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GUEST POST: What To Do With A Teen Who Has Attitude

 —  August 25, 2012 — 3 Comments

Took a group of middle school students to Hershey Park.  During the day the students were free to roam the facility; however, had mandatory check-in times.  When one girl arrived late I asked her for a reason and all I got in return was attitude.  It was a little unexpected and at first I didn’t know how to respond.  I wanted to call her parents and send her home, but then I learned that there was more to the story.  In the end she apologized and the rest of the day was fine.

Has a teenager ever copped an attitude with you before?  It’s alarming and sometimes unexpected.  When caught off guard it’s easy to want to shoot back and go even lower.  Or, maybe you just don’t know how to overcome the disappointment and let it slide.  No matter what you feel, when a teenager shows you a little attitude you need to respond.  But, how do you respond without hurting, rejecting or blowing off the situation?  First, you:

Listen – No matter what they say let it sit out there.  Sometimes the teenager just needs a little bit of time to think about what they said.  If their response was in a moment of passion you are giving them an opportunity to hear their mistake.  You respond immediately and you might escalate the situation down the wrong path.

Respond With “I” Statements – When someone offends us the tendency is to immediately shoot blame.  Instead make your first response a description of how you are feeling like, “I’m a little hurt.” Or “I’m surprised by that.”  Not only are you being authentic, but also you are allowing the offender to know the immediate consequences of their actions.

Offer To Go Deeper – This doesn’t mean to pry and fix what’s going on in their life; however, an off colored comment can sometimes be a shout out for help.  All you need to do is simply ask them, “Is there something we need to talk about?”  If they trust you they’ll let you know the truth.  If they do want to talk about it, just listen and if they don’t assure them that you are available.

Follow Up With Discipline – If a student makes a rude comment towards you, another adult or their parent, be sure to address their action.  Dishonoring parents and being rude to your elders isn’t right.  What is that disciplinary action?  Well that depends on your situation.  It can be as simple as asking them to apologize to who they’ve offended, to removing a certain privilege or responsibility.  No matter what the disciplinary action is, deliver it in love.

When a teen cops an attitude it can be anything from a cry for help to unresolved conflict.  Don’t brush it off, overlook it or over react, if anything slow down the pace, listen and show them God’s love

How do you deal with a teenager’s attitude?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read great articles and thoughts about youth ministry on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Josh Griffin

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3 responses to GUEST POST: What To Do With A Teen Who Has Attitude

  1. I find it hard to deal with any of my kids’ friends who are disrespectful to their parents or other adults. One time my daughter was at her friend’s house and her friend was disrespectful to her mom. After her mom left the room my daughter told her friend she shouldn’t talk to her mother that way. I was proud of her for that. I think parents nowadays want to be their teens’ friend instead of the parent. Loved your tips. Blessings, Amy

    • Amy,

      Sounds like you have an awesome daughter. I find most teens disrespect adults in times of high emotions. I think if we can instill in them the value to respect your elders it will go a long way. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I was hoping to seeing “Hit Them” but your solutions seem much more productive. :)

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