Most people thought that teens were the toughest to deal with. Well, it begins with tweens. Since the past few months, I am having a tough time dealing with my tween who seems to flit from one emotion to another in a matter of minutes. But what gets my goat most often is the disrespect.

“You don’t care! You don’t love me anymore.”

“You are so mean! What about how I feel?”

“Why should I care about how you feel? You hate me.”

And so it continues. The situations are everyday ones where I ask him to put his things in place, to not bicker, to not say rude things to his brother, to not argue, to finish his homework, etc.

how to deal with disrespectful child

One thing leads to another before he yells at me in a squeaky voice and then says something rude. That gets my goat and I yell back.

“No gadget games this weekend!” 

“No movies or videos online either.” I throw in with good measure.

Does it work? Hell, no! He sulks. There are tears and some more sulking. If I was looking at fixing the situation, it clearly does not.

It exhausts me. This daily bickering and going head-to-head over small things. And you know, no parent likes disrespect. We want to salvage the situation then and there but it backfires. Of course, I do speak to him when tempers cool down but we seem to be going at each other more often these days.

Some tips on how to deal with a disrespectful child based on my experience. #parenting #tween Click To Tweet

So here are some tips I am planning to implement:

Disrespect cannot be dealt with disrespect:

As both of us get upset, there is an exchange of angry words. I realize I say some mean things as well in response which are later pointed out to me. As difficult as it is, it is NOT okay to speak to your child rudely when they treat you badly (Easier said than done I can assure you, I struggle with it). So I will try my level best to not use harsh words. Going quiet and using measured words may work. If there is some punishment like taking away of privileges, it must be done firmly and without demeaning.

As difficult as it is, it is NOT okay to speak to your child rudely when they treat you badly. #parenting #tween Click To Tweet

Be Calm:

Again very very difficult to do in a heated situation. But, I have to realize that the brain shuts down to reason when we are upset. It happens to adults as well. At that moment, nothing really works, and we just want to give it back. Best is to try to be composed and later have a talk when they are in a more receptive mood and perhaps even feeling contrite for their actions. As I tell my kids, take a few deep breaths, think of a happy memory or just count till 20.

Show Empathy:

Often we are so caught up in our situation that we just cannot see how it may look from their point of view. The rule in my home is that they must change their uniform, keep their tiffins in the sink and keep their shoes and bags in their places before they eat something. When they go ignoring the rules, we have showdowns. While it is not okay to break rules constantly, I can understand that he was hungry and rushed to eat without changing his uniform (when it happens once in a while). By understanding his feeling, I can try to relate with his experience. In no way am I justifying the disrespect, mind you.

Don’t rush into reacting:

Things get ugly when an angry exchange of words is countered with another angry exchange. It really leads to nowhere. I know, I have fallen for it out of hurt. But as the adult, perhaps it would help if I detach myself a bit from the situation and slow down the emotions.

“I am not liking how this conversation is going. Let’s speak about this later.”

This gives both of us time to get a handle on our frayed nerves.

Check if we are low on energy:

I know for a fact that my reservoir of patience is almost empty by the evening. Another thing is that I am sensitive to loud noises. When the kids enter the house bickering with each other in loud voices, that already makes my blood pressure go high by a few notches. I also understand that they may be tired or hungry and that makes us all cranky. So, it’s best to offer a snack or something to drink when the child is behaving unreasonably cranky. Perhaps it is not disrespect that is fuelling the crankiness.

how to deal with disrespectful child

This is not to say that disrespect is OKAY. My kids know that. That conversation we delayed, we surely come back to. And the punishment doled out is never taken back. Three or four times when we are firm with following through, they understand that we mean business. To implement behavior change and to let them know that using disrespectful language and answering back rudely will NEVER be acceptable. But we can address what brought the situation on and how we can avoid it in the future by communicating better.

Are you a parent of a tween? How do you deal with disrespectful behaviour?

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36 Thoughts on “How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?

  1. Parenting is not easy. I don’t know how I will react when M becomes a tween. I find it hard to deal with her reasonably and calmly when she throws tantrums now. Every day I promise myself that I’ll behave better because yelling and scolding her like I do never work. Hopefully, I’mm improve with time.
    Nabanita Dhar recently posted…A To Don’t ListMy Profile

    • Parenting is so tough, Naba. Once they are older, it is a difficult balance to strike between enforcing discipline and being their friend. And sometimes one does not really know what is the right approach. Yes, yelling and scolding never work but we need to vent once in a while too.
      Rachna recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  2. Some good pointers..we all need to take care of. Patience indeed is a must..

  3. Some good pointers..we all need to take care of. Patience indeed is a must.. parenting is very difficult..

  4. Rickie on January 22, 2018 at 1:55 pm said:

    You know what, I don’t think I have heard you say anything that ever upsets you about your older son. So perhaps it’s just the difference in temperament. S may be built more in your mould while G probably isn’t. Also, are you sure this isn’t a legacy of something tough that he may be facing in school? Bullying or unreasonable teachers or what have you. May be worth investigating that too. Though not sure how you would do that.
    Such a tough situation.

    • Actually I have. There are many posts about teen troubles on the blog. 🙂 S is similar to me for sure but we have our run ins. With G, it is getting more tough as he entered his tweens. Thanks for the pointers. I do talk to him daily but will probe further about the school and if he is facing some specific issue. He is generally pretty open in sharing. But yes both of us are strong willed and sometimes we clash. I am trying to be as patient as possible with him. Hopefully it is a phase. But sigh, teenage is not far away. 🙂
      Rachna recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  5. Sigh, haven’t we all gone through this phase!

    But there’s nothing that a heart to heart conversation can’t solve

  6. Such a tough job it is – bringing up kids! And, when they are growing up, when the hormones are causing havoc in their systems, I can understand the amount of patience they must require to be dealt with!
    I and my sis-in-laws will need these posts, Rachna, when my two nephews reach their tweens and teens!
    Thank you so much!
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…Inspirational quotes by Maya Angelou.My Profile

  7. Very good points you have brought out here, Rachna. I’m not a parent, yet I can think of how I can implement this in my life wrt other people.

    Disrespect is something that pisses me off. Especially when it comes from kids and also when it comes from someone really elderly. In both cases, we are expected to forgive and forget the incident as they are too young to know or too old to listen to others. That gets my goat.

    Respect for me is not a matter of age. It is a matter of deed and the way the person is. Children or adults.
    Soumya recently posted…Earn Your StripesMy Profile

  8. I’m kind of in this boat now. My son turned 8 last month and his behavior is starting to change a little now. I believe I’m at fault too as I’m not getting enough time to spend with him. All day I am running behind my toddler and exhausted. Kanna is not rude or disrespectful perse, but there are times when he ignore my instructions and do whatever pleases him. And the lies! They are increasing and I hate it. So I resort to yelling which is increasing my headache. I need to talk calmly and accept that these are all part of growing up. Oh goodness, when did I reach at this stage!
    Vinitha recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 43My Profile

    • I can imagine, Vinitha. Obviously your younger child is at an age when they need more of your time too. I see that the older ones then become a bit aloof. The younger ones on the other hand seem to take their parents’ time and attention as a matter of right. Good luck to you as well.
      Rachna recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  9. I’ve realized that the way I brought up and dealt with my older one cannot be the same way I do with my younger one. Once I came to that conclusion, life has been a lot easier, even though my older one is often surprised and indignant about it! 😀
    Roshni recently posted…The Indian American experience when parents visitMy Profile

  10. As always, you’re spic & span about what you feel. The fact that you’ve set yourself a vision on handling situations when your children defy your say, is really laudable.

    I believe all of us come across these crazy tantrums of children day in & day out, irrespective of their age. Nevertheless, the tweens & teens are the fountainhead of emotional turbulence ( I say that out of my experience as a child; not a t(w)een parent yet! ;-))

    I’d love to wave my hand for a “high-five” to you for mentally reciting a countdown during the verbal battle. I’ve tried that myself & also have explained the idea to my 4.5 year old already. She, however, lets it go most of the time though.

    There’s also another deal I made with her. I’ve got a board on which I mention at least 3 things at the end of everyday which will have the “good stuff” she did for the day. That way, her mind is less occupied over breaking into tantrums & more engaged with ‘gathering’ her good deeds. But I seriously don’t know how long this is going to do the trick! 🙂

    Thanks for that insightful post, Rachna. Loved it!

    • Hi Ashvini, Welcome to my space. Such a beautiful, detailed comment. I am trying that mental countdown though it is not easy I tell you. I love your idea at the end of the day. I was doing something similar with my younger son which fizzled out. Instead of a board, we spoke about the 3 most positive things for him that day. But somehow we stopped doing it. I guess, I must now. I think communication always helps. My son read the post and then we had a long chat. It’s an ongoing process and we are making progress. Thanks for your comment.
      Rachna recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  11. When we were kids, my parents had a poster for themselves. It had some 20 things to remind them of parenting and the associated fun things.
    One of that list said – “Small children, small problems. Big children, bigger problems.”
    As I read your post, I remembered the above line. It is so true the dealing with tweens or teenagers is harder than dealing with toddlers. But at the same time, respect is all that matters. Kids learn to respect when they get respect. All good point for parents, Rachna!
    Parul Thakur recently posted…Would you get on that ride?My Profile

    • It is true, Parul. While it is easier on many fronts when the kids grow older, the emotional challenges get deeper. Of course, my mantra has been to talk it out. I think that really helps and that means listen when they speak. Somehow respect feels non-negotiable when it comes to a parent. That is one of the core values that I have been brought up with. And I am not rude even to a child so I would at least expect that much in return. But I guess kids have their phases and as long as we let them know how hurtful their behaviour is, I think we can see change.
      Rachna recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  12. This post is about tweens but somedays I experience the same with D, in toned down versions. With time I have begun to understand there is a back story with him and he is only reacting because he is feeling troubled with something. My patience and being calm is often helpful in dealing with the angst but being a human myself, I am not always functioning in a calm mode and then the situation gets tricky. I have realised that such situation demands more of the action on the parents’ part rather than the children.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…Castles in the sky #WordlessWednesday 12My Profile

  13. So happy to read this post 🙂 For a number of reasons.

    Empathy is such a powerful tool and it really works. I’ve noticed that with Gy too. And the bit about talking to them later when they feel contrite instead of negotiating with them when they are in a meltdown phase is so crucial.

    So true about the disrespect bit. I can’t tolerate disrespect either and I won’t have her talking back in a rude manner. The good thing is I have V to back me up on this. Plus we are firm yet kind in taking away privileges.

    It must be tough to handle the bickering among siblings. Although, having one kid is quite tough too since we have to toe the line between understanding and giving her space to grow and understand.

    Some lovely tips here, Rachna 🙂
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Tailwind Tips for Bloggers: How to use Tailwind with PinterestMy Profile

    • It’s tough being a parent whether you have one or two kids. Although I wonder if there will be a phase when they would actually be civil to each other. 😊 G read this post and then we had a long conversation. He is already showing changes in the way he reacts and I am cultivating more patience. Hopefully like other phases this too shall pass.
      Rachna Parmar recently posted…How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

  14. It’s tiring at times isn’t it, Rachna. As you say, our frame of mind and haste can often provoke the wrong response. Like you, we always follow through on a consequence and I’m always careful not to say something in haste that is impossible to see through. As you say, it is sometimes easier to revisit after the initial ‘rant’ when reason and goodwill has returned. Thanks for sharing such a great post with #tweensteensbeyond

  15. When working with families, I always talk about picking your battles. As you said, if your child is angry and you get angry, both of you yell and the situation only escalates. Instead, staying calm but firm is the best thing and yes, validating their frustration and reflecting the emotions behind the words is helpful. Then following that up with a logical and acceptance consequence that you know you can enforce is ideal.
    Sanch @ Sanch Writes recently posted…Dying laughterMy Profile

  16. Oh Rachna the battlefield of respect is such a varied one. Teaching our young tweens to demonstrate some repspect whether for us the parents or others is hard and there is no magic wand to help along the way. As parents we all have to go through it and I think one of the key things is to stick to your guns. You have your rules and they give your children boundaries and over time they will respect them even if there are a few hiccups along the way. Thanks for linking with us. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Jo – MotherofTeenagers recently posted…Tweens, Teens & Beyond #35My Profile

    • You are right. Thank you for your sensible words. It is hard and I am trying my best to tackle this phase with composure and grace. Struggling at many times as well.

  17. You know what I noticed, Rachna? People lie – they say it gets better as the kids get older 😛 But it just takes on a new form. Eventually we reach a place where we just conceded defeat 🙂 I’m sure that’s how my parents felt. And I’m pretty sure that’s how I’ll feel when R grows up.
    The other thing that I’ve noticed is that similarities between a 5 yo and the tweenage years. Of course, it helps that my 5yo’s vocabulary isn’t that great and is still at the age where his cuteness gets him away from most things. But the tweenage years – oh boy! I’ll be bookmarking this for then 🙂
    As always, lovely to read your posts
    Sid recently posted…The DateMy Profile

    • Yes, the challenges shift and despite the physical challenges of chasing after them, feeding them etc. going away, the emotional battles do take a toll. When you have two, the constant playing referee and listening to their bickering can really drive any parent insane. 🙂 I haven’t yet conceded defeat but what do I know. G still has to reach his teens.

      Yep, the whole mischief thing is cute on younger kids. It just gets annoying when children are older. And yes, wait for them to give it back. These kids are so smart. All their calculate arguments fly in your face. Sorry for this rant of a reply but you know how it is. Trying hard to keep my head above water. 🙂 Good to see you here. Always delightful to hear your views.

  18. Just yesterday we had a huge showdown and it left me feeling so terrible. More than the disrespect it’s the constant bickering that gets to me, the noise, like you said. Oh and also the need for constant reminders for every little thing. It comes out sounding like I’m nagging but the thing is they don’t do it without reminders – changing clothes, putting tiffins for washing.. all of that. I so hear you. Loved your pointers, now only if I can remember them and put them into practice.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Izzat is a strange thingMy Profile

    • I know, yaar. It is so tough. I am really trying hard but they can be maddening, isn’t it? And we are human too. How can we keep calm at all times? Like you said, the noise drives me mad, the constant bickering and also reminding all the time! Trying and seeing what works.
      Rachna recently posted…No Pain No Gain January #GratitudeMy Profile

  19. i am also a parent to a tween.so far my biggest crib is that he’s just forgetful that he forgets rules. so while he doesn’t say anything, his forgetting stuff all the time does get to me. whenever i say anything rude, I do make it a point to apologize though. and when I keep telling to keep calm and respond rationally in situations, I always regret when I am not able to follow that myself. so far I haven’t spotted signs of rebellion.keeping my fingers crossed 🙂
    themoonstone recently posted…The Allergy DossierMy Profile

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