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Rude Teens and Backtalk: 25 Tips for Parents

Backtalk can be one of the most frustrating behaviors for moms and dads. It's hard to keep cool and clear-headed when teens are being disrespectful. The angrier we become, the more backtalk our teens dish out. Don't despair. Taming backtalk takes practice, but if you stay calm and consistent, you can get a hold of this troublesome behavior. 

You can control this vicious cycle if you follow some of the tips below:

1. Avoid the word "if" (as in "If you do that again, I'm going to..."). It makes you sound weak instead of decisive, and your teenager will pick up on that. Moms and dads tend to over-talk. Taking action is much more effective.

2. Back off. If your adolescent is irate, any attempts to restrict or discipline her will only be counterproductive. Give her some time to cool off. If the situation calls for a consequence, it can be dealt later, but too often moms and dads make threats that are too harsh in the heat of the moment.

3. Backtalk sometimes comes from adolescents trying to learn how to assert their independence and test limits, so help them make good choices within the boundaries that you set. As much as possible, help them to be responsible for their own behavior, even if it means that they have to deal with the negative consequences (this can often be the best learning experience).

4. Be willing to have conversations (not arguments) about adjusting the rules and consequences every few months as your teenager gets older and can take on more responsibility. However, make it clear that your adolescent must be able to present her position to you without being rude (an excellent life skill to instill). In addition, all parties involved need to understand that just because the adolescent may present a good argument in a polite manner, it doesn't mean that you're required to change your position. Be willing to listen with an open mind and be up for a discussion, but in the end, you are the mother or father with the life experience to make good decisions, as well as the adult responsible for your teenager’s safety and well-being.

5. Beware small things that may start long arguments. A little disagreement over whether or not you were fair in grounding him two weeks ago may spiral into a fight over how fair you are regularly.

6. Calm down. If the teenager talks back in a very disrespectful way, leave the room and the conversation. If the teenager trails behind, let him know that backtalk will not be tolerated, and ignore the teenager. After calming down, then decide on the punishment for the offense. Do not lecture or give long-winded speeches, as your adolescent will simply tune out, which will in turn make you more likely to get worked up.

7. Do not negotiate with your teenager, back down, or let her draw your into an argument about the consequence that you are enforcing. Consequences are consequences and shouldn't be up for discussion or argument. If your teenager feels like she can argue or negotiate a consequence, she'll be more likely to continue an undesired behavior and moreover, more likely to argue even more the next time around.

8. Do not talk about several issues at a time. Concentrate only on one thing, and try to sort it out rationally.

9. Encourage your teen to express herself in the future. Most teens hold their frustration in too long, and then do something drastic when it's too much.

10. Give your teenager the same respect that you would like, and try to refrain from name-calling or labeling with such words as, “spoiled brat.” Instead, keep the focus on the behavior that you would like to change.

11. Ignore any backtalk associated with the consequence. Don't get drawn into explaining or justifying your position. Also, don't punish your teenager again if he gives you backtalk when you enforce the consequence. Treat it as one incident.

12. Ignore mumblings. Sometimes teens complain. It's their way of saying they'll do it, but only because they have to, not because they want to. This is fine. A response isn't necessary, or even expected by the teenager.

13. Make sure that the rules of the house are very clear and specific. You may need to say to your teenager (at a time when you are both calm), “We have been fighting a lot lately, so we need to sit down and clarify what my/our expectations for your behavior are, and what the consequences will be for breaking the rules.”

14. Offer the teenager choices. Teens are less likely to argue if they feel they have a choice. Even if neither option is really attractive to them, they feel more empowered to be able to choose. So, give them choices whenever you can, but make it clear when no choice exists and you are not willing to negotiate, especially when it comes to matters of your teenager’s safety.

15. One common refrain from adolescents is, “You don’t understand!” Do not further frustrate your teenager by saying, “Yes, I do!” or “I went through exactly what you are going through now.” We all like to think of experiences as unique. Instead of asserting a "been there, done that" stance, help your teenager practice communicating without being rude by responding, “I may not understand, but I do want to try to understand what you are feeling. Can we talk about it later when we’re both calmer, or you can you write it down and send me an e mail, if you like?”

16. Realize that your teen is going through a difficult time. Teenagers have many stresses. Your child is maturing into an adult and is dealing with pressures from school, homework, friends, popularity, dating, after-school activities, individuality, hormones, etc. It's a heavy load for her to carry.

17. Remember that your teenager really does love you. She argues when she is angry and makes statements she doesn't mean because she is just learning to express herself and doesn't see many other ways, especially if she feels she is not being effective talking calmly.

18. Set up a certain time of day in which the teen can talk back to you. You can say to her, “From 6:00 to 6:15 p.m., you can ask me to re-explain all my decisions. Save it for then. If you need to, write it down in a note to yourself. Then at 6:00, we’ll sit down and I’ll explain to you why you can’t __________ (insert something they wanted to do, but you said ‘no’) or how come you got grounded for __________ (insert misbehavior). But at 6:15, our discussion is done. If you try to keep it going, there will be consequences.” In this way, if you feel like you want to give your teenager an outlet to vent her complaints, there’s a way to do it without getting sucked-in to perpetual arguing.

19. Tell the teenager what you need to tell him, and then leave. This will help the teenager appreciate that the mother or father has the last word.

20. Think about how you speak to your teenager and to others around you. How often are you sarcastic or rude? Is your teenager picking up on your tone and the way you treat others? Try to adjust your own behavior and remember that whether she knows it or not, you are your teenager's greatest influence in terms of nurturing the right kinds of behavior in her. Consider telling your teenager that you have noticed that you can be rude to others sometimes, and that you're going to try to modify your own behavior. Sometimes, moms and dads admitting that they too can make mistakes or have things that they need to work on, makes all the difference in terms of communication. Your teenager will feel less like she's under attack and more open to making adjustments of her own.

21. Treat first offenses like teaching opportunities. Firmly inform the teenager that the behavior is unacceptable. Then continue the discussion, never revisiting the issue that started the backtalk in the first place.

22. Try to break a pattern of interaction in which your teenager is constantly rude to you – and you in turn respond with frustration and/or punishment. Tell your teenager that you don't like the way your relationship has been lately, and that you would like to do something pleasant together. Let your teenager choose something that the two of you can do together, and make a pact that neither of you will be rude or critical. If one of you breaks the pact, end the activity, and try again another day. 

23. Use "I" statements to let your teenager know how his backtalk makes you feel. You might say, "When you speak in a disrespectful tone, I feel hurt and frustrated. "I" statements help us to stay calm and communicate clearly.  In addition, we are modeling positive communication skills to our teens. Many times, if we stay calm and let our teens know how we feel, they will calm down too. Backtalk is angry, impulsive behavior. When we calm down and give our teens a chance to think about what they have said, they will often feel truly remorseful.

24. When your teenager uses rude words to label you or someone else, ask her to be specific. Say, “When you call me _____, it is not only rude and will not be tolerated, but it also does not help me understand what you want. Tell me what you are upset about or what you would like to happen.”

25. Your teen learns that her parents can lose control and that by pushing the right buttons, she can get you to lose control. Understand that once you've started using yelling as a behavioral management tool, you’ve told your teen everything she needs to know about pushing your buttons.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

1 comment:

Ann Sch said...

I just viewed this website & I must say so far I enjoyed the Parenting tips & advice it had to offer. As you all know by now that my young son Nicho (11yrs) has been diagnosed a yr ago ths mnth wth an (ASD) Autism Spectrum Disorder called "ASPERGERS SYNDROME" with co-morbid of ADHD, ODD, HA & DEPRESSION. As a Parent of such a Wonderful & Gifted Child of God we accept all of these mental health issues and cherish him as our Miracle Blessing. So to find any and all info & support group's out there, we welcome all the tips, advice & services they have to offer. Thank you

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