How to Deal with a Teen Know-It-All
Teens are in that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood. As they mature, youth are constantly striving to be more independent and establish their own identity and opinions. They are learning new things continually and wanting to share their knowledge and be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, sometimes teens can take their newfound knowledge and independence too far and insist that he/she has the “right” knowledge. As teens learn how to express their ideas and share their knowledge, they often want to show they have opinions that vary from yours. While it can be very frustrating dealing with a teenage know-it-all, it is a normal part of adolescent development. To survive this stage, we are offering you a few tips for dealing with teens who insist they know more than you:
Listen to What Your Teen Has to Say
The most important thing you can do for your teenager is role model how to respectfully listen to someone else, even when you disagree. No matter how obnoxious or irritating your teen might be acting, be willing to listen with an open mind. Everyone wants to feel heard and be understood, and doing that will show respect and eliminate negative behaviors that teens tend to use when they feel misunderstood or unnoticed. Additionally, you want to create a safe, open environment in your home so that when something important comes along, your teen feels free to bring it to you.
Find the Source of the Behavior
If your teen has truly become a know-it-all, try to determine WHY they feel like they must have all of the ‘correct’ answers. Perhaps your teen is trying to prove his/her intelligence. Maybe they feel like their opinions never matter to other people. There is likely some underlying insecurity that is driving their behavior. If you can determine the root cause, you might be able to boost your teen’s confidence levels in that area.
It can feel very hurtful when your teen rebels against you, especially if it’s done by withdrawing or insulting you. It can also feel scary when your teen professes opinions that are not in alignment with your values. No matter the situation, don’t reject your teen. You can be honest about your own opinion, but role model how you want your teen to behave. Stay calm and respectful. Remember that many times, teens are actually “trying on” opinions as they discuss them with you. If you listen, are honest, and then let it go, most of their overbearing behavior and/or unusual opinions will just fade away.
Teens are not adults and they are not as mature as you, so they often do not know how to stop a battle. If you argue or act angry, you will make your teen feel powerful and it will reinforce the behavior. Often, we feel like we have to get the last word in to be in control, but in reality engaging in arguments only serves to further your child’s urge to argue with you. It is better to avoid power struggles as much as possible. If you feel like you’re being pulled into an argument then try to withdraw with a neutral statement, such as, “That’s interesting. I have to go make dinner now.” You can learn more in our previous blog, How to Avoid Power Struggles.
Teach Social Grace
While it’s important to allow your teen to express their opinion and have it respected, it’s also important that no one person dominates a conversation in such a way that it blocks everyone else from expressing their opinions or enjoying their time together. You can explain to your teen why some people don’t like arguments or confrontation. Additionally, discuss the difference between expressing your opinion once and expressing it repeatedly despite what anyone else says. Teach your teen a valuable life lesson: continually pushing your own opinion only frustrates others.
Create a Signal
Many teens who are know-it-alls, don’t realize they are doing it when they are in a conversation. It can be very helpful for parents and teens to create some sort of cue or signal to help your teen recognize when they might be crossing the line from stating an opinion to becoming overbearing. For example, you might decide together that when you rub your nose or give him/her a tap on the shoulder, he/she should tone down their behavior. This type of signal can allow you to correct the behavior without embarrassing your teen. Lecturing or shaming your teen in front of others will only hurt your relationship.
Set Limits and Follow Through with Consequences
All of the tips so far have been gentle guidance for you and your teen and are meant to help your teen learn and understand how their behavior affects others. However, sometimes teens can simply be rude, disrespectful, or unsafe. If this is your situation, it’s important that you establish clear limits and follow through with consequences when necessary. You can learn more in our previous blog, Appropriate Consequences for a Teen’s Bad Behavior.
Know-it-all’s will often argue with others because they assume you don’t understand their position, rather than think you simply don’t agree with their position. A teen know-it-all usually believes that if they could just explain their opinion a little better, you’d understand and accept it. Be patient; your teen is learning. As a parent, you must recognize that you need to model maturity for your teen. By listening to your teen with respect, resisting arguments, and teaching a little social grace, you can ensure your teen know-it-all does not develop into an adult know-it-all.