Who cares? I don’t!
You’re not my boss! Leave me alone!
Do these words sound familiar? Teens more than anyone else in our society are stereotyped to have a bad attitude (though to be fair to them, consider the adult population and their attitude). The question is ‘why are teens prone to have a negative attitude?’
Here are 4 reasons:
1. Physiological changes. There are changes going on in your teen’s body that shift his mood and attitude from day to day. He is working on getting a hang of this new body (it’s similar to learning how to use motor skills).
2. Identity. Your teen is trying to figure out who he is, and while on some days it is OK with him to be a good kid who listens to his parents, on other days he would rather be independent from you. To do this, he’ll push you away with his attitude (especially if he feels you are babying him or trying to exert your control over him). Similarly, if you enter his room without knocking on one the days he wants to be independent, he is more likely to get upset.
3. Why not. Does your teen feel a bad attitude is expected of him just because he is a teen? Perhaps he has overheard you share your poor opinion of teens. If so, it gives him permission to be nasty. If he feels no one is expecting anything better of him, he won’t expect much of himself.
4. Manipulation. Does your teen know exactly the type of attitude that will have you back off? If he knows certain results will be guaranteed with a particular attitude, you can bet your lucky penny he’ll use this against you. Analyze certain patterns in your relationship with your teen.
Knowing these reasons we can now ask, what can you do to help your teen? I suggest 4 solutions:
1. Limits: Sometimes he needs you to back off, especially if you’re constantly lecturing (instead of just listening), giving orders (instead of support), comparing your life to his (instead of accepting his life is different). On the days his attitude is edgier, back off in order to respect your teen’s limits (as opposed to engaging him in a fight). He will come around when the mood wears off.
2. Your relationship: Many teens develop a poor attitude if they feel their family is ignoring them. This is not an attitude problem, it suggests relationship problems. Take an honest look at your relationship with your teen. Do you think there is room for improvement? If so, there is a chance you may need to prioritize your time and cut some things out of your life to make room for him (e.g., late evening office work).
3. Validation: From time to time a bad attitude will spring from the fact that your teen feels no one is listening. Listen to the words expressed by your teen and after he is finished speaking, first repeat what he said to you in your own words. Do not jump into giving life wisdom immediately. Acknowledge his feelings and then ask him what he thinks is the best way of dealing with the issue. Ask if you can add some of your own insights.
4. Model a good attitude: You may notice your teen has a very similar attitude to you or your partner. Why not start with modeling the type of behaviour you expect from your teen? Eliminate the belief “You have to but I don’t!” This attitude will never fly with your teen.
Best Wishes To You and Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto