What to do when your teens are rude?

With six kids, I’ve heard my share of rudeness! Some phrases that got under my skin the most were those dismissive comments like, “Mom, stop” in a snarky tone. Or, “Bye, Mom” when I’m being dismissed from their room.

What to do? 

Here’s something to experiment with: If you don’t like how you typically respond to your kids, do the opposite. If you tend to act like a cat getting its tail twisted with voice raised and claws bared, practice dropping your voice. Slow down your response. Say something limit-setting like,  “It doesn’t feel good when you talk to me like that. I’d like to talk about this later.” This only works if you say it in a calm voice, BTW. 😉 

Later, when you’re both in a good state of mind, ask if it’s a good time to revisit that interaction. You can say something like, “Are you game to share what was going on for you? And to hear how that was for me?”  Then listen and be curious. Next, if your kid is able to listen, share in a short, non-blamey way what that interaction was like for you. 

It’s not about having a perfect conversation. When your teens are rude it’s about sending the message that rude interactions call for a loving follow-up to repair and revisit. This sends a message that in our family, we don’t condone speaking to each other in rude or dismissive ways.

If you don’t tend to respond like a cat with a yowl and your claws bared, and instead you’re overly passive or permissive about being treated poorly, then try the opposite of THAT and speak up. Be ready with a boundary-setting phrase like, “Ouch. It hurts when you talk to me like that.”  

You might want to add something like, You know, I’m not cool with being talked to that way. I need to do something about it, but not right now. I need to think about it first.” Or you might say something like, “It’s not like you to talk to me that way. Is there something hard going on for you that you want to share?”  While setting limits is helpful, it’s also good to remember that our kids are still learners and haven’t mastered the art of recognizing how they feel or how to communicate it well.

Bottom line: if you don’t like your default response when your teens are rude, try mixing it up by experimenting with the opposite of your norm. 

Keywords to keep in mind are: calm, strong, loving, and not tolerating poor treatment.

Good luck.


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