What Do I Do About My 14 Year Olds Disrespectful Tone?

Updated on October 30, 2010
L.K. asks from Austin, TX
16 answers

My oldest daughter is 14. All in all she is a great kid. Good student, not boy crazy, motivated, keeps her room clean, etc. However we have one problem right now and that is her sassy back talk and disrespectful tone she uses at times. For example this evening my mother was at my house cooking dinner for us and my daughter came in about 10 minutes before dinner saying she was starving and got out the spaghetti that was left over from last night that we are having for dinner tomorrow night and said she was going to eat some of it. I told her no that dinner was almost ready and that was for tomorrow night. She got very whiny and basically threw a fit. I told her she could get a banana to eat until dinner. She then started to head to her room. I asked her if she wanted a banana and she walked by me and said, leave me alone. I called her back and told her that was very disrespectful and she argued with me that it was not.
Another example is last night as we were sitting down to dinner my mom asked her how her toe was feeling. She had injured the toenail in dance class and was in the process of losing the toe nail. My daughter said to her, must we discuss this now? I told her that was disrespectful and that her grandmother was concerned about her and she should have told her how she was feeling. She also rolls her eyes a lot at us. My mom came over this past weekend and asked my daughter if she could borrow the computer for a minute. My mom does not have her own computer and she needed to look something up for work. My daughter was only playing around on facebook and she rolled her eyes and kind of sighed that she had to get off the computer for a minute.

My daughter does not have a cell phone to take away. Her favorite possession is her IPOD which I have taken away on occasion but it does not seem to have much of an impact. I am sort of at a loss as to deal with the disrespect and eye rolling. We live on several acres and have lots of outside chores that I could make her do. How do other mother’s deal with this?

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answers from San Antonio on

This mouthiness is often present at 14. The only thing I can suggest is to not make a big deal out of it. One thing you can do when she does that is to point out that this kind of speech is disrespectful and that when people love each other they respect each other.
One thing you might also do is to watch how the rest of the family verbally talks with each other. Children only do what they learn & they learn things by watching others. One lesson they can learn is that you wouldn't speak that way to them & you don't expect for her to speak that way to you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Corpus Christi on

When my daughter did that at the same age I found that when I told her that I would give the same answer to her next time she asked for something or wanted to do something. When I did boy did it up set her. She found out the hard way several times that it did not pay to do that anymore.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

The attitude thing is really tricky, and in my own observation, it's often because we hold children to a different, and more stringent, standard than we do other adults. We just don't treat them as nicely as we expect them to treat us.


1) If a child wanted to use a grandparent's computer, even if the GP was goofing around and the child needed to look something up for a homework assignment, the GP would be "permitted" to get to a good stopping place before turning the computer over to the child. But we expect the child to comply instantly, as if her feelings and wishes have no value. Kids are not like little radios, and they are not able to "switch stations" with a quick push of a button.

2) If we ask an adult how their toe is feeling, and they don't want to talk about it right now, they have every right to say so. Even if they add an exasperated tone of voice or an eye-roll, we still allow them the courtesy of changing the topic without lecturing them for it or demanding an apology.

3) If I were having a low-blood-sugar case of the crabbies, which I've been plagued with all my life, my husband would perhaps ask me not to eat something he was saving in the refrigerator, but he'd also express concern for my physical/mental state and ask kindly if I wouldn't like some of "x" instead. His tone would be tender. We often talk to kids in a strident or demanding tone. If you were to play back the spaghetti incident, would your tone have been concerned or abrupt? Could make a huge difference in how your daughter responded.

I deal with my nearly-5yo grandson's attitudinal development by always, always, always modeling the tone of voice I'd like to hear from him, always speaking to him courteously, modeling good humored responses and patience, thinking of creative alternatives to everyday problems. We are an amazing team, even when he has a 3-day sleepover. He's terrific at home, and amazingly empathetic and thoughtful. He acts toward the adults in his life exactly as they behave toward him, with respect, patience, and cooperation.

He is a little kid, and more subject to the occasional frustrated meltdown than the rest of us, or childlike goofiness, or lack of knowledge of social norms, and we do have to keep his age in mind. But he's pretty astonishing for his age, and I don't think it's just a matter of him having an easy personality – this is what he has had modeled since birth.

There's a brilliant, practical, and easy-to-read little book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. It's become my parenting bible. I've watched some pretty alarming behaviors in "problem" kids turn around almost miraculously when their parents began applying these techniques and principles. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

16 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Your daughter sounds like a fantastic young lady, you must be doing everything right so far!

The hormonal mood swings and bitchiness are fairly new to her, it will take some time for her to learn to bite her tongue and not let those cranky thoughts roll right out.

I'd have to agree with Glenna. I would just ignore her when she's snotty. Unless it's a CONSTANT thing that goes on everyday for a long time, she will likely follow your excellent example and eventually learn to keep the nastys to her self (we all know how hard that can be!)

I would probably privately ask her whether there's something new going on in her life that's stressful, let her know she can always talk to you about things......

But curbing her bad moods is a skill she will eventually learn more from your modeling than from negative discipline.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Sounds like she is hurting. "Hurt people hurt people." When she is in one of her good moods, sit her down and tell her what you like that she does. Tell her what you are proud of, etc. Then tell her that you have noticed that she is doing things that come across as disrespectful. If she says it isn't, just say that her definition of "disrespectful" is different than yours and that's okay. Just tell her that she cannot continue to do the things that come across to YOU as disrespectful. Ask her what she would have preferred to happen differently. For example, tell her that you know it is frustrating to have to stop fooling around on the computer when your mom wants to use it. Ask what a good solution would be.

She needs to know, at this time of her life, that you respect her and her possessions and that you can trust her to make decisions and suggestions around the house. It sounds like she is sounding like she is being treated as a child (yes, we know she still is) so you need to find ways of treating her more like an older child.

Also, rewarding good behavior is always more effective than punishing bad behavior. That doesn't mean you stop punishing the bad behavior, but you need to find good things to reward.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

When you sit down to talk to her about it you might make suggestions
how she might have responded that would have been respectful.
Like, when grandma asked her about her toe, she could have said:
"I'll tell you about it later, Grandmother"

Rolling of the eyes sounds like a habit with her. It's not a matter of
whether she thinks it is disrespectful or not; just knowing that YOU think it
disrespectful should motivate her change the habit. Talk about what it is
that you do that she thinks is hurtful. Be a good listener and don't
take it personally.

To get someone's full attention, first pay them a compliment. Then
they become more interested in the rest of the conversation.
"I really liked the way you _____
Let's talk about ways you could have responded to Grandmother
without hurting her feelings. She cares deeply about you.

Lots and lots of good luck. We will all be watching for "the end of the

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi momof3. Is this your oldest girl? My daughter is 15. Never had to deal with eyerolling. Of course, I remember how my own mother would have dealt with that (palm across our face).
I agree that respect must be a given. Kids are not equals of adults. Honestly, arguing with you would have caused me to tell her, time for bed, pajamas on upstairs in your room, you are done for the day, goodbye! If you've been tolerating disrespect, it will be hard to break her of it now.
However, remember that we all have times that we speak harshly because we are stressed, tired, hungry, headache, have a lot on our plates, etc. As someone pointed out, they don't have a button! Also, do not antagonize her. If you already offered her something from the fruit bowl and she walked away, you didn't need to ask her again if she wanted a banana. At 4 years til college, she heard you and could take one if she wanted it. She's too old for "Yes, mommy" and "No, mommy." You made the offer, she didn't want it and she was making an exit - no need to give any more attention. Teens want and need their "space." If she's already starting toward the attitude, don't push.
Did your mother expect your daughter to get off the computer immediately? Does your daughter have the option to say, "Sure, can you give me a minute to finish up, Grandma?"
I don't really believe in chores as punishment - chores are something that everyone has to do to keep the house running efficiently and because they are part of the family.
Good luck!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I use humor! I put my hands over my ears & say, "I'm sorry! I'm automatically blocking you out....until you speak to me with respect. Just call me a teenager". The 1st couple of times I did this....wow....my sons were blown away! & as for the eye-rolling, I stop the child in their tracks & "roll" right back.....& usually ask, "did I do it right? Is that how an eyeroll is supposed to go?" .....& again, the shock value alone!

But it works. It's an immediate turn-around on attitude. The few times my sons responded in anger & I knew that they were truly upset over whatever had happened. Then we approached the situation thru normal means....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

On your first example : your tone and responce could have been different. you want her to treat you with respect you must do the same with her. it sounds more like she was responding in frustration and hunger than anything. the situation could have been different if the tone were different and quicker (hey babe, thats for tomorrow, dinner is ready in ten, you wanna help or have a bannana to hold you over till then?) all of this quickly said together not giving her time to respond to any of it untill your finished. the second example: i dont piticualrly want to talk about nasty toe nails while i am eating either. if that was the issue help her to politely explain .. " oh that topic makes me a bit icky durring dinner" or just say its fine and tell her to quickly change the subject. she will need this skill as an adult. i am with you on the computer that was just flat out rude. i have told this situation on ms before. . . i was baby sitting and the little girl asked for a drink while at the table. i got up ...so did she, i went to get a cup and she went to the fridge door and started whinning/moaning i asked her what she was doing and she looked all around wide eyed. i told her i was getting her drink to go sit down and i would bring it to her. apparently this was the situation of her and her mother that she had to keep her moms attention to get a drink. it was so weird, rude and unnessissary. what your saying her is your teen isnt reacting approperatly. you need to go over these examples with her and tell her how she should have responded. lots of positive encouragement. good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

first and foremost make sure you are modeling the behavior you want her to emulate by treating her with courtesy and respect. there is such an assumption that *all* teenagers are horrid that many parents are pre-emptively exasperated and crabby with them.
discuss tone with her when you two are NOT at loggerheads. explain to her the same way you would with an adult friend who was being bitchy with you at times. you can be honest and forthright without being confrontational. make sure you listen carefully too to what she has to contribute. it may be that you are making her feel condescended to without realizing it.
you want her to start thinking and behaving like an adult, so start treating her that way. work toward improving the communication rather than punishing the attitude.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Hmmmm, maybe if you start treating her the way she's treating you and see how she likes it, perhaps she'll see how ugly it looks and feels to be treated that way by someone you love. Good luck, it does get better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

It doesn't matter if she doesn't agree with you. You are the parent. My middle son has the fresh way of talking. He picked it up from one of his friends. He is not allowed to speak in that tone. However he still does and their are consquences.
I would give her house work to do. Given a certain amount of time to finish it in. Maybe when she is disrepectful to you she has to mop the kitchen floor if she continues to whine about mopping then give her more work.Tough if she doesnt like it. She is not in charge you are.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bakersfield on

Well, her sass could have been due to hunger, we all get bitchy when we feel like we are starving. Spaghetti would have been her instant relief and it got squashed. The kitchen smelled good because dinner was cooking which only intensified her hunger, so that one I would have to write off. I get pretty bitchy when I'm hungry too.
She does have a respect problem tho... and should not be allowed to talk mean and roll eyes. You need to tell her to practice not saying anything at all if what she's going to say is bratty.
I'd use her computer and facebook as the punishment when she acts up. Teenagers can be very trying but I never (nor did my husband) ever allow the kids to backtalk or roll eyes. It was "go to your room until you can come out and apologise" time at my house. If she's in her room with no TV, phone or computer access, she will soon learn how to act.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on




answers from Corpus Christi on

Wow! I hate to sound mean but I think respect is not an option. Don't put up with the rolled eyes and rude behavior. Think of it as if a 6 year old were watching and learning the behavior also. I have learned from my class room and at home that "what you tolerate becomes the standard". The computer is not a requirement it is a "perk" and she should have gladly shared. I also didn't have a lot of things to take away from my teen-age daughter but I did remove the door to her room for a while. Make sure you are treating your daughter with respect, model the appropriate behavior but hold her to a standard-because as she enters the teen years it will only get worse. Don't yell but let her know you appreciate the good/positive behavior and will not tolerate the mean/disrespectful behavior. Hang in there!


answers from San Antonio on

She could be stressed out from school or friends? You never know, when your 14 everything seems like such a big deal! I was horrible at 14, so I know from experience the one thing you shouldn't do is NOTHING.

Take away everything, don't let her use the phone, or computer or T.V and don't give it back, don't let her go out. If she tells you she has to do "research" give her an encyclopedia. Don't give in no matter what, because thats worse then not trying. She'll learn she can manipulate you, even the sweetest of children do. And please try talking to her, yes it will sound corny when you do but oh well. Tell her how you feel and why, and even if it seems like she's not hearing you she is. She might roll her eyes, but thats just her way of communicating lol. Then walk away and let it sink it, hopefully it will soon so she gets all her stuff back lol ;]

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