Every part of parenting has its challenges, but knowing how to discipline a child effectively can be one of the hardest aspects of the role. While the majority of discourse focuses on adolescents, it can be even more challenging dealing with adult children, especially for parents in a later stage of life.

As children grow up, their behaviour must typically be dealt with in different ways. That is to say, what works to discipline younger is not necessarily going to work for their adult counterparts, and familiar methods might become less effective over time. 

When facing disrespect from a grown child, it can be hard to know the best coping mechanisms, but this article is going to walk you through the key ways that you can take action in a meaningful way.

Set Boundaries

When disrespectful behaviour is perceived, it is important to set boundaries with your child, making them aware of your concerns.  These boundaries can be communicated in a calm and civilised manner, and once established, mutual expectations from your interactions can be established.  During this exchange, consider mentioning what kind of language and behaviour might benefit your relationship, while discussing the consequences if these boundaries aren’t maintained, in order to encourage healthy, positive conversations.

Acknowledge the Part You Play

Any relationship dynamics involve two or more parties.  That means that any issues you are facing between you and your child are a result of behaviours that you have both exhibited. You may not feel that you have any control over your child’s behaviour, but you do have control over your own, and changing this can be instrumental in improving the nature of your relationship.

This can begin by asking yourself whether you are acting in a way that appears to trigger disrespectful behaviour in your child - are there any patterns in the kinds of conversations that you are having when the behaviour begins? From what you can identify in these patterns, try putting yourself in your child’s shoes and imagine why they might react in the way that they do.  By acknowledging their perspective, you can learn something valuable about how your actions might be contributing to this situation.

Examine Your Parenting Style

Parenting as a concept is one that is constantly evolving, and more recent studies have placed a focus on how various approaches can affect children differently. In one study, for example, different parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful, were all examined to see which had the most positive effects on the children as they got older.  The discovery was that authoritarian and neglectful parenting styles had the largest negative impact of the four styles, implying that asserting too much or too little control are both detrimental to the wellbeing of the child.  On the other hand, permissive and authoritative styles had the largest positive impact, where parents offer guidance and support on issues rather than rules and control.

The takeaway here is that all children need support, and if they are acting out in a disrespectful manner, it could be a sign that too much control is being asserted in a way that they do not find constructive. Rather than asserting hard rules, try offering advice when it is asked for, as well as warmth and openness to talk about feelings and problems in a more open, non-judgemental way. 

Be Respectful, Even When They Aren't

Good parenting is about fostering an environment of mutual respect, and even though you may not feel like you have achieved that now, being disrespectful back to your child is only going to take you further from that goal.  Dealing with disrespect from a grown child can be stressful, irritating and isolating; it can make you feel hopeless, or that you have failed in your responsibilities, but it is important that you do not allow any of these feelings to result in you retaliating to your child’s behaviour in a way that contributes to feelings of animosity.

So, rather than fighting back, try to understand where your child might be coming from, validate their feelings and aim to have a calm and respectful conversation about what is on their mind.  This might not be successful every time, but what you are doing is teaching your child what it means to have a mutually respectful relationship, as well as making them feel that their thoughts and feelings are valued.

How to Deal With a Disrespectful Grown Child

It can be hard to successfully communicate with a disrespectful child, but by following these steps you can move in the right direction to create a better relationship.  Regardless of their behaviour, it is important that you still display care and affection, showing them that reconnection and repair of your relationship is always a possibility.

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