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Jan 02

How to deal with Disrespectful Teenagers – Part 2

Last time we explored the selfishness and pride that often generates all manner of disrespectful attitudes. But there are other reasons teens find to justify disrespecting their parents. Here is a worksheet to go over with your children to help them identify other sinful thoughts and motives behind their impertinence.

Why am I disrespectful?

The motivation behind my disrespectful attitude toward my parents is often:

To divert their attention (to keep from having to do what my parents ask of me)

To get even (to vindictively pay them back for not giving me what I want)

To protest (to teach them that “they can’t treat me that way”)

To be myself (to help them to see that this is just the way I am, and I’m not going to change the way I talk for anyone)

To manipulate them (to evoke a sinful response from them so that they will feel guilty and give me what I want)

To register a complaint (to express my disapproval for what they have done or said)

To test the limits (to see how far I can push my parents before they tell me to stop)

To see who’s in control (to discover the extent to which I can manage my parents)

To justify my contempt (to establish the fact that I have good reason to not respect them)

Other: _________________________________________________________

No real ulterior motive—it’s just the way I have learned to communicate with them.

Here is (essentially) how I suggest you proceed from this point.

“Now that we’ve identified these, let’s see with God’s help, if we can figure out how to replace these wrong desires with their “biblical alternatives. Do you have any idea what some of those desires might be?”

“No, but I’m sure you are going to tell me.”

“It would be my pleasure. As with everything you do, your ultimate motive should be to glorify God. ‘Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). Have you ever considered any of these God-honoring motives for your mother and me?”

Unpack each of these biblical “reasons” (motivations) with your son or daughter.

Why should I honor my parents?

The promise of a better quality of life (cf. Ephesians 6:2)

The promise of a lengthier life (cf. Ephesians 6:3)

To repay your parents for all they have done for you

To build more humility into your life (and so access more of God’s grace)

To build more love (the antidote to selfishness) into your life

To be an example of Christ to others (especially your siblings)

To prepare for marriage—husbands and wives are both commanded to show respect to their spouses (cf. 1 Peter 3: 2,7)

To be a more gracious person in general (cf. Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6)

To obtain more rewards in heaven (cf. 1 Timothy 4:8)

“Will you commit to make this list a matter of daily prayer until we both agree that your disrespectful attitude is no longer a problem?”

“I guess so.”

“That sounded kind of tentative. Do you really want to do this?”

“I wouldn’t go straight to want, but I am willing to do it.”

“Why?”

“Because I think it is something God would want me to do.”

“Good. I think so too.”

“Ask God to forgive you for these sinful heart attitudes you have identified today and to give you a heart filled with respect not only for us (your parents) but for all the other authorities He has currently placed over you.”

At some point, although it might be wise to save this for a subsequent conversation, you will want to engage them in a dialogue along these lines.

“Sweetheart, do you think you are ready to talk about how you can change the unbiblical ways you respond to your Mom and me?”

“I guess. How long will it take?”

“Can you give me 20 minutes?”

“Sure.”

“Do you realize that above and beyond the reasons we’ve already discussed for being respectful, by adjusting your thoughts, words, and actions, assuming your motives are right, your feelings for us should change rather quickly?”

“That’s easier said than done.”

“It should be a lot easier now that your motivation is right.”

“OK; so how do I work on improving my thoughts, words and actions?”

“Well let’s start by trying to identify the specific ways in which your pride and selfishness have manifested themselves in disrespectful forms of communication in the past.  Can you tell me how exactly you believe you have been disrespectful to us? (What have been your favorite means of showing your disesteem of Mom and me?)”

“Lots of ways—too many to remember!”

“May I help you try to identify the disrespectful behaviors that you are most prone to utilize?”

“And, I suppose you have them all written out on another one of those work- sheets.”

“Yes, I do. We have about 12 minutes left before our time is up, so let’s see how many of these we can cover. What we don’t unpack today we can save for the next time.”

How am I disrespectful to my parents?

By talking back

By using biting sarcasm

By using profanity

By embarrassing them publicly

By not following their instructions

By slandering them to my friends

By putting them down

By ridiculing them

By being ungrateful

By being “wise in my own eyes”

By refusing to talk to them

By rolling my eyes at them

By raising my voice at them

By calling them name

By telling them “no”

By threatening them

By looking at them angrily

By withholding affection

By scoffing

By willfully disobeying them

By cursing them

By being rude and unmannerly

By refusing to be corrected

By interrupting them when they are speaking

By not being attentive to them when they are speaking to me

By walking away when they are speaking to me

By murmuring and complaining against them

By comparing them unfavorably to the parents of my friends

By having a condescending attitude

By contradicting them in front of others

By making them out to be ridiculous or contemptible

Don’t forget to explain both sides of the put-off / put-on dynamic to your teen: it is not enough for him to stop being disrespectful. He must also (and just as importantly) learn to use forms of communication that are honoring to his parents (and to the Lord). In the next post, I will help you cover that concept in greater detail.

[1] This article has been adapted from Getting a Grip: The Heart of Anger Handbook for Teens, published by Calvary Press Publishing, (800-789-8175).