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My teen is being rude, angry and defiant.
What can I do?

Step 1

As a mental health therapist, I can assure you I see many angry, rude and closed off teenagers.

Throughout the 7 years experience working with teens, I identified a pattern I put in place in sessions to reduce anger, gain respect and heal relationships.

Let me explain to you what this pattern is, so you can try it at home, with your teen.

If it works in my sessions, why would it not work for you at home?

This topic will be explained into 3 different articles, each presenting 1 step. I will teach you how you can gain respect from your teen, reduce attitude and rudeness, and let them open up to you, the same way I do in my sessions. 

Where does it come from?

First, let's understand why anger and rudeness is even a thing.

  • Anger and rudeness are a protective shell.

Believe it or not, every single angry and rude teen I have met ended up letting me know they are tired of having to be such, and don't actually want to act like this.

Very often, teens make this preconceived idea that being angry, having attitude and screaming at parents is the only way to not get hurt. Attitude and rudeness is very often a great to keep people away, which can be a great protection to not get hurt.

  • Impulsivity and angry reactions are way easier than communicating for a teen.

As we already know, teen brains are under construction and have certain parts more developed than others. During teenage years, the region of the brain responsible for impulsivity and anger is overactive. This brain region is called the amygdala.

This is why teens can present as moody and don't seem great at stabilising their own emotions.

It is important to note that every teen grows in different ways, at different rates, and have different personalities. This is why certain teens will present more angry than others.

  • Your teen is in the process of building their identity.

For teens, anger and attitude can be perceived as the only way to express their emotions, if not taught otherwise.

This is why rudeness, anger and attitude is very often seen in the early stages of teenage years (12-15 years old). During this early stage, teens have one main focus: discovering who they are and letting the world know they have their own opinions.

What triggers it?

Every single teen I have met with anger and attitude are feeling/have felt one or several of the following at home:

-feeling disrespected

-feeling unheard

-feeling lied to 

-feeling betrayed

-feeling not understood

-receiving unrealistic pressures and expectations

Finding which one of these triggers are felt by your teen is key to completing the rest of this exercise. 
​Very often, when teens experience any of the six triggers mentioned above, lies, attitude and anger will appear. 
With this, parents will very often loose trust in return and will punish bad behaviours, creating an endless negative, vicious cycle.​

How to identify what triggered your teen?

The key aspect in deleting anger and attitude in your teen, will be to identify what has triggered them to lie, be rude, angry and defiant in the first place.

The easiest way to find out would be to directly ask your teen, and have them answer you honestly. However, here's the reality of the situation: most angry teens don't want to talk to their parents, and don't want to present as vulnerable and weak.


If this is your case, I suggest for you to try the following two exercises:​​


Daily, pay attention to how you respond and communicate with your teen or around your teen. 

Pay attention to all three:

-Communication through words.

What words do you use when interacting with your teen, other family members or members of society. What words do you say when feeling proud, angry, excited, sad etc.

-Communication through body language or "vibe".

What tone, body language, breathing style, facial expressions you use when communicating with your teen, family members or members of society.

-Communication through example. 

What actions and words you choose to apply to yourself in your own life. Are you angry towards yourself? Are you disrespectful towards yourself?

​Observe if you are seeing similarities with your teen's communication style.

Make sure to not communicate to yourself or your teen in a disrespectful manner. 


At home, find a time where both you and your teen are available, and offer them to go for a drive, just the two of you, to get a treat. 

During the drive, attempt to begin a conversation with purpose to show your teen you can listen, hear them and not give your opinion about what they are sharing.

Depending on their personality and their willingness to talk, your teen might share very little, on very superficial topics. 

That is totally fine!

The objective is to organise time alone with your teen, and show you can listen to them, without providing any judgement. 

After listening to them, please rephrase what you have heard and ask your teen if you understood correctly. 

After several light, superficial conversations, you are welcome to ask your teen if they ever felt hurt/ lied to/ unheard/ betrayed by you. 

Your teen answering this question can be extremely vulnerable, so please respond very carefully. 

Please rephrase and let them know you have heard them, and will need some time to think about your response.

This step will take several conversations and can take time. 

Showing your teen they can talk to you and be heard is key. 

After having tried these two exercises, please comment to explain how it went for you, and ask any questions you might have.

Once you have identified the trigger(s) to anger and defiance, please proceed to step 2.


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