Bad Attitude in Teenagers

Most teens will display a bad attitude at some point, whether at school or at home. Often, this is developmentally expected behavior, even though parents often find it frustrating. In addition to the fluctuating moods caused by changing hormones, teenagers face a number of pressures: the desire to fit in with peers, establish an identity and determine what path they will take in the future.

Bad Attitude and Development

A bad attitude can take many forms: talking back, refusing to comply with rules and insubordination at home and at school. Likewise, teenagers may take a pessimistic, negative attitude toward family time, coursework and structured activities. Some of this bad attitude may stem from disempowerment. Teens may feel as though they are stuck and have few choices about how they are able to conduct their lives. This is a developmentally normal dilemma since adolescence is the time in which teenagers begin to develop distinct identities and opinions, and start to separate from the family system in preparation for independent living, explains the American Psychological Association 2.

Picking Your Battles

Although it can be difficult to ignore blatant negativity, Parental Support Line Advisor Megan Devine of Empowering Parents recommends learning to “ignore the apathetic, all-knowing attitude and focus on your child’s behavior.” Instead of engaging in a power struggle about how your child hates doing his math homework and trying to convince him to try to get something from his assignments, focus on rules, such as “you must have your math homework finished before you can play video games.” 1

Modeling Behaviors

Parents can have a significant effect on their teens’ attitudes 1. Often, adolescents pick up on the social habits of their parents, so it may be useful to examine your own behaviors and look at your responses to unpleasant tasks. If you model a constructive, positive attitude toward work, chores and family time, you can serve as a behavior model for your children. However, if you find yourself complaining in front of your children about work or household obligations, your child may also pick up on these cues.

When to Seek Professional Help

Generally, a teen’s bad attitude will resolve itself over time. By maintaining clear behavioral expectations, you can generally instill in your child successful work habits. However, if your teenager’s bad attitude is creating extensive family conflicts or making it difficult for her to succeed in school, then seeking the assistance of a school counselor, professional therapist or pediatrician can determine if a mental illnesses or health issue may be underlying your teen’s behaviors.

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