When your child acts disrespectful, whether to you or another adult, it feels as though you’ve been slapped in the face. Children show disrespect for a variety of reasons, according to child psychologist, Dr. Victoria Samuel. Your child may speak back to you if he feels either ignored or that you aren’t being fair to him. He may act up simply to see how you or another grown-up will react. Whether you’re dealing with a younger child, preteen or teenager, make it clear that disrespect won’t be tolerated.
Keep your cool. Children will model what they hear. If you respond to your teenager’s snarky comment with, “you’re a brat” or something along those lines, he’ll learn that name-calling and snarky behavior is a way to deal with conflict. Snapping back at him will only justify his feelings of resentment, according to Dr. Robert Needlman of Dr. Spock.
Explain to your child what he is doing and how his behavior makes you feel and respond. For instance, you can tell him that when he speaks in a funny voice to you, it makes you feel upset. If your child is in a sulk or responds to your questions in a sarcastic tone, Dr. Samuel recommends telling him that you won’t respond until he changes his tone or cuts out the sulking. Being clear with your child lets him see where his behavior went off course and teaches him to respond in a more appropriate way to upsetting situations.
Take your child aside if she acts up in public or is rude to another adult. Explain her behavior to her and how it made the other adult feel. Explain any consequences that will occur if she continues to act disrespectful. For instance, if you are at a party and she is rude to the hostess, tell her you will need to leave unless she changes her behavior.
Stay focused on what you were trying to accomplish when the disrespectful behavior occurred. If you were instructing your child to clear the dinner table, explain that you understand he doesn’t want to do it, but it still needs to be done.
Listen to your child. If he gives you lip about clearing the dinner table, ask him why he is so upset about doing so. It may be that it’s his sibling’s turn to take care of that chore. Show your child that you are able to be fair and respectful and you will get the same in return.