In Parenting

How to Handle Disrespect in Children

We all want our children to grow up into decent, respectful adults who are contributing members to society. However teenagers in particular go through a stage of disrespect where they seem to show little to no regard for anyone in authority, including parents, teachers and other adults. While this is normal to a degree, a line needs to be drawn. It’s important for parents to learn how to handle these challenging times so their children can earn others’ respect.

Disrespectful Behavior

Before you can start dealing with your child’s disrespectful behavior, it’s important to truly understand what it means. The faster you curb the behavior, the better off children will be in the future.

Are You Being Disrespected?

Identifying a child’s disrespectful attitude is often easy because there are distinct signs to look for. However, there is a long list of behaviors that show disrespect, making it difficult to pinpoint just a few. It also makes every case unique, which can lead to challenges in handling it. Some of the common signs of disrespect in children, especially teenagers, may include:

  • Cursing or swearing
  • Not obeying instructions
  • Ignoring adults or caregivers
  • Arguing or yelling
  • Name calling
  • Talking back

While there are many other behaviors that can fall under this category, these are the primary ones you should look out for. Everyone can have a bad day; it’s all in how often it happens and whether it appears to be deliberate. If your child occasionally exhibits these behaviors, odds are it isn’t a serious problem and is just a part of the normal growing up process. However, if it’s a frequent occurrence over a prolonged period of time, it may be time to work harder at correcting the behavior, sometimes with professional help.

What Causes Disrespect?

Even though disrespect can be a natural part of growing up, there are reasons why some children struggle with it more than others. When your child is exposed to these triggers, it is often easier to handle it with a disrespectful attitude. Because their brains are still developing, children, even teens, may not have the capacity to deal with issues in a mature manner, which means their reactions appear to be disrespectful. Some of these triggers can include:

  • Situations of abuse or neglect
  • Mimicking how their friends act with their own parents
  • Too many unnecessary rules and demands
  • Learned behaviors from parents

While these aren’t the only reasons, they are some of the top causes of disrespect among children.

Correcting Disrespectful Behavior

If you determine your child is showing disrespect, even if it’s only occasional, it’s up to you as a parent to find ways to guide your child toward proper behavior. This can often be a challenge because a disrespectful child isn’t likely to handle the criticism well. In fact, you can expect some push back, at least in the early stages of your training. While it will require a lot of hard work and dedication, you and your child will be grateful for it in the end. Children who are capable of respecting others have a much better chance of being successful in their future lives, especially in the workplace.

What Should You Do?

Changing your child’s attitude isn’t always an easy task. This is especially true in their teenage years. At this point in their life, they are beginning to develop independence and want to separate themselves from their parents, showcasing their ability to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, it’s still important for them to realize disrespect is not the way to handle it. The following ways can help you train your child how to be respectful, while maintaining their sense of independence.

Don’t Take It Personally

It’s hard not to take it personally when your child is screaming, “I hate you!”. You love them and have dedicated your life to taking care of them so it’s no wonder this makes you wonder where you’ve gone wrong and what you could have done differently. The answer is you likely haven’t done anything wrong. Taking things personally will make it more difficult to take a neutral approach in your child’s training. Also, disrespect among teens generally isn’t personal. It has more to do with exerting independence.

Don’t Engage

It’s easy to turn disrespect into a shouting match between you and your child, but this isn’t a productive way of handling the situation. If you find yourself getting angry and ready to lash out, separate yourself from the situation and let both sides calm down. At this point, it will be easier to have a rational conversation that can lead to a productive end result.

Ask Them to Try Again

Slamming doors, rolling eyes and other behaviors are a sign of disrespect and should not be tolerated, even if they seem benign. When your child participates in these behaviors, ask him or her to make the request or comment again in a respectful manner or to go back and close the door without slamming it. Making him or her redo bad behavior the right way can train your child to handle it better next time. This may take a few tries before it becomes a natural habit.

Stay Focused

Teaching your child respect can take a lot of time and patience. Don’t become frustrated and give up your child as a lost cause. Work with him or her until he’s able to get it right a majority of the time.


It’s Not All About People

While a majority of disrespect is directed towards people in children’s lives, this isn’t always the case. You can also disrespect your surroundings. The health of the environment relies on the respect humans show to it. Littering and not recycling are two major ways in which the human race has been disrespectful of the environment and their surroundings. However, it’s not too late to slow down the negative impact these behaviors have had on the planet. When parents teach their children the importance of respecting Mother Nature and doing their part, it increases the chances the world will remain a healthier place for longer. Protecting the planet for future generations is just as important as teaching your children to be respectful to other human beings.

The topic of respect and disrespect is one every parent should take up with their children. In many cases, disrespect is a learned behavior that can be corrected when addressed at an early age and with consistency. No matter how old your child is, it’s not too late to start instilling the power of respect into their minds. When they are able to learn to respect others, they will be respected for it and be able to go further in life.

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