How to Handle A Smart Aleck Teenager
It doesn't take a psychiatrist to understand why teenagers sometimes behave as smart alecks. One of the main reasons is confusion: the teenager is finding himself and discovering who he is. Attempting to show his maturity, he tests his parents and other adults while portraying a superior and confident attitude (which we as adults see as being cocky and smart alecky).
What is mean by the term: "teenage smart aleck"? If you are living with one, you need no definition; however, the following is a summary of attitudes and actions usually displayed by a "smart aleck":
- Swearing, lack of respect, poor manners, sassiness, mouthing off
- Always contradicting, arguing, displaying an attitude of willful disobedience
- Ignoring, sulking, pouting, defying, etc.
- Knowing it all, with an opinion on anything and acting as an expert on everything
- Challenging your decisions
- Always expecting explanations and justifications, etc.
What are some other possible reasons why we see these attitudes and actions from a teenager?
- Testing parental feelings and limits
- Questioning adult standards
- Needing to assert independence, and to establish himself as a separate entity
- Needing to demonstrate with, prowess, and exercising new-found adolescent humor
- Shifting from dependency to independence
- Needing to be like his peer group
Why is such behavior a problem?
- Parents are embarrassed.
- Parents lose control, or at least feel out of control.
- Parents are "turned off," disappointed in their teenager.
- Other children in the family begin to copy the behavior.
- Parents feel like failures.
- Teens should respect adults; therefore parents feel pressure to teach appropriate behavior in readiness for adult life.
- Such behavior may become detrimental to the teenager; for example, getting expelled from school, losing a job, losing funds, etc.
How can you deal with this problem?
- Ignore behavior which has little significance. If there is little reason, the teenager may lose some of the enjoyable benefits. Above all, never allow the behavior to sidetrack the main issue.
- Model respectful, polite behavior. Don't get caught in the same behavior as your teenager. Demonstrate appropriate ways to express anger, and do your best to express your own feelings without downgrading the teen's opinions and feelings.
- Point out the natural consequences of rude behavior. Be affectionately firm. Teenagers want some absolutes and guidelines. Be ready to explain when you think they are wrong, but speak with the tone of voice with which you would want to be addressed.
- Explore when the behavior is most likely to occur. Is this an indication of some underlying need in the teenager? Are there certain situations which trigger this behavior? What is the teenager trying to express?
- Keep your communication flowing by becoming a good listener. Listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay to any person, even in the face of "smart mouthing" from our teens. Show an intense and genuine interest in their frustrations, problems, and needs without giving them the impression that you're being nosy or meddling.
- Finally, remind yourself often that this behavior is a temporary and typical part of growing up. It will probably take care of itself as your teenager moves into his next phase of maturation. In the meantime, do your best to establish a parental image of which he can be proud and which he may set as a goal for himself.