Study Says Rude Teens Become Rude Adults

Study says disrespectful teens become disrespectful adults.
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Whether it’s eye-rolling or backtalk, parents often excuse disrespectful behavior by saying, “Well you know, he is at that age.” And unfortunately, many teens get a free pass to be rude. 

But new evidence shows that rude behavior during adolescence might not be a passing phase. A rude teenager is at high risk of becoming a rude adult.

Rude Teens Don’t Outgrow Their Behavior

A 10-year study from the University of Virginia found that teenagers who are especially argumentative, rude, and prone to pressuring others fail to outgrow their rude behavior.

And most startling, they aren’t likely to notice the troubles their rude behavior causes in their relationships.

When asked to measure their relationship quality, they reported equally happy relationships as same-age people. But when their friends – and later, their romantic partners – were asked about their relationship, they most often cited major difficulties, saying the other person was “impossible to get along with.”

These disagreeable people didn’t pick up on social cues and failed to recognize when others were frustrated with their behavior. Unfortunately, when people don’t see a problem with their behavior, they aren’t likely to change.

Normal vs. Abnormal Disagreeable Behavior

All teens are disagreeable sometimes. Perhaps your teen argues when you tell her to clean her room. Or maybe she debates your political point of view. Those types of things are normal.

Researchers found disrespectful behavior lasted into adulthood when teens tried to persuade others to come around to their way of thinking.

Rather than compromise, or agree to disagree, disrespectful teens refused to collaborate.

These teens were likely to resort to rude behavior, like name-calling, to get others to agree. They also used snide comments and unhealthy tactics to pressure people into changing their minds. When expressing their opinions, they often became combative in their efforts.

How to Address Rude Behavior

The good news is, you have the power to address your teen’s behavior and prevent your teen from turning into a rude adult. If your teen uses an aggressive communication style, proactively help your teen learn new skills and put an end to disrespect. Here are some strategies to address rude behavior:

  • Invite your teen to express an opinion in a socially appropriate manner. Teens need to know that their opinions matter, but they also need to learn that their opinion isn’t necessarily more valuable than other people’s opinions.
  • Role model healthy communication skills. Your teen will learn a lot about relationships based on the way you treat others. Show your teen how to respond in a respectful manner when you disagree with someone else’s point of view.
  • Avoid power struggles. Pick your battles wisely. When you and your teen don’t see eye-to-eye, point out that sometimes you can simply agree to disagree. 
  • Teach problem-solving skills. Teens who lack problem-solving skills are less likely to be able to arrive at a win-win solution when they disagree with others. Teach your teen how to proactively solve problems in a way that both people can walk away feeling good. 
  • Use selective ignoring. Sometimes it’s best to ignore minor disrespect. Eye-rolling or sighing for example, don’t necessarily need to be called out each and every time. Sometimes, paying attention to them can make them worse. 
  • Set limits and follow through with consequences. Make it clear that your teen won’t be given consequences for his opinion, but that he will be given consequences when he crosses the line. If he engages in name-calling or becomes threatening, give a warning and follow through with a consequence when necessary. 

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