How to Deal with a Teenage Know-It-All

It's normal for teens to think they know everything sometimes.
Vincent Besnault / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Every day, teens learn new and exciting things, whether it’s an interesting fact from their biology lesson or an opinion they overheard while you were watching the morning news.

It’s likely your teen will want to not only share these new things with you, but also engage in a conversation about it from time to time. The problem occurs when a teen insists that he possesses the right knowledge--or, even worse, the only knowledge.

It’s frustrating to deal with a know-it-all teen, but insisting he knows more than you do is part of normal adolescent development. As teens learn how to express their ideas and share their knowledge, they often want to show they have opinions that vary from yours.

While it’s your job as their mother or father to gently correct rude behavior, it’s important to let your teen share his opinion. Here are a few tips for dealing with a teen who insists he knows more than you.

Listen to What Your Teen Has to Say

Whether it’s something that is in direct conflict with your morals, it’s an argument that stems from complete ignorance, be willing to listen. Role model how to respectfully listen to someone else, even when you disagree.

Despite how obnoxious your teen may seem, your willingness to entertain is ideas is important. Listen with an open mind, because when something important does come along, you want to make sure your teen feels free to bring it to you.

Consider What’s Behind Your Teen’s Attitude

What’s behind your teen’s desire to have the correct knowledge on every topic under the sun? Some teens might simply be excited to share their vast brain power, but in some cases, it might stem from underlying insecurity.

If a teen thinks she doesn’t have much to offer but her smarts, she could want to show it off in every situation.

Or a teen who doesn’t do well academically may try to prove she’s intelligent by debating everything other people say. Once you realize why your teen feels the need to be a know-it-all, you can take steps to boost her confidence levels.

Resist Arguments

Even if your teen thinks he’s an adult, he’s not as mature as you. Therefore, he probably doesn’t know when to stop a battle of knowledges--but you do. Just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to have the last word.

In their immaturity, your child will probably think you simply don’t understand what he’s saying, so he’ll keep going yet rephrase the same thing. Avoid a power struggle by saying something like, “That’s interesting. I have to go make dinner now.”

Set Limits and Follow Through with Consequences

Make it clear to your teen that actions speak louder than words. Establish clear limits and follow through with consequences when necessary.

When you remind your teen to do his homework and he responds by saying, “I know!” give him the opportunity to do it independently.

If he doesn’t finish his assignments, he’ll experience the natural consequence of a poor grade.

If however, your teen’s insistence that he knows everything becomes a safety issue, take immediate action. If he won’t accept direction from you about how to improve his driving, for example, take away his keys until he’s ready to listen.

Create a Signal

Once your teen has identified that he tends to be a bit of a know-it-all, work together to stop the behavior. Rather than an overbearing lecture in public, jointly come up with a signal that means he should back off. It could be coughing and rubbing your nose or a tap on the shoulder, but your teen should know it means that he’s gone a step too far, and continuing on the path could lead to consequences.

As a parent, it’s natural to want to correct your teen’s arrogant behavior, especially if you see that it’s causing social problems with his pals. Do so gently, remembering that your teen doesn’t have to maturity level yet to understand why sharing his “correct” knowledge is a bad thing.

Skip the shaming or lecturing, and explain why some people don’t like to be corrected or argued with. With a little bit of genial training, you can ensure your know-it-all teen doesn’t turn into a know-it-all adult.

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