What to do When Your Teen ‘Knows it All’

Do you have a teen that knows it all? They argue, always know better, and are downright disrespectful at times.

How should you deal with this – crack down hard or ignore it? It’s hard to know.

I mean, it would be great to have a teen that shows respect, values your opinion and advice, and agrees with you.  Right?

Or is that right?

Is the goal really to have your teen reflect your own ideas without thinking for themselves?

I don’t think so.

Your child is becoming an adult.  This means things could be a bit topsy-turvy for a while because some days your teen will feel and act like a child and others like an adult. And sometimes they’ll be somewhere in between!

It will make a great difference to your relationship if you change how you view your child – as an almost-adult that deserves to be reasoned with. Be prepared for your role as parent to change too.

So, let’s take a look at how you can navigate through this turbulent time.

  • Pray for wisdom. This is something we all know we should do, but don’t always do. It’s a very comforting thought to know that God knows exactly what your child is thinking and why they are behaving like they are. He will give you the wisdom you need to parent though this time of change.
  • Recognise the shift in your role and make adjustments. As your child morphs from child to adult, so you need to shift from governor to counsellor. Gradually make the switch from giving orders to giving advice. This transition should take place over a number of years, not overnight. Does that mean your child can disregard house rules? Nope. Those remain, but in the matter of personal choices like relationships, clothes, music, or career, be a “guide on the side”.
  • Accept that your child may have a different opinion, but don’t ever tolerate disrespect. Your teen is approaching adulthood and is entitled to have opinions of their own.  However, they should learn how to communicate their opinion respectfully. If they are disrespectful tell them you value their thoughts and ideas but don’t appreciate disrespect. (Make sure you’re not mad when you do this!) Ask them to speak to you respectfully.
  • Acknowledge that you don’t know it all. Because you don’t. There are some things your child knows that you don’t. Humility goes a long way when relationships get sticky.  Be humble enough to acknowledge you don’t know everything.
  • Don’t allow yourself to feel threatened by your child’s attitude. After all, you have lived longer. You do have more life experience, so don’t get riled by a bad attitude.
  • Seek to understand your child and don’t force your opinion. Instead of freaking out when they say something you disagree with, ask questions to get understanding. “What did you mean by that?” “Why do you think this way?”  Don’t try and force your child to think like you.  Try and get into their head and see things from their perspective. All relationships require communication to function well. The one with your teen is not exempt.
  • Stay calm. Don’t tackle issues in the heat of the moment. If you get angry, allow your feelings to simmer down and then talk to your child. Sit down later and have a decent, respectful conversation. Listen to your teen then ask them to listen to you.
  • Allow life to teach them that they don’t know it all. Don’t rescue your teen from the consequences of their choices.  Don’t do homework for them.  Don’t make excuses for them. Don’t nag. Apply consequences yourself if necessary.
  • Spend positive time with your teen. Your child will not value your opinion if you never spend time with them and show an interest in the things they are interested in. Do stuff together. Find ways to win their heart. Find out what’s important to them and take an interest in their life.
  • Earn your teen’s trust by always being consistent. Be there for them. Be a safe place for them to open their hearts. Don’t tell their secrets to their friends or your friends. Respect their privacy. Don’t read their journal or snoop through their stuff. Another part of being trustworthy is always doing what you say you will do. If you threaten to remove a privilege, then make sure you do it. Being consistent in giving consequences will teach your child that you are trustworthy.

While all relationships require two to make them work, there’s a lot you can do to help your teen transition from child to adult.

In summary, the three most important things you can do during this time are:

1) seek to understand,

2) communicate with your teen, and

3) don’t tolerate disrespect or bad behaviour.

Hang in there! You will get through this rough patch.

What are the ways you deal with your know-it-all teen? If you’re not the parent of a teen yet, how are you preparing for this time?

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

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