Disrespect Is Not a Phase: Study Shows Rude Teens Become Rude Adults

eyerollingHave you ever found yourself excusing your teen’s disrespectful behavior? Have you said, “he’s at that age,” when he rolls his eyes at you, or “she’s very hormonal right now,” when she backtalks you and stomps out of the room? Many parents believe that rude behavior is just a passing phase of adolescence; however, new research shows that a rude teenager is at high risk of becoming a rude adult.

A 10-year study from the University of Virginia, published in the July 2015 edition of ScienceDirect, found that teenagers who are especially argumentative, rude, or prone to pressuring others do not outgrow their rude behavior. In addition, the study found that these teens do not notice the trouble their behavior causes in their relationships. While all teens are disagreeable sometimes, disrespectful teens refuse to compromise and typically resort to unhealthy tactics (name-calling, manipulation, etc.) to pressure others to change their minds.

How to Address Rude Behavior

The good news is that you have the power to prevent your teen from developing into a rude adult. As parents, you can stop disrespect and teach your teen new skills for social situations. Here are some strategies to address rude behavior:

  • Define rude behavior. It helps to very clearly explain the types of behavior you consider unacceptable. For example, you might set a house rule that no family member is allowed to hit, push, name-call, or threaten another family member. Set limits when everyone is calm, and allow input from all family members.
  • Use consequences. Establish an appropriate consequence for different types of rude behavior ahead of time, so that your teen knows what to expect if they display rudeness. And then, be sure to follow-through on enforcing the punishment.
  • Role model. Your teen will learn a lot about relationships based on the way you treat others. If you act rude to others, they will, too. Show your teen how to respond in a respectful manner when you disagree with someone else’s point of view. Do not bad mouth your boss, your child’s teacher or coach, or anyone else in front of your child. If you are rude to your teen, your spouse or those around you, you’re teaching your child that this type of behavior is acceptable.
  • Avoid power struggles. Pick your battles wisely. It is the nature of teens to try pushing your buttons. If your child has drawn you into a fight with disrespectful behavior in the past, be prepared that he/she will try to do it again. You should have a plan for that situation so that you can deal with your teen’s behavior as objectively as possible.
  • Invite respectful opinions. If you want your teen to be socially respectful, you must teach them the difference between facts and opinions and instill the value that no opinion is wrong. Your teen needs to know that their opinions matter, so respectfully listen to their ideas. But, your teen also needs to know that their opinion isn’t any more valuable than other people’s opinions. Encourage them to accept the idea of “agreeing to disagree” when they don’t see eye-to-eye with someone. Make it clear that your teen won’t be given consequences for his opinion, but that he will be given consequences when he behaves in a rude manner.


Some parents try to demand respect. You can’t demand respect, but you can require that your child acts respectfully, no matter how they feel about the situation. You might say, “You don’t have to like the rule, but you do have to comply with it.” Many parents take a teen’s disrespect very personally; however, most of the time adolescent disrespect is either a testing of limits or an expression of independence.

Final Thoughts…

While it’s important to not allow your teen to become rude, there are also times to ignore attention seeking behavior. A teen may mumble under their breath or roll their eyes in an effort to distract you from the problem at hand. If you call out every rude thing your teen does, you may actually increase the negative behavior. If it’s not terribly disrespectful, you might try ignoring it. Even more importantly, try praising your teen every time you notice them behaving respectfully.

One comment

  • Exhausted parent out of options

    What do you do when only the “last resort” consequences get your teen’s attention? The last disrespectful behavior we successfully curbed was physical violence towards other household members. That was only accomplished by informing him that the consequence the next time would be involvement of juvenile officers. What do I do for lying, manipulation, verbal abuse/bullying, refusal to comply with house rules, backtalk or anything else rude and hurtful but with no “higher authority” to invoke? Removal of privileges and groundings only cause him to be angrier because he doesn’t accept responsibility for his actions and blames everyone or anything else instead. Ergo, in his mind, he’s done nothing wrong, and views the consequence as an arbitrary attack. He then retaliates to discipline, so we end up letting way too much slide because we just can’t handle the drama every waking minute, because if we called him on everything, it would literally be constant. He is in counseling, with limited, intermittent success.

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