Do you feel desperate to improve your teen’s or kid’s attitude? There are biblical solutions that actually work and it’s not as hard as you might think!
She saunters into the kitchen an hour late for family devotions. Again. I smile and say good morning, but she doesn’t even look up.
We invite her to join us at the table. She sits down, but not without a powerful display of body language to express her annoyance with the request.
We continue to talk about our plans for the day over scrambled eggs and bacon, trying to ignore the occasional sigh or rolling of eyes coming from her end of the table.
After several minutes, she pipes in with an insult toward one of her brothers. I respond, “We would love for you to continue to have breakfast with us, but insults won’t be tolerated.”
With that, she pushes back the chair and snorts, “I’ve got things to do.” A sense of relief rushes over me all while her blatant attitude of disrespect stabs me like a knife. I’m thankful the confrontation is over, and yet sad that she doesn’t seem to care.
The truth is, parenting is hard. There really is no other way to describe it. There are moments of incredible victory and sweet memories to treasure, but we can’t deny the parts of the parenting journey that literally stab us in the heart.
Can you relate to this scene?
If there is anything I could say in this moment to encourage you, I would beg you NOT to give up. Read the rest of this post… especially the ending, because there is hope. You won’t always be where you are now.
The truth about your kid’s attitude:
It’s been said that kids have a mind of their own, especially teenagers. And you know, that’s true. It’s also a really good thing.
While some days we might wish we could think for our child, in the end, we don’t really want to do that. We want our kids to learn, grow, and think on their own. Because we know that one day we won’t be here to do it for them.
The first step in dealing with your kid’s bad attitude is to get on your knees. Stop being offended. Stop lashing back. Start praying.
Prayer will help you take a step back and look more objectively at the situation. If you can’t step back, you’re more likely to handle this as a personal attack and it’s anything BUT that!
Which brings me to step 2. The easiest way to feed the fury of your child’s bad attitude is to let it get to you. If you let them rain on your parade, they will always hold that power and treasure it.
Trust me when I tell you I’m not perfect with this either, but the example I gave above is a good way to handle a hostile situation. Remain calm. Don’t let the child harm anyone, but otherwise, don’t engage in disrespectful behavior or bad attitudes.
The heavy lifting for fixing your child’s attitude has to come from within. Don’t worry, we will get to that in a few minutes.
The Source of Your Kid’s Attitude
Kids’ attitudes come from a lack of vision
When I was 12 I got glasses for the first time. I clearly remember leaving the doctor’s office and being shocked that the leaves on the trees were actually individual pieces. My vision was so bad, I had simply accommodated by assuming the trees were the kind of green blobs you see in books. I never realized what I was missing!
Your kids are the same way. They are young, inexperienced in life, and their vision is limited. In fact, attitude is often a blind spot for them, as it is for us. It’s hard to recognize that you have a bad attitude, which makes it even harder to correct.
Action step—> With this in mind, look for opportunities to kindly help your kids see the attitude they are displaying. This is best done several hours AFTER the conflict. Calm and compassionate discussion goes a LONG way!
Bad attitude comes from a lack of boundaries
The second source of bad attitude in kids and teens is a lack of healthy boundaries. Although teens, in particular, are known for pushing back against the boundaries, it’s NOT because they are bad boundaries. It’s normal for anyone to push against a boundary because we are TESTING it to see if it’s safe.
And that is exactly what boundaries do. They keep us safe. Sometimes as parents we either forget to put a boundary on something or we are afraid it will harm our relationship with our kids. There’s a LOT of bad information out there regarding this topic.
But the real truth and the actual research is clear. Kids NEED boundaries and they need you to consistently reinforce them.
Action step–> Think of a particular conflict you’ve had lately. Was there a boundary missing or one that was not enforced consistently? Make a plan to change that!
Teenage attitude often comes from lack of motivation
Of course, this can be true for kids, too, but we most often will see it in teens. If we don’t show our kids why they should bother to have a positive or respectful attitude, it’s likely they won’t bother.
Think about it. How hard is it for us as adults, who totally know better, to have a positive, kind, respectful attitude about every single thing in our lives?
It’s even more true for teens. They are in control of even LESS in their lives. They are raging with hormones. And they are still trying to figure out how to handle literally everything that comes their way. If they are going to have a good attitude, it’s going to take work.
It won’t be worth doing that work unless they understand WHY it really matters. There are a lot of reasons we could share, but I’d say the most important can be found in the Bible.
Action step—> I use the Bible study Keep Thy Heart to give my kids the biblical knowledge they need to fight off the bad attitudes that seek to take residence in our hearts. Of course, you can create something similar on your own, but I’m all about ready-made!
Bad attitude in kids and teens comes from a lack of confidence
This one breaks my heart, but it’s true for the majority of kids and teens. We have an open phone policy in our home, which means any phone is able to be used/seen by me at any time. I often read through random text conversations.
I do this both to keep my kids accountable and to see how I can help them with friendships. Sadly, so many of the kids who text my kids openly express how awful they think they are.
They share how they will never measure up, can’t do anything right, and aren’t really worthy of things like love and compassion. Part of this is the struggle teens face as they learn to navigate friendships and hormones as they grow.
But the truth remains, confidence can be a struggle for many of us and when we don’t feel confident about something, we can have a really ugly attitude about doing it.
Action step—> Be aware of your teen’s confidence level. Find ways each day to encourage them. I keep a list in my Bible along with other things I’m praying for my kids. This keeps it fresh on my mind, so I’m more likely to encourage them throughout the day.
Kids’ attitude can come from a lack of self-control
I’ll be honest, self-control is one of those words I don’t really like hearing. You probably don’t either. Most people struggle with self-control because we live here on earth in these flesh-driven bodies. We want what we want and we want it now.
There are two truths we need to understand about self-control if we are going to help our kids. First, perfection won’t be attainable until heaven, so we all need a little grace. But, secondly, we also need to recognize the struggle and learn to work harder.
Even though perfection isn’t attainable here on earth, the Bible still commands us to be growing in Christlikeness. So don’t neglect this important character trait as you are working with your kids.
Help them understand why it’s important and teach them practical ways to work towards self-control. One of my favorite ways to do this is to teach good habits. Habits are more powerful than rules because they KEEP you instead of you trying to keep them!
Action step—> Work on habits with your kids. We have a FREE Good Habits for Kids video course to help get you started. It’s chock-full of tips, ideas, and strategies you can implement today.
Bad attitude comes from unhealthy relationships
Although this one is near the end, it’s probably one of the FIRST questions you should ask yourself when faced with teenage or kids attitude.
How are his/her relationships?
If your child has an unhealthy relationship with God, you can count on bad attitudes to surface regularly. If your child hasn’t become a Christian, I would suggest spending less time focused on attitude and more time focused on good exposure to God’s truth.
If they have a saving faith in Christ, then it’s important to look for clues that their relationship might be slipping. Are they consistent with a quiet time? If not, start there. Having a regular quiet time is the most important tool your kids can use to grow in faith! If you need help teaching them how, check out Devotions for Kids.
Of course, a good relationship with God isn’t the only important relationship. We also need to be sure that our kids have a good relationship with us. This means lots of FUN family activities. It means listening, talking, and investing in our kids all the time… not just when we see them doing something wrong.
Building a strong relationship with your child is one of the BEST ways to improve their attitude because when your relationship is right, kids will naturally want to please you. This won’t make their attitude perfect, but it will ensure that they care enough to work on it!
Action tip—> Family bonding is something you have to be intentional about. Put a family fun night on the calendar right now and commit to doing it in the next week or two.
Kids’ attitude comes from a lack of knowledge
Probably the most overlooked source of kids or teenage bad attitude is their lack of knowledge. We don’t realize how much we forget to teach our kids, especially as they get older. When they are young and/or there are just a few kids, it’s a lot easier to remember what they don’t know.
But as they get older, we forget that there is still so much they need to learn. I think this is why Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us to teach our children diligently in literally every single moment. Have you ever noticed that this is really the only job God has directly given parents?
If we are diligent to teach our kids the truth of the Bible, how to have a relationship with Christ, and how to guard their heart from the bad attitudes that want to take over, we will have given them the most valuable tools they will ever need for life.
In Proverbs 4:23, the Bible calls us to keep or guard our heart because everything in life flows out of it. Almost every problem we create for ourselves can be linked back to one of the enemies of our hearts:
It’s time we help our kids protect themselves from these bad attitudes that seek to destroy them. Take some time to talk through each of the attitudes, why it is harmful, and how we can fix it.
If you’d like help, we have two fantastic resources: Keep Thy Heart Bible Study is written for kids ages eight and up. It’s the study of each of these bad attitudes, as well as the principles and priorities we should be putting into our hearts instead. Grab your copy here.
To go along with that, we have a video series that supports parents with the information your kids are learning in the study, as well as fun object lessons you can use to make the principles stick. You can find that here.
A Few Final Thoughts about Teenage Attitude
Truthfully, teenage attitude isn’t much different than what I’ve mentioned for kids above, but there are two additional things you should know.
First, if you are dealing with a boy, it’s important to realize that God has created teenage boys to begin to feel the need to assert authority and leadership. This is what God has called young men to, so we should be thrilled that they are rising to the occasion.
Granted, there will need to be lots of conversations about how they can do this respectfully, so their relationship with mom, in particular, isn’t harmed. But it’s really important to remember this when you are dealing with your teen boys.
Second, if life as a teenager wasn’t hard for you, bless your heart (as we say in the south). For the rest of us, it was the most difficult season of our lives. When your teenager exhibits a bad attitude, rude behavior, or even out-of-character behavior, please have grace.
I’m not saying to let them do whatever they want; I’m saying everyone struggles. Give your kids the grace you would have wanted from your parents. We have a huge influence over our kids, even in these years. Handling their attitudes, hormones, and changes with grace will equip them to give grace to others in life.
If you are really struggling with your teen, I would recommend the book Parenting by Paul David Tripp. I’m going to warn you. It will rock the foundation of your parenting but in a REALLY good way. It’s not a practical book, but rather a book to help you shift your thinking and understand what God has really called you to as a parent.
Hope For Your Kid’s Attitude
I pray that you’ve gotten some really good strategies from this post to help you work with your child and their attitudes. But I can’t leave you without sharing the rest of the story.
Remember the teenager at the beginning of this post? The one who was late to devotions every single day, had a bad attitude about literally all of life, and rolled her eyes in response to everything?
As I type this post she is standing in my kitchen making scrambled eggs for the whole family… over an hour BEFORE we need her for our family devotions. For real. In fact, she has done this every morning for the last eight months or so.
I’d love to tell you that her radical transformation is all because of the strategies I implemented, but the truth is, she chose this.
If there’s anything you leave this post with, I hope it’s an understanding of your role in this process. There’s much you can do to help your kids with their attitude, but in the end, they are the ones who choose whether or not they will have a bad attitude.
Stay on your knees in prayer, give lots of grace, and use the powerful influence God has given you to encourage and teach them. The hard work is worth the harvest in the end!