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.

I was a film major in college, which means a few things: I’ve seen a ton of movies, I’m totally pretentious, and I think Orson Wells is a genius. One of the things I studied in film school is the art of a sequel.  Some sequels can stand alone, meaning you don’t need to know anything about the series in order to enjoy it (i.e., The Phantom Menace).  Other sequels are completely dependent on the first film (i.e., The Empire Strikes Back).  Think of this blog as The Empire Strikes Back.  Confrontation is useless unless you first prepare yourself and your heart.  Because of this, make sure you ask yourself the three questions covered in PART ONE.

Confrontation can either lead to reconciliation or destruction, and anyone who has ever dealt with conflict knows that there is a thin line that separates the two.  We need to make sure we take every step we can to approach our conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and that starts with discerning the condition of your heart and the purpose of the conversation.  If, after prayer and consideration, you decide that confrontation is the best option, keep these things in mind:

1. Pray.  Prepare yourself for the conversation you are about to walk into.  Pray that the Lord provides you with effective words.  Pray that hearts are humble and ready for what’s to come.  Pray for peace and reconciliation.  Overall, pray that your confrontation will be God-glorifying!

2. Balance truth and love.  I feel like most of us are really good at half of this.  If you’re like me, you are REALLY good at being truthful (maybe too much so).  Unfortunately, we often attack others with our words, making it impossible for others to embrace our “truth.”  Others are great at being loving, but their fear of hurting feelings prevents them from providing helpful criticism.  We need to balance both truth and love if we want our conversation to be fruitful.

3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  The purpose of confrontation is to voice your feelings and frustrations and work towards reconciliation.  It is important to keep in mind that the person you are confronting wants to be heard and understood just as much as you do.  Even if you think you’re right or know you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you allow the other person the opportunity to give their side of the story.  Remember that you are there to seek understanding, not to voice your opinions.

These are just a few ways to make the most of your confrontation.  What would you add to this?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.