How to Deal With Complaining Teenagers

By Amy Morin
It's normal for teens to grumble about lots of things.
It's normal for teens to grumble about lots of things.

As teenagers strive to develop separate identities from their parents, it's common for them to complain and protest. They may make it clear that your cooking is bad, your jokes aren't funny and life just isn't fair. Sometimes complaining is a result of mood swings and hormonal shifts, while other times it stems from an attempt to get their way. The way you respond to your teenager's complaints will make a big difference in how much complaining you'll have to endure.

Responding to Complaints

Accept that it is normal for teenagers to complain. Acknowledging that it is normal for your teenager to complain sometimes can help you avoid taking it so personally when your teen says, "This pasta is disgusting." When you accept this part of being a teenager, it can help you deal with it with less frustration.

Respond respectfully when your teen is complaining and reflect back what your teen is likely feeling. If your child says, "It's embarrassing to ride in this car. All my friends' parents have nice cars," acknowledge your child's feelings. Respond by saying, "It can be hard sometimes not having the same things your friends do."

Provide honest and direct feedback. Say, "When you complain over and over again that you don't want to go to Grandma's house, it doesn't do us any good. The rest of us are happy to be going and we understand you aren't, but complaining about it won't change things."

Work together on solving a problem when there are legitimate complaints. If your teenager is complaining that her Spanish class is really hard, discuss what steps she can take to get some extra help, such as talking to the teacher or meeting with a tutor.

Setting Limits and Enforcing Consequences

Stick to your limits and don't give in because of your teen's complaints. If you've said your teenager can't go out with friends, don't change your mind as a way to make the complaining stop. If you do, you'll teach him that complaining is an effective way to get what he wants.

Provide a warning when necessary. If your teenager's complaining is becoming a problem, make it clear what will happen if the complaining continues. Say, "If you don't stop complaining about how mad you are that we're going to Grandma's house tonight, you won't be able to go to the movies with your friends tomorrow."

Follow through with consequences when necessary. Send your teenager to his room or take away a privilege if his complaining continues after you've provided a warning.


Show your teen that you care about what he has to say and teach him to handle his concerns in socially-appropriate ways.


Irritability can sometimes be a sign of depression in teenagers. Seek professional help if you have concerns that your child may be struggling with excessive irritability or mood swings.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.