When Your Teen Disrespects Authority

Disrespect is one of the biggest issues plaguing families with teens today. Yet many parents struggle to figure out how to nip this destructive behavior in the bud. In this article, I’ll identify helpful ways to correct disrespect at home—and harmful reactions that only make it worse!

What Might Your Teen Be Communicating with His Disrespect?

Why is my child acting disrespectfully? It may be that your teen is getting older and naturally wants to make more of his own decisions. Your teen may simply be letting you know: “I want more control over my life.” However, it may also be that your teen feels judged; and in response to that feeling of being disrespected themselves, your teen is responding in kind. Or it may be that because they see YOU disrespecting others, your teen is following your example. But there are also times when teens are hurting. They may be lonely or in pain, but are not yet equipped with the appropriate way to handle these feelings. As you study your teen and look at what’s motivating their disrespect, you’ll know how to respond and train them to become a respectful, mature adult.

UNHELPFUL Ways to Respond to Disrespect

You should not ignore disrespectful behavior. But you do need to be careful about how you respond. If you act in a disrespectful way by shaming your teen, calling him names, or yelling in anger, you are simply training your teen how to be disrespectful in return. If you are angry, you need to stop and figure out what you’re not getting and find a better way to deal with your frustration. You may not like it, but the reality is that sometimes you’ve got to win the right to be heard, even with your own kids.

HELPFUL Ways to Respond to Disrespect

First, you need to decide what you believe about disrespect. What is the difference between teasing, sarcasm, and disrespectful behavior? What is it that you dislike about disrespect? Take time to clearly communicate the expectations and the consequences for disrespect to your teens. Then, when your teen is disrespectful, wait until you’re calm to sit down and talk to your teen. It’s okay to call out the disrespect that you see. Talk about what that communicates and why you won’t tolerate it. Ask questions to find out why your child is treating others poorly. This might happen by just asking a few thoughtful questions. But sometimes it takes more effort to get to your teen’s heart. In fact, your teen may not immediately know why they’re acting this way.

Always treat your teen with kindness and respect. You do not have to act disrespectfully to someone who is disrespecting you. It’s called grace. Instead, move toward your teen and help her think through the reasons for her behavior. As you show respect, your teens will “catch” your respectful attitude and eventually it will become part of the atmosphere of your home. Remember, you’re playing the “long game.” Your teen might not turn around immediately. Resist the urge to react immediately and punish too harshly. Overcorrecting your teen can push your teen into further disrespect if they can’t see a way to move forward or any hope for change. Instead, look for the gradual improvement that shows growth.

Things to Remember Concerning Disrespect and Authority

You may have grown up at a time when respecting authority was normal. But that isn’t the case today. Your teens live in a disrespectful world. Think about how people in authority are portrayed and talked about today. It’s no surprise that your teen has picked up on some of this disrespect and brought it home. Your teen will start acting like everybody else if he’s not intentionally taught how to be respectful. Rules, consequences, boundaries, high standards, and discipline at home are important, but they must be cushioned by relationship. Appealing to your relationship with your teen, to gain respect, is the most effective means of earning respect. You cannot force your teen to respect you. It won’t work.


Hey moms and dads … your teens are growing up in a tough world. The negative comments about those in authority along with the atmosphere of criticism and ridicule is a pretty easy mindset to get caught up in—and your teens are no exception. Disrespect is everywhere around every corner and is unavoidable. So the fact that some rubs off on your teens, shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. Your role is to give them a reason to respect and to be an example of someone to be respected. Your response to the world, along with the way that you engage with those that disagree with you, are opportunities to shine in the midst of the sometimes-critical contempt swirling all around us. You must be a light in the darkness, a gentle voice in the chaos, and an assurance that your mindset doesn’t have to be affected by those who act and portray something opposite.

Reconnecting with an Isolated Teen

Does your teen hang a “Go Away!” sign on his or her bedroom door? Does he or she consistently refuse to participate in family activities? Does he or she remain silent when you ask questions? In this article, I’ll advise parents on how to get reconnected with isolated teens and conquer your teen’s loneliness in a world that pulls parents and teens apart.

First, What Does Teen Isolation Look Like?

It’s normal for teens to want some space from parents or siblings. It’s normal for teens to want to try things on their own, seek out independence, attempt to make their own decisions. But the “new normal” is an unhealthy trend for teens to isolate themselves for long periods of time, engulfed by entertainment on a device consumed by themselves, avoiding contact with their family. When a teen suddenly stops doing what they once enjoyed, abandons their friends, skips school, or refuses to get out of bed, your teen needs help. All teens long for meaningful relationships and companionship, but they need to learn how to make those connections.

There Are Dangers to Ignoring Teen Isolation

While some time communicating online with friends is okay, your teen also needs to put the phone down in order to have a well-balanced life––to experience communication face-to-face. Allowing unhealthy isolation to continue in your home will not only damage your relationship with your teen, it will also negatively impact your teen’s future life, career, and relationships.

Find out what’s motivating your teen’s isolation. The reasons will determine how you can help. For example, some isolation is a teen’s response to bullying. Some isolation is a reaction to tension at home. Some isolation is because of laziness. Some isolation is a teen “giving up” due to anxiety, fear of the unknown, or seemingly unreachable expectations. If your teen is shutting down, you need to push open the door and help your child to better understand the core issues behind their retreat. And if your teen is struggling with depression or trauma, you need to get help from someone who is trained to help teens struggling with these heavy issues.

Reconnecting with an Isolated Teen

Getting reconnected takes time. You need to spend time together, even if your teen has been silent for a long time. It’s your job to clearly communicate your desire to spend time together. Schedule a time to get a bite to eat and leave the phones at home, even if at first you need to require his participation. And be consistent. Make time together at least once a week. Then, when you’re together, ask engaging questions––questions that seek to find out the heart of your teen. If you could change one thing at school or at home, what would it be? What can I do to help you and I have a closer relationship? Remember, it’s not an interrogation, so don’t ask: How much time did you spent online? What are you doing in here? Your goal is to get your teen to open up. You can give your perspective, but be careful not to spend all your time sharing your opinion. It’ll shut down your teen’s words. And if your attempts at conversation routinely lead to arguments, then stop constantly correcting your teen and pointing out where he went wrong.  Instead, you ask questions and listen. That way you will better understand what he believes and why he believes it. These conversations are the key to drawing your teen into a more meaningful relationship where you will have the opportunity to offer your wisdom.

If your teen is giving you one-word answers, then it’s time to get creative! Consider a reward for better communication. Tell your teen you’ll continue to pay his cell phone bill, as long as he gives you answers that are at least 20 words long. Then count the words! You’re training your teen to move out of childish conversations and engage in adult communication. The reason they don’t do it now, is that they’ve either never been taught how to, haven’t been required to do so, or Mom and Dad do all the talking and they’ve never been pushed to exercise this life skill. So if your teen is avoiding conversations, then it’s your job to train them to engage well. 


Hey moms and dads … your teen more than likely believes that this world is the worst it could ever be because that’s what they hear and it’s the only life that they’ve been exposed to. Their inadequacy of being prepared to live and function in their world quickly turns to worry–– which is misuse of one’s imagination––then to fear, then on to anxiety, which turns to panic––a terror that they are certain they cannot overcome. It’s a tough spot to be, where your teen feels the world is crushing down on them. So, they find a retreat from those pressures and disconnect and isolate to find peace amidst the conflict. It’s your opportunity to share perspectives of the world that help them understand that much of their fears will pass, that you were there to walk with them, and then this turmoil they feel will soon be over. It’s not a time just to share opinions. It’s an opportunity to give perspective.

What If Your Teen is Becoming Someone You Don’t Know or Like?

One day, your teen is a kind, engaged member of the family. The next, they’re disrespectful and rebellious. What happened? Your teen is not the same adorable infant you brought home from the hospital, the same cheerful kid you played with, and your teen will not be the same in the future. They will change. The question is: How should you respond? In this article, I’ll share what parents can do if their teen is turning into someone they don’t like.

Responding to a Teen’s New Lows

Many parents struggle to hold onto a relationship with their teen when the child they delighted in starts making poor choices. When your teen reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, they need a responsible, loving adult to respond—not react. Remind yourself that your teen is morphing into an adult and the most important thing you can do is stay connected, or else you’ll lose your opportunity to influence the person they are becoming.

Find areas of common interest and build on that foundation. Offer the hope of a better relationship and the opportunity to work it out together by asking your teen: “What do you think we need do to have a relationship now and five years from now?” But, be prepared to hear from your teen what they don’t like about YOU!

When your teen is pushing all your buttons, as difficult as it may seem, it’s time to move closer. Set aside time to talk and let your teen know you’re struggling—without blaming him. Remain the mature parent, even when everything inside of you wants to yell, give up, and walk away. It’s called grace. Recognize that responding well to your teen in a moment of crisis can open up avenues of communication and strengthen your relationship in the long run.

Start with a “Truth and Consequences” Message

You can’t ignore inappropriate behavior, but things go much better if you don’t have a knee-jerk reaction. Reacting means you’re emotional, angry, hurt, judgmental, and often harsh with your teen. But responding to your teen means offering calmness, honesty, love, grace, and support. Offer your teen a “truth and consequences” message.

For example, tell your teen: “I will no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself. We’re going to address what’s going on, get some help, and get through this together.” Make it clear that negative behavior will no longer be tolerated. Let your child know that if it doesn’t stop, he will not be able to live in your home. Perhaps the threat of losing the comfort of home will help your child to pay attention. And if you mention programs such as boot camp, boarding school, or Heartlight to your teen, then you must be able to follow through when your teen calls your bluff!

What If They Don’t Change?

Don’t expect your teens to like the fact that you are calling a halt on their behavior. In fact, things may get worse before they get better. You need to be in the relationship for the long haul. Stay calm and focused on what you want for your teen. Continue to communicate your love even when it’s difficult, because teens deeply fear rejection. Make sure your love isn’t attached to your teen’s behavior. Withholding love should never be an option. Be clear that it is out of love that you will enforce the rules and allow your teen to feel the consequences.

In Romans 5:8, the Bible reminds us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” You know, most of us didn’t become mature, responsible adults over night. Change takes time. Commit to loving your son or daughter all the way through the process. Follow through and be consistent; otherwise, you will just add to the confusion and frustration. And remember, even if things feel hopeless, keep going. Doing nothing is not an option for a caring parent. Engage. Engage. Engage. Just like God does for us.


Hey moms and dads …  If you feel like your relationship with your teen has become distant, it’s likely a slow drift that began long before you realized it was happening. And if this is true, it’s going to take a little time and effort to get that drifter to come home. Let me encourage you to reflect on how you can make your home a place of rest and a haven of blessing, so that your teen will want to reengage and deepen their relationship with you. Hey, it won’t happen overnight. But in time, your efforts to correct the confusion they have felt will be seen as an olive branch toward healing a relationship that has a lifetime of value. Keep moving toward them, offering them a relationship, and giving them rest—just like your Heavenly Father constantly does with you.