When Your Teen’s Attitude Sucks: 10 Things You Can Do to Turn it Around 

There are a few things you can do to turn their attitude around (or, at the very least, help so it's not QUITE as sucky)

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: When Your Teen’s Attitude Sucks: 10 Things You Can Do to Turn it Around 

Written By: Morgan Hill

If you’re a parent of teens then you’re familiar with their wide range of emotions AND how those emotions can change on a dime.

Ahem… did someone say moody?

Our teens might walk in the door after school in a great mood — maybe they aced a test, don’t have a ton of homework (for once), or lined up a hot date for Friday night. 

But then… often with little to no warning or provocation, they turn into “the teen with the sucky attitude” whose mission in life (it seems) is to make everyone around them just as miserable as they are. Suddenly, doors are closed a little too loudly, eye-rolling ensues, exasperated sighs are vocalized, snarky replies are all you get, and their disgust about, well… pretty much everything, takes over their demeanor.

When Your Teen’s Attitude Sucks: 10 Things You Can Do to Turn it Around 


What brings this on?

Oftentimes, the root cause is hormones and massive changes happening in their brains and bodies. (Their hormones can make them feel things – even the smallest things – in a much bigger way.) And even though we try not to take their behavior personally, it’s awfully hard when you’re in the thick of it, isn’t it?  

While you might feel helpless when this happens, (it’s really not about you!) there are a few proven ways to turn their attitude around (or, at the very least, help so it’s not quite so sucky). 

1. Back Off and Give ‘Em Space

Teenagers need space… lots of space. Space to decompress, think, work through their emotions, and just “BE.” When life or their hormones get the best of them and they (seem to) hate everyone and everything, let them retreat to their bedroom to work through it. And, while they’re calming down in the quiet of their bedroom, use this time to quiet yourself down, too. (Because we all know it’s stressful when our kids are like this.) Go for a walk, sit down with a good book, or call a friend who “gets it.” 

Don’t try to reason with them. Don’t tell them they’re overreacting. Don’t spark an argument to prove a point. Don’t yell. Of course, address disrespect (calmly) and put consequences in place (as needed), but DON’T add any unnecessary fuel to the fire. 

“I can see you’re in a crummy mood. Before you say something you’re going to regret and I respond harshly out of sheer frustration, how about you head to your bedroom for a while to decompress? I’ll be here to talk when you’re ready.”

2. Feed Them

One Mom told me, “Every time my 15-year-old son was hungry he was an absolute bear to deal with. I learned (the hard way) that food is a powerful calming force when you’re a teenager.” 

Whether it’s a big bowl of popcorn, an extra large pepperoni pizza, or a quick run through their favorite drive-thru, food can be a BIG game-changer to temper a teen’s sucky attitude. When you see their attitude diving into the abyss, encourage them to eat. They may not even realize they’re hungry. Then wait 20 minutes and watch the magic happen! 

3. Lend an Ear

Sure, hormones could be the driving force behind their crummy attitude. But sometimes, it’s more. Maybe they got dumped by a girl or guy. Maybe they bombed a test. Or, maybe they got excluded from an invite list.

Be the one they can vent, cry, or complain to. Resist the urge to offer advice or chime in, even if you have the best intentions, unless they ask. Sitting in silence and validating their feelings could be all they need to turn that frown upside down. 

4. Try An Alternate Form of Communication

Face-to-face can mean a face-off, especially when emotions are high. Instead, try texting your teen or dropping a note under their bedroom door.

Some parents have found success journaling back and forth with their teens. The nice thing about writing is that it gives you time to think before you speak so you can avoid triggering your teen (and vice versa).

5. Provide a Peace Offering

Even the smallest gesture can shift your teen’s crummy attitude. Leave their favorite candy bar on their bedroom dresser. Buy them a new pair of comfy socks. Or, bring a few homemade chocolate chip cookies to them when they’re chilling or doing homework in their bedroom. 

Don’t confuse this with a bribe! It’s simply an opportunity for your teen to realize you’re still on their side, as always, and allow them to relax a bit knowing you still care, despite their attitude.  

6. Apologize Earnestly

Offering an apology doesn’t admit fault, necessarily. It means you value your relationship with your teen more than your ego. 

“I’m sorry you’re having a crummy day. Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”

“I’m so sorry life has the best of you right now. Are you in the mood for a Starbucks? Let’s hop in the car and go grab one?”

“I know you’re in a bad mood and I’m sorry. Do you feel like grabbing a burger at that place you love? Maybe getting out of the house will help.” 

Even if your teen turns you down flat, they’ll know you care and that, no matter what, you’re there for them. 

7. Baby, You Can Drive My Car

It’s amazing how a change of scenery can turn a bad attitude around. Whether you hand them the car keys (and $10 bucks to run through a drive-thru), head out on a neighborhood walk, or pack up for a day on the hiking trail, just getting them out of the house can change their perspective and lighten life up a bit. Just like when they were toddlers, fresh air, sunshine, and a little exercise (if they’re up for it) can make all the difference in the world!

8. Compromise

If their sucky attitude is due to conflict with you, offer a compromise. Oh, and don’t feel like you’re failing as a parent if you cave in occasionally or work to find a solution that works for you and your teen. The art of compromise and being flexible is a critical component of raising happy, independent, empathetic kids.

Meet them halfway, offer a comparable alternative, or come up with a plan you can both agree on. 

“I know you want to stay out ’til midnight. How about we compromise and say 11:30 pm?” 

9. Give Them Time… The Ultimate Mood Changer

Alas, there is no timeline for a sucky teen attitude. I mean it has to end eventually… right?! Right???

How long it takes for your teen’s attitude to adjust is dependent on your teen, their raging hormones, and what’s bugging them. It could be 15 minutes, half a day, or longer. Try not to set what you think is a reasonable time limit (quite often they really can’t help it). Instead, let them set the pace on coming around – even if that means walking on eggshells temporarily. 

It’s Important to Note: If your teen seems unreasonably upset often or has difficulty controlling their emotions on a regular basis, it might be time to talk with the family doctor to get direction on how to handle it. You don’t want your teen suffering unnecessarily. 

10. Do Nothing

This is hard. But your teen might benefit from you doing absolutely nothing to pull them out of their funk. Just let them work through their crummy attitude on their own with no intervention from you. Don’t ignore them – by all means, be there if they need you – but don’t rush to fix it. There might be times it can be fixed and plenty of other times it can’t. 

All teens experience sucky attitudes at times… it comes with the territory. Try not to take it personally and keep reminding yourself that “this too shall end” because it WILL eventually end. 


About Morgan Hill:

Morgan Hill is an essayist and humorist. She has written for many online and print publications including Insider, Your Teen Magazine, Revel, and MASK Magazine. She is the mother of freshman and senior sons in high school. When not writing, she can be found at flea markets, in her garden, photographing architecture, taking cooking classes, or eating the stinkiest cheese she can find. You can also find her on Twitter @MorganHWrites or Instagram @MorganHillWriter

If you enjoyed reading, “When Your Teen’s Attitude Sucks: 10 Things You Can Do to Turn it Around,” you might want to check out these other posts!

How to Walk on Eggshells Like a Pro: 10 Tips to Stay Chill When Your Teen Isn’t

Just Between Us: 10 Parent & Teen Journals to Keep Your Teen Talking

My Daughter, Someday I Hope You Realize That I’ve Always Been On Your Side

Help… My Teenager is So Disrespectful and I’m Worn Out Trying to Handle It

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