for adulthood.
  5. Teach that freedom is connected with responsibility.
  6. Don't take it personally.
  7. Smile.
  8. Show physical affection.
  9. Avoid criticism.
  10. Work together.

Each of these suggestions is explained in the paragraphs that follow.

1) This too, shall pass

Accept the fact that teenagers will not always be teenagers, and we will not always be parents of them. With this in mind, look for the good things. Find times when they are obedient, kind, and considerate. Praise and appreciate those times. Give extra attention and love. Visit and talk about what it was like when they were babies and the feelings of being a new parent. Share cute things remembered and use these memories as incentive to talk about the future. Soon, they will be gone and we will miss this time.

2) Live and let live

Teens come to us at unexpected times with unexpected things. Enjoy the ride! The trick is to withhold judgment and listen. Reflect back what is being said rather than feeling bad for not teaching them better. As we do so, they will take a second look and come away better people. Trust that they can think logically and sensibly and come up with an appropriate value judgment. More often than not, they will end up with the same conclusion that we would have if we had given our input.

3) Advise, don't give advice

Giving advice, especially when it is not wanted, does not work. It puts up a wall between us and our teens. They will ask for help if there is a good relationship between us and them. Accept them as they are and visit during the good times. Only then can we offer suggestions such as “Have you tried _______?” or “What about this_________?” Another way is to share experiences we have had in similar situations. They will be able to see options that were not open before.

Teenagers often engage in activities that are worthwhile. We can increase our ability to relate to our teens when we find them at these times and talk about what it is that they are doing.
Teenagers often engage in activities that are worthwhile. We can increase our ability to relate to our teens when we find them at these times and talk about what it is that they are doing. | Source

4) Focus on preparation for adulthood

In all that teens experience, it is our job as parents to see that preparation is complete for leaving home. It may be tough for us to cross that bridge, but they want to be more independent. See that they have a bank account and that the statements are balanced properly. Teach how to earn money, fill out a job application, and give opportunities to work outside the home. Talk about the expectations of employers and companies. Point out talents and abilities, as well as professions that may be a good fit. See that they know how to operate household equipment, take care of an automobile, cook a well balanced meal, clean, and do their own laundry. One day, when we least expect it, they will say "Thank you."

5) Teach that freedom is connected with responsibility

Hold teens accountable for responsibilities at home and school. Allow experience of the natural consequences of choices as much as possible and practical. Create consequences as needed for the learning process. Help them understand that society will not roll out a red carpet for them, and that they need to work and serve others to make their way. Point out the benefits of good health habits, including nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

6) Don’t take it personally

All teenagers have times when their mouth goes faster than their head. Don’t take it personally. Letting it go will save later regrets. Instead, take a deep breath. Practice being a stoic in the mirror. Don’t be shocked or angered by what is said, just let it in one ear and out the other. Don’t say anything back. Then they will take the time to think about it and change for the better.

7) Smile

Letting our teens know that we enjoy life gives hope for the future. When we spend time with family rather than with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, we are showing our teens that life is worth living, the family is important, and that there are positive ways to deal with the stress we experience. Talking about the problems we deal with at work also gives them an opportunity to give us ideas and advice. Accepting their words of counsel will give them a reason to listen to us more in the future.

9) Avoid criticism

It cuts people to the center. We need to talk to our teens as we would to another adult. Teens understand more than we realize and care about what we think. Know that the teen talks about us to friends and teachers. We are an important part of their life. Our mark will stay throughout life. Remember, they will be just like us one day.

8) Show physical affection

Hugs, handshakes, an arm around the shoulder, or a hand on the arm, all let teens know of our love for them. They may balk at first, but will eventually warm up and be more affectionate. When they come in the house, greet them with open arms, expressing gladness for a safe return home.

10) Work together

Doing things together is the best way to teach our teens; washing the car, balancing the checkbook, travelling, shopping, cooking, and playing games together. Anything we do together in a positive way helps to strengthen our relationship. It won't be long and our teen will be our equal, an adult with a family. If we treat them as we want to be treated, one day, they will take care of us. Our lives are much too short to make it miserable for someone we love.

Once upon a time, we were teens. What were we like then? What do we wish our parents had done for us? Remember, teens reflect our attitudes and actions. Keep it positive, for your teen and your emotional health!

©2013 by Denise W. Anderson. All rights reserved. This hub is an Emotional Survival Resource. For more on Emotional Survival, see www.denisewa.com.

One day, our teens will surprise us by calling on the telephone with exciting news. Are we ready and willing to rejoice with them?
One day, our teens will surprise us by calling on the telephone with exciting news. Are we ready and willing to rejoice with them? | Source

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14 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

One of the solutions to the slavery issue that Lincoln considered was to ship all slaves to a new country in Africa....thus the idea of Liberia...maybe we could consider that as a solution to teens. :)

Great suggestions; much wiser and more practical than mine. LOL


Sue Bailey profile image

Sue Bailey 3 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

Don't you think though that the attitude of teenagers has got much worse in the last decade or two? I certainly noticed a big difference in the way my two kids were. My daughter who is 11 years older than her brother was nowhere near as stroppy and uncooperative as him and nor were her friends. His friends were also worse than hers.


schoolmarm76 profile image

schoolmarm76 3 years ago from Northeast

Great advice. I find the teens of today to be old beyond their years in what they want and think they should be able to do. Yet there is another side to them where they want to be reassured they are loved and doing the right things. Confusing for parents and teens.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Denise, I wish I could get all my relatives who have teens to read your article. Just the other day, I heard a teen complaining (really scolding) about all the parent's faults. I went against my better judgement and interfered about the need for respect, and the fact that none of us had perfect parents. We have to begin from scratch in many instances. Thanks for your invaluable counsel.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, billybuc, it would certainly be easier to ship them all off to a desert island, wouldn't it?! Our teenagers certainly give us a roller-coaster ride with all the things they bring into our lives. Fortunately, they grow out of it, and so will we!

I agree, Sue, that the teenagers of this generation are certainly more free in their expressions than our generation! From an eternal perspective, the best were saved for last! In these, the "latter days" of the earth's existence, the forces of evil have been unleashed in their fury, and the teens of today will need that strong-willed character to withstand them. Our job is one of preparation.

Thanks for that note schoolmarm, they are "old beyond their years." They are faced with an onslaught of media images that we never knew existed when we were their age. They know more and do more, and more is expected of them. As parents, we provide a safety net of love and support that will be with them throughout their lives.

MsDora, I have been party to similar conversations! Teenagers think that they are the be all and end all! Fortunately, they grow out of that stage after they leave home and realize how much their parents taught and did for them. Then they come back more human and decide that their parents are really good people!

Thank you for reading and commenting!


MDavisatTIERS profile image

MDavisatTIERS 3 years ago from Georgia

Great article, Denise. Voted up.

I always wondered about a short-term foster time. When my kids were teens, their friends thought my suggestions made sense. Conversely, my daughters thought someone else's parents were on target.

We parents actually discussed swapping our children for a few weeks as the suggestions were the same.


SandCastles 3 years ago

What an excellent hub! When adults don't take the teen's attitude personally, they see the human behind the attitude. Sometimes adults become petty and vindictive, forgetting that they were once a teenager too. Great list of strategies!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, MDavisatTiers! We had nieces and nephews whose parents threatened to send them to our house so that they could learn how to behave! It is interesting that it always sounds different coming from someone other than your own parents! Thankfully, our teenagers have grown up to be adults with common sense, and we are now on much better terms.

That's right, SandCastles. Teens are people, in spite of what we may think sometimes! They do have good points and when we find them and capitalize on them, our homes are much more pleasant places to be.


Eliza Anderson 3 years ago

I have my ups and downs every day. I am glad that there is professional and clinical support to help me stay on my feet and be aware of my thoughts and feelings.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Its good that you have allowed yourself to be helped in that way, Eliza. There are some who need the help but don't get it for some reason or another. Life can sometimes throw us curve balls, and unless we have a coach or mentor to help us, we may get struck out of the game! Thanks for reading and commenting.


mathira profile image

mathira 3 years ago from chennai

denise, teenagers can be quiet a handful if you do not know the trick to handle them. I totally agree that affectionate physical gestures gets instant response from them.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, mathira, many people consider teenagers to be the epitome of the terrible twos! I have found that as we treat our teenagers the way we want to be treated... as adults... we find that they are terrific teens. They love to exert their independence and look us in the eye and discuss things that we may not be comfortable with, but in the end, they usually follow our lead and do as we have taught them.


KariBright profile image

KariBright 19 months ago from Chicago, IL

Oh, Denise! What a wonderful hub. I wish my parents read this when I was younger.

I was once guilty of being a teenager with a bad attitude (at times). It really is one of the most delicate times for an adolescent who is emerging into adulthood. You have pressures from school & the social groups, peer pressure, hormones are off the chart, and the brain is still in development, causing some problems with what is "right and wrong".

Depending on how you deal with it (and the reasons why the teen is acting up) all situations are unique.

The biggest factor for me was that I was (am) hypoglycemic. When my blood sugar was low I would get very impatient and i didn't have a filter for my internal dialogue. I was misunderstood and didn't know how to handle my emotions. Essentially, i was returned with bad emotion from my parental guides, which caused escalation of negativity.

My parents were unbelievably strict at the time, as a human being, you are trying to discover yourself. The feeling of confinement, and lack of freedom sometimes causes adverse affects. The teenager does not understand the enforcement, and most of the time it's out of pure love from the parent.

Parents and teenagers often have a lot of misunderstanding with each other. Respect MUST be taught (for both parties), otherwise relationships can definitely be tainted at that early age.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 19 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for your insight and experiences, Karina. I think that all parents look back on the teen years of their children and wish that they had done things differently. I know that I do. In fact, your comment could very well have come from one of my own children! We were very strict with our older children, but by the time the younger ones came along, we had learned a few things and changed our ways.

Your comment about hypoglycemia causing problems with your emotions is interesting. My anxiety causes symptoms that are similar to hypoglycemia. The two seem to have a confounding relationship where one affects the other. If I am emotionally distraught, the hypoglycemia flares, and when I do not eat the way I should, my anxiety becomes problematic.

The understanding that you have gained from the experience with your own parents will no doubt be a great help to you when raising your own children.

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