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Have you had it with your adult child who wouldn't quit being disrespectful towards you and others? A study confirmed that tensions in the relationship between parents and grown children are common.
The situation is often driven by the child's opinion that they can disregard manners and household rules as adults.
I'm sure you would agree that this attitude brings out a lot of mixed emotions, from feeling disappointed and frustrated to sad and hurt. Some days, you may feel like giving up.
What if I tell you that knowing how to deal with a disrespectful grown child can change the game? First, we'll go over the signs and causes of the behavior. Next, we'll look at how the 13 outlined steps can help you deal with the situation objectively and improve compliance and respect.
What Does it Mean to be Disrespectful?
Disrespectful (also known as rudeness, ill-mannered, or insolence) is an attitude that conveys disregard for others, rules, and authority. A lack of courtesy can also take the form of breaking boundaries, devaluing people, refusing to listen, interrupting, or being dismissive.
Potential reasons behind your child’s disrespectful behavior
Without blaming anyone, it's helpful to take a moment to assess the possible reasons your child is acting out. Pinpointing the root cause of their actions is the first step to finding helpful solutions. Some of it comes down to learned behavior from parents, peers, or social media.
Other factors include parenting style, mental health problems, substance use, and unresolved childhood trauma. Distress or trouble regulating emotions as they navigate the difficulties of adulthood can also contribute to rebelliousness.
To find out if you're a source of the problem, ask yourself these two key questions:
Possible consequences of ill manners
Your contribution, if any, to the problem doesn't make you a so-called “bad” parent. As parents, we do the best we can and still make many mistakes raising our children along the way. What matters is awareness and seeking tips on how to deal with a disrespectful grown child. Here's why.
Discourtesy is bound to ignite arguments and chaos within the home, and it doesn't stop there. Your child might be disrespecting their peers, teachers, and other people they come into contact with. They may get into trouble with authority figures or the law because of it.
Signs You May be Raising an Insolent Child
Here are some of the many things disrespectful grown kids say and do:
Getting a grip early on how to deal with a disrespectful grown child is key to preventing things from spiraling out of control.
13 Steps to Deal with a Disrespectful Grown Child
A lack of respect doesn't always mean something is innately wrong with your child. Sometimes it's a “cry for help” but they're unable to articulate that need. Fortunately, there are ways to handle the situation.
These steps aren't about self-blame, pointing fingers, avoiding accountability, or taking draconian measures to teach your child a lesson. It's about focusing on the bigger picture on how to encourage healthy communication between you and your child. Note that the tips are also useful for rebellious adolescents, tweens, and teens.
#1. Don't take it personal
Children can grow up rude even after receiving your utmost care and attention. They can come across as ill-mannered when expressing frustration or disappointment. Sometimes they're trying to share their opinions or convey their feelings about something. If they notice you aren't listening or taking them seriously, they may lash out.
They also tend to get condescending as a way of protecting themselves from parental criticism.
You know your child, and it's your duty to try and determine why they're acting this way. What are they trying to communicate? I'm not saying you should tolerate it. However, show empathy. Try to understand where they're coming from instead of thinking the intent is to show utter disregard.
#2. Assess your behavior and parenting style
Getting the hang of how to deal with a disrespectful grown child calls for us to take a hard look at how we behave and adjust the way we parent. Are you an authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, neglectful, controlling, manipulative, or abusive parent? Ask yourself if your parenting technique is causing more harm than good.
We honestly can't be mad if our child grows into a disrespectful adult after being on the receiving end of our anger, yells, expletives, name-calling, and downright demeaning behaviors.
Parenting can be intensely stressful at times, but it doesn't give us the right to treat them this way. Even when done unintentionally, the effects of bad parenting remain the same.
#3. Call out disrespectful behavior
In addition to calling out yourself for parenting missteps, there's a need to bring your child's insolent behavior to their attention. They may believe nothing is wrong with their mannerism towards you, your spouse, or their siblings until you check them.
Practice calling them out right away instead of remaining silent and then exploding when you can't take it anymore. It's difficult to communicate in a healthy way when you're upset. After checking bad behaviors, let your child know what consequences will follow.
#4. Take accountability for any role you play
The need to maintain superiority over your child might stop you from accepting your role. However, this step is essential for restoring trust and improving the relationship with them.
What may have looked like care and protection of your child might have been emotionally damaging.
I get it. I'm a parent, too, and I've made my fair share of mistakes thinking I was approaching things the right way. But my adult child, who I taught to be assertive, brought my behavior to my attention.
A lot of times, the harm is done unintentionally, but that doesn't absolve us from culpability.
#5. Set healthy boundaries
Disagreements between you and your grown child are inevitable. They have a mind of their own and may hold different opinions just like other adults. Establishing healthy boundaries can encourage them to share their opinions and feelings respectfully. In fact, boundaries are necessary for creating healthy, trusting, and respectful relationships.
Go over the rules with your child during an open discussion. Explain why the boundaries are being set. Let them know you trust them to honor the rules. Assure your child the boundaries are designed to promote mutual respect in communication and behavior.
You can take things a step further and outline appropriate and reasonable consequences for when boundaries are breached. Loss of driving privileges and internet use are two examples of consequences.
#6. Give respect to get respect
Family and relationship experts believe that modeling respect is the best way to teach children to be respectful. The approach is a stark difference from demanding it. “Hey, you have a duty to respect me. I'm your mother!”
That's an example of authoritarian parenting and is the opposite of permissive parenting. It's a strict approach that often involves threats, intimidation, and punishment to obtain respect and maintain control.
According to Good Therapy, win your child's respect by seeing them as equally deserving of it, instead of coercing them into compliance. Acknowledge and respect their opinions, feelings, and boundaries, speak respectfully and let go of the “Don’t do as I do, do as I say” mentality.
#7. Be on the same page as your partner
Parenting in unity is crucial for avoiding parenting double standards. To the very least, it confuses children as to which rules to follow and which ones to ignore. Talk with your partner if you notice you're not in agreement on rules, boundaries, and consequences.
Try to come to an understanding of how you'll approach parenting in a way that creates certainty for your child.
Children don't hesitate to manipulate the situation when parents are divided on rules, roles, and expectations. They'll misbehave in the presence of the lenient or permissive parent and “toe the line” when dealing with the authoritarian parent. Conquer disrespect by working as a team.
#8. Be consistent with your model of parenting
Consistent parenting means maintaining firmness when it comes to your child's manners, upholding rules, and respecting boundaries.
Being firm one day and lax the next causes children to not take you seriously. They may even think you're weak, lose respect, or take advantage of those loopholes.
I'll admit that I've struggled with consistency, and I've paid the price for it. I tend to let my kids slide, especially on days when I'm stressed or fatigued.
I honestly don't set out to confuse them, but when I'm tired, it's difficult to parent properly. Do you feel and parent this way sometimes?
#9. Support their independence
If you're a controlling parent, you might unknowingly stifle your child's emotional growth and independence. Always trying to help or intervene and fix things for them doesn't help in their development and ability to function on their own. This can cause your child to become resentful and lash out.
It comes across as disrespectful to you when it's really their way of saying, “I'm an adult now. Stop interfering and controlling my life.”
I know it's hard to let go of your “baby.” It's also normal to worry about their well-being and feel the need to be their “crutch.” Always trying to be their savior can create co-dependency.
You have to free them and trust them to navigate life on their own. Offer help, love, support, and empathy, but don't enable them.
Allow them to learn from their own mistakes and grow from there. I promise you, they'll resent you or begin showing insolence if they feel you're standing in their way.
#10. Stop dwelling in the past
Whatever happened between you and your child is now in the past. Quit reminding them of their disobedience and lack of respect. Stop with the negative self-talk and beating yourself up over where you went wrong as a parent.
If you are like me, parenting was a process of trial and error and gaining wisdom along the way. I learned from my mistakes.
It's time to take a forward-thinking approach and apply wisdom in your attempts to improve your interactions with your adult kid. Listen and show compassion and respect. Let go of control. Forgive and focus on building a healthier relationship from here on out.
#11. Have a heart-to-heart conversation
Choose a good time to talk. Be gentle and respectful in broaching the topic. You can say something like “I’d like to discuss something that's on my mind. Is now a good time to talk?”
Tell your child what you've observed, think, and feel and how their behavior affects you. Be open and allow them to take turns sharing their thoughts and feelings, without interrupting.
Now is a good time for both of you to take accountability for any action that contributes to the problem. Having an open chat and owning up can help to repair the relationship, increase trust, and foster closeness. Showing this type of humility might even inspire your child to apologize and respect you more.
#12. Brainstorm ways to improve communication
As parents, we tend to forget or fail to acknowledge that our kids are grown, and we need to treat them as such. Communication has to be age-appropriate, and we must never talk down to our kids.
Now that they're adults, we should take the same approach to communication as when interacting with our friends or other adults.
Improving your communication skills will help minimize the use of conflict words and can encourage your child to mirror your new mode of interaction. Additionally, you can share mindful communication skills with your child through books, articles, and videos.
#13. Acknowledge respectful behavior
Parenting is a delicate balance of teaching, consequences, and validating good behavior. Make it a habit to look for and applaud positive changes in their action toward you and others.
For example, instead of calling his sister derogatory names, your son respectfully told her he wasn't happy with something she did.
That's an example of communicating his feelings in a positive and respectful manner. Openly recognizing their good deeds is another effective way to encourage behavioral changes.
Final Thoughts on How to Deal with a Disrespectful Grown Child
Dealing with an unmannerly grown child living at home or on their own can cause distress and leave you with a trail of negative emotions. Feeling bad, self-loathing, or showing aggression towards your child isn't going to help.
Parenting is a stressful job, no doubt. However, respect is a two-way street. Approaching the situation in a mature, loving, kind, supportive, and respectful way is likely to encourage a change in the status quo. Got time for another parenting piece? Read Positive Parenting Solutions Review 2022: Is It Worth It?