What’s Behind That “Teenage” Attitude…And How YOU Can Change It!

by denny hagel on February 19, 2012


If you are raising teenagers I bet you can close your eyes and hear that deep semi-disgusted sigh that is coated with a thick condescending tone. Or maybe the “look” many teens have perfected…the one where their eyes half-closed glaringly look right through you as if to say, “I am looking at you but I am not listening to you!”

If you are like millions of other parents traveling on the journey of the teen years you know that nothing is more frustrating than the attitude they can display. At times it feels completely disrespectful and others downright hateful. Have you ever wondered what is behind that attitude? More to the point what you can do to change it?

Years ago I had a parent (I’ll call her Mary) ask me why her 15 year old daughter (I’ll call her Sue) couldn’t ever respond with a pleasant “yes” to whatever was being requested. Instead she would put some attitude with it so that “yes” really meant “Do I have a choice” or “Only because you are making me”. Mary was determined to get to the bottom of this as it was causing her more than the normal amount of stress and anxiety. She confided in me that she feared her relationship with her daughter was deteriorating and might reach the point of no return.

If you have been one of my readers for any length of time you know that I promote preparing for the teen years long before they arrive…in fact the earlier the better.

However, that does not mean that it is ever too late! When we have the awareness to raise our children from a very early age with healthy communications skills, an understanding of their responsibility for what happens or doesn’t happen in their lives and a relationship based on mutual trust and respect we have instilled in them a mindset that fosters a co-operative and grateful spirit.

With that being said, if you are not one of those parents and you are experiencing a chaotic relationship with your teenager the first thing to do is to stop the chaos. The challenge will be in the reality that we cannot control others, only ourselves. And that is where the new beginning will take place…within you.

When I began exploring the nature of the relationship between Mary and Sue and her need to reply in a negative tone, it eventually surfaced that Sue felt her mother unfairly placed judgment on almost every area of her life. I distinctly remember her saying to me, “If my mother doesn’t like it or agree with it, in her eyes it must be wrong!”

Eventually through several discussions Mary realized that she had in fact reacted much of the time by expressing her disapproval rather than respecting her daughter as her own person with her own preferences.

Regardless of the challenge you are facing with your child and regardless of their age parents must remember that our children look to us for 90% of their information about themselves and the world they live in.

This is what I suggested to Mary…

Declare a truce, offer an olive branch or pull out the peace pipe! Whatever it will take to stop the runaway roller coaster you are experiencing so that you can establish some sort of calm ground to begin rebuilding.

In this particular situation I urged Mary to create a dialogue with Sue beginning by apologizing for minimizing her feelings and ideas. And promise to do everything in her power to refrain from judging her in the future. She then asked Sue if she was willing to work with her to reach a common ground where they could figure out what each of them needed to create a peaceful relationship that included mutual respect and honor.

It was important for Mary to share her strong desire to rebuild their relationship and clearly verbalize her commitment to reestablishing the bond they once shared.

Mary was forthright with her feelings of love and concern and focused the conversation on moving forward. She ended by asking Sue if she would be willing to work together as a team.

What Mary accomplished through this conversation was to show her daughter that she respected her as an individual and rather than insist that she change her bad attitude or it would be followed by negative consequences should she not comply, Mary set a new tone simply by sharing her feelings, reconnecting by knocking down the dividing wall of “parent vs. child” and put the final decision in her daughter’s hands. This sent a powerful message that established new boundaries in their relationship.

Sue was initially shocked that her mother had acknowledged her mistakes, apologized and was speaking to her as an equal…a teammate, rather than a dictator instructing his people!

What quickly became obvious was that because Mary had not respected her daughter’s thoughts and ideas, Sue reacted by responding with the same disrespect…thus a bad attitude to even the slightest communication.

This mother/daughter team worked through the specific areas of conflict…Sue’s friends, curfew and even what she saw as an acceptable wardrobe. There was compromise and co-operation.

Several months later I was thrilled to run into them out shopping together enjoying each other’s company! I remember Sue pulling out a new pair of jeans out of one of the shopping bags and laughingly saying “Mom doesn’t really care for them but she knew I did so I got them!

The challenges that are driving a wedge between you and your teenager can always be worked through if you are willing to take the lead and model a positive approach to finding a solution. As time goes by, this new found way of communicating eventually becomes normal and automatic.

It has been my experience over the years working with teens and their families that they are not unreasonable impossible creatures! Teenagers are struggling through emotions that are new to them and sometimes scary so when they look to us and are met with judgment, criticism or disrespect we can expect their response to be wrapped with attitude!

On the other hand, if we are there for them reassuring, respecting and honoring them and offering unconditional love they welcome us into their world with love and gratitude.

Make today the day to clear the slate…
make peace with your teenager and offer
your love and guidance
to help them through this chapter in their life.

The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens:Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula

Is a complete program providing you with the tools and strategies to successfully transform your relationship with your teen into one of co-operation, mutual respect and trust.



Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parent coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens:Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".

  • Julia

    This is a very insightful article Denny.  Sounds like Sue was describing my mother so I completely understand why she reacted the way she did.  Luckily, they had you to help them.  My mother is still the same at the ripe age of 84.

  • http://pathtolifesuccess.net/ Hughie Bagnell

    Hi Denny…great article! I agree wholeheartedly…teenagers are generally not unreasonable impossible creatures…they are most definitely looking for guidance, leadership, reassurance, understanding, love and true communication….Excellent Denny…Thank you, Hughie :)

  • Anne Sermons Gillis

    Denny this is a great article. Even when children grow up, problems can be similar to those of parent and child int he teen years. Thanks for your wisdom.

  • Lori

    Thanks Denny. Another great, informative article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/SharonODayFB Sharon ODay

    I don’t have kids.  But I read your articles because they’re so filled with wisdom we can apply to relationships with all ages.  And I can always think of friends who DO have kids or grandkids, and who could use your philosophy and strategies to improve a relationship.  Thanks, Denny!

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    Denny, I so often have helped parents of teens in my previous years as a youth pastor.  I really love this thought: “In this particular situation I urged Mary to create a dialogue with Sue beginning by apologizing for minimizing her feelings and ideas.”
    When parents own up to their shortcomings, it creates the space for the clean slate

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=548424304 Sara Nickleberry

    I never thought about preparing for the teen years early on. My son is just 3, but it really makes sense.

  • http://twitter.com/carlyxanadu Carly Miller

    Thanks for taking the fear out of this teenager/parent relationship, it’s great that the basis of your process is finding a common understanding – what we are really saying underneath the emotional reactions.

  • Stacey Shannon

    Denny, one thing I will always remember is when my dad would apologize to me!  It was rare, but it always meant so much. :)  My daughter will be 10 this year and I am already seeing some of these things with her, I agree that it is very important to let her find herself as an individual.. hard to do sometimes!  

  • Joyce Martin

    Awesome write up! I couldn’t agree more. Having raise three already to adulthood and still one more to go, its nice to read a refresher coarse as its been quite a few years since my last teen I had to deal with. Thanks!

  • http://www.sherievenner.com Sherie Venner

    Denny, every parent with a child needs to read this post.  You outline such an excellent strategy, with my favorite part being the parent admitting to mistakes.  Love it!

  • Beau Henderson

    This is a great post.  I think all parents who have or had teens have gone through similar things.  

  • Nadine Lajoie

    I don’t have kids but still i am sure parents will love your strategy. Thank you.

  • datingdiva40

    I now longer have teenagers but I still have daughters that are young! This things can apply to dealing with them as well. I can use some of this to help my relationship with my daughters..! I love this!

  • Carele Belanger

    I have 3 teenagers and not really having problems with them at all. But sometimes, when they do or say something that bugs me, i usually remind myself how I was at that age too.
    Great article and great strategy you are giving. thank you

  • Mari-Lyn

    As a teenager once, the verbal messages were always the directive. Communication is so important even when you don’t feel like talking..Great write up!

  • Angie

    Okay… Bookmark this article for reference in 8 years. Lol. Scared to death, but hoping that by building the foundation now, it’ll be a smoother transition then. Fingers crossed. Lol. But great points!

  • http://www.myyogasecret.com/ Rhonda

    I read that teenage brains can actually not compute the future – that is, they live in the moment and have no real concept of long-term consequences. Makes sense as to why teenagers often act impulsively. And yet, we expect teens to choose a college and a career at the tender age of 18.  Maybe we adults need the attitude adjustment: accept teens for the stage of life they’re in and encourage them to enjoy life; this phase doesnt last forever!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=589642860 Tony Taylor

    Teenagers are definitely different than when I was a teenager. I try to remember that I was a teenager once also, but I am still a disclplinarian.

  • http://anitafiander.com Anita Fiander

    excellent tips for parents of teens! I know I had two of them and one to go :) Thanks for all you do!

  • http://mysocialgameplan.com Jonathan

    Not far from my teenage years (21 currently), I recognize this great post.  I fortunately never found myself in a hectic relationship with my parents, but the advice you outline here is genuinely crucial to parenting in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/memktgservices Mandy Edwards

    I am already dealing with that attitude with my 7 year old!  It starts early these days.  This post was refreshing and give me hope that if I start correcting it now (which I am slowly and politely doing, aka no negativity) when she hits her teen years, we’ll be ready.

  • http://www.helenaritchie.com/ Helena

    Wonderful article Denny! I wish you were around dispensing advice when I was a teenager. My mom and I had a relationship like the one you describe and we were just starting to get  through it all when she passed away.

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    This is a great article Denny. I agree with preparing early. Set the stage for communication and mutual respect. Asking ourselves what we wanted at their age. Or in the case of having a great relationship with our parents, asking what was it about my parents that kept me ‘real’…

  • http://twitter.com/CarolGiambri Carol Giambri

    Denny, teens with attitudes?  Yikes but true.  I wish they would adopt the attitude of holding the door for the people behind them.  Maybe they weren’t prepared early enough, but they are still on time being young.  Great post.

  • Kim

    I’m an aunt not a mother and I’ve seen the “tude” in action. Holy altitudes Bat Girl. All joking aside, at the end of the day, we are all people and have to be handled as such. Be the way you want to be treated.

  • http://www.thekidscoach.org.uk/ Naomi

    Yes I think we need to do preparation for the teenage years but once they start we need to have an open door, a shoulder, a listening ear and opportunities for them to talk to us and inform them what is acceptable behaviour. Sharing our values is very important.

  • AJ

    Thanks for sharing Denny!
    Always the challenge of teens. Hard to break into the thoughts sometimes, but you need to keep trying.

  • The LEARNED Preneur

    Oh Denny… I am so glad dealing with teenagers is a part of my past!  Woohoo!’  Been there… done that and don’t want to do that again.  LOL!  I have 3 children, the oldest and youngest being happy laid-back kids.  But the middle child owes me!  Ha! Ha!  She now has a 15 year old girl;  it’s payback.  Lol!  (-_-)  Keep writing your great articles.  What you do is so important. x0x
    The LEARNED Preneur @ NormaDoiron.NET 

  • Edmund Sun Lee

    This stage has always been crucial to all parents and this is such a good article Denny.

  • http://www.mikemcdonaldfitness.com/ Mike

    This can go into areas of any relationship. Being a good communicator is being interested in the other person and their point of view rather than trying to be the center of attention.

  • http://twitter.com/FamlyChallenge Family Challenge

    Appreciate your determination to help your parents ‘get to the bottom’ of the source of the chaos and conflict!  So important not to just paste over a difficult situation but truly flesh out the underlying feelings and patterns in a family. 

    And I LOVE your advice to call a truce and figuratively start over on new footing!

  • http://twitter.com/FamlyChallenge Family Challenge

    Appreciate your determination to help your parents ‘get to the bottom’ of the source of the chaos and conflict!  So important not to just paste over a difficult situation but truly flesh out the underlying feelings and patterns in a family. 

    And I LOVE your advice to call a truce and figuratively start over on new footing!

  • Lisa Birnesser

    Great article, Denny. Being a role model and be a leader is so important with teenagers. My experience is being an aunt and step mom taught me this for sure. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/TaraChatzakis Tara Yvonne Chatzaki

    I have to say that I was a terrible teenager. My parents had an awful time with me. I hope I can remember that when my girls are going through that period with them.

  • http://www.travelwritingpro.com/ Claudia Looi

    Denny, I’ve got 2 teens and agree that our children look to us for 90% of their information about themselves and the world they live in through us. This reminded me of a conversation with a friend who has been a flight attendant for 27 years said, a parent who had a fear of flying always transfers the fear to their children.

  • http://twitter.com/cookthisgetlaid Mona H.

    When I think of the torture I put my parents through, I crings…

  • Jen

    Great article Denny!  Let’s see…how can I incorporate much of what you share here with my two year old who likes to have “fits?”  There might be some similarities between a two year old and teenager LOL.  Thanks for sharing! 

  • http://www.JenniferHerndon.com Jennifer

    Thanks Denny, for making me aware of the need to prepare for the teenage years early!  My kids are young and I already get some of this attitude from them.  I work on trying to see like from their perspective and understanding that they have no ability to see things from my view yet!  Great example in your article of how to work things out.  I was so terrible to my parents during those years . . .

  • http://www.everydaygyaan.com/ Corinne Rodrigues

    Denny, I am not a parent. But I have worked with teenagers a lot as a teacher and a counselor in India. I was often pained to see how a home could become a war zone between parents and teenage children. It often took more work with the parents than with the kids to help them to see what they needed to do. In India at least parents place too much of pressure on kids with regard to their studies and this leads to a lot of bitterness at times. I wish more parents would read your article! 

  • Cathy

    Great information! How do I get the free e booklets to start with? Thanks Corinne for sharing her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    Cathy if you scroll to the top of the page you will see in green tab bar “Awakened Parenting Free Resources” There you will find all of my free e-booklets and reports! My free e-book is available at the top right sidebar! Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

     Thanks for commenting Jen! In fact there are many similarities…I just completed a 3 part series…The Terrible Twos and Tumultuous Teens and What They Have in Common…


  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

     You are not alone! Life is a learning ground…most important to move forward with gratitude for the lessons!:)

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  • Louise Groulx

    I,m a Dad who raised his daughter and now she’s a 15 yr.old teen who could’nt get along with my now wife & her daughter.One day she came home from her Mom’s visit & she started an argument with me & I told her to pack her things & go live with her Mom. She is telling all her friends that I threw her out but if I sent her to her Mom I told her it’s not throwing her out on the street. She also told me that I prefer my wife & daughter to her which is not true. My wife one time left because of her & I told her that this time she is going to her Mom. She does’nt speak to me & it’s been 2 months now. I wish she would come to her senses & come back home. What can I do? Is what she’s saying about me throwing her out …true? I’m at my wits end. Please help…a devoted father…

  • Parent in need of advice

    Thanks for the advice and will attempt this tonight as our teen 14yr boy is showing the same exact actions . We are having difficulties in communication with this awesome child becomming a young man and miss his loving personality that we have been so accustomed to.

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  • Pam

    Denny, I know that every situation is different. In fact, I wish it was that I only had to figure out what I was doing to fix it all. I actually have tried that road. However, when I yell at her it seems it is the only time she steps back to take a look at what she is acting like. My daughter is a real good kid,. She is a very strong independent child and I am at a loss as to where our relationship went. She snaps at me when I try to discuss something with her. She talks down to me and basically acts like she’s in control. She is homeschooled which also makes it so we have to spend a lot of time together. I have her in Dance, and MMA as well as spending time at Youth Group because I know she needs to interact with others. When she wants to talk I’m always there, but If I try to talk to her about anything including what she wants for Christmas, she answers with a response of, “I don’t know, and I won’t be rushed to figure out what I want either. ” My daughter was so sweet just a few years ago. Always listened, never back talked, wow things did change. I don’t know where to begin. Any suggestions?

  • dennyhagel

    Hi Pam, You are right to say every situation is different, however, through my experience teens have more in common than many realize. Which is why I wrote “CPR Program for Parents & Teens”. This eBook will give you an insight to why our teens often become strangers in a blink of an eye! It will also provide you with a road map to rebuilding reclaiming the relationship in a more positive and productive way. I strongly suggest giving it a try…in the meantime here are a few things that I share with every parent of a teen: Do NOT take things personally, almost every action by a teen is FOR them (to gain independence) and not against you. Pick your battles, when you can relax and let a few things slide it stops the every day tension that could possibly drive you further apart. And lastly, when a child is raised in a positive loving atmosphere almost always this stressful, anxious time of “teens” will pass!

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