Your Teen’s Eye-Roll: Expert Tips on How to Handle it Without Losing Your Cool

Even though there are far worse things your teen could be doing, it's still annoying, disrespectful behavior every parent wants to stop

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Your Teen’s Eye-Roll – Expert Tips on How to Handle it Without Losing Your Cool

Written by: Kristal Leon

You ask your 16-year-old son to take out the garbage and you get an eye-roll, a heavy sigh, and an indiscernible mumble under his breath.

You’ve been asking your daughter for days to pick up her bedroom (or, at the very least, pick up the dirty clothes off her floor and bring all the plates and cups she’s been hoarding to the kitchen) and you’re met with an exasperated eye-roll and a heavy sigh that triggers you to lose your cool.

One of the more frustrating aspects of parenting teens is the annoying eye roll that teens are so well known for. Teen girls, especially, seem to have a corner on the eye-roll market (that’s not to say teen boys aren’t pretty darn good at eye-rolling too)!

It’s essentially a teen’s way of saying, “Whateeeevvvver,” “OMG, you’re so  annoying,” “Umm, yeah, I really don’t care,” “Leave me alone, pleeeeaase?” and a host of other salty, snarky comebacks… minus the words. 

Is it disrespectful? Experts say, yep, it is.

But experts also say there’s a way to handle it without blowing a gasket, yelling, or nagging your teen. By switching up your response (and switching off your ego) and handling the situation with more patience and understanding, you can actually defuse the eye-rolling AND improve communication with your teen without becoming frustrated or overwhelmed. So, parents… you know your teen’s eye-roll that annoys the heck out of you? Here’s how you should handle it. 

Your Teen’s Eye-Roll: Expert Tips on How to Handle it Without Losing Your Cool


Remember, Your Teen Has a Lot of Growing Up To Do

Studies have shown that because of the massive construction going on in teens’ brains and bodies, they tend to feel things in a much bigger way. A Harvard study found, too, that teens experience many emotions simultaneously, yet they have difficulty differentiating them. Essentially, your teen might feel angry and sad together but they can’t distinguish between the two. Bottom line, we can’t expect our teens to act like adults… they have a ton of growing up to do.

Take a Deep Breath

As parents, we have a natural urge to call out negative or disrespectful behavior in our kids immediately. And, let’s face it, even though our teens aren’t saying a single word, their eye-rolls speak volumes in a way that can really rile us up. 

But parenting experts agree, by losing your cool or blowing your teen’s disconcerting behavior out of proportion, you’re actually reinforcing it. After all, your teen knows their eye-roll will solicit a very predictable emotional response from you. In other words, they know exactly what they’re doing. Don’t fall into the trap.

Instead, take a deep breath and pause before continuing the conversation. We shouldn’t forget that eye-rolling is generally a minor blip on the radar compared to more serious responses you could be getting such as aggression, yelling, and name-calling. Even though it’s frustrating and, yes, even disrespectful, there are far worse things your teen could be doing.

React, But Calmly

It’s natural to feel frustrated (or downright furious) when our teens push our buttons (every parent has been there at one point or another). But we’re not helping matters or teaching them important lessons when we overreact. We need to help our kids learn to manage their emotions without causing them to feel attacked, belittled, or discouraged. 

Examples of How to Respond When Your Teen Rolls Their Eyes:

Not overreacting, but rather acknowledging, validating, and working together with your teen to mitigate their frustration can help them calm down and defuse the situation.

  • For starters, you can simply choose to ignore it. NO response IS a response. (When your teen figures out that they’re not getting the reaction out of you that they hoped for, they’ll eventually stop.) 
  • “I can see that you’re really frustrated that I asked you to take the garbage out and I get it, you’re tired. But it still has to get done. Thank you for helping.”
  • “Clearly, you’re upset right now. I’m here to talk when you’re ready. Until then, I’ll leave you alone.”
  • Calmly say to your teen, “I don’t appreciate it when you roll your eyes at me. When you’re ready to act more like an adult, let me know.” Then WALK AWAY.
  • Say what your teen is feeling and offer a connection, “I know… you’re irritated because I’m asking you to help dad clean the garage today. But we’re a family and we work together as a team. Maybe we can grab lunch at your favorite restaurant afterward.”
  • “Instead of rolling your eyes at me, why don’t you calmly communicate what you’re feeling? If you have too much homework to do and you’re overwhelmed because I asked you to pick up your room, maybe we can come to a compromise or put your chores off until you’re less stressed.” 

Note: Of course, if your teen exhibits continual blatant disrespect (everyone deserves to have a bad day), consequences should be put in place. 

Listen Supportively – Don’t Solve

The eye-rolls, the heavy sighs, the “Oh geeeez, you’re so annoying,” comments – it may seem like your teen is totally rejecting you. But remember, deep down, they still crave and need your attention and understanding. Avoid the long, boring lectures about why they should respect you. Instead, show them respect by striving to listen more than you talk and connecting with them by acknowledging the feelings they’re expressing—even negative ones. The more you connect with your teen (as opposed to demanding respect), the more you’ll establish a common ground with them so you can broach sensitive topics collaboratively and avoid power struggles. 

Be the Role Model They Need

By modeling the behavior we hope to see in our teens, (rather than using sarcasm, being negative, or flying off the handle), they’ll be far more likely to embrace the same core competencies within themselves. Being understanding and patient – especially when they’re angry, frustrated, irritated, or rolling their eyes – will give your teen a strong example to follow and equip them with the tools to practice self-control and manage their emotions both now and on their developmental path ahead.

Just remember, parents, your teen’s eye-roll mode of communication won’t last forever. They will outgrow it eventually.

Until then, just take a deep breath and know that this too shall pass. Just hang on for the bumpy road. 


About Kristal Leon:

Kristal is a military wife and mom and the creator of A Sailors Wife Blog.  She created A Sailors Wife as a resource for parents and spouses of both Military and non Military families. You can follow Kristal on Facebook here. 


If you enjoyed reading, “Your Teen’s Eye-Roll: Expert Tips on How to Handle it Without Losing Your Cool,” check out these other posts you might like!

It’s NOT Personal: 8 (Not So Nice) Things Teens Say and Why You Should Keep Your Composure

Raising Teenagers: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do

Disciplining Your Teenager: 12 Logical Consequences That Work

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