Dear David Coleman: 'My 12-year-old daughter is rude and disrespectful'

Q: I have a 12-year-old daughter who is very rude and abrupt with us and, in many ways, acts against her own best interests. For example, if she wants to be brought somewhere, she often asks in a rude and disrespectful manner. This behaviour is not going to be good for her in the future. Or maybe, this behaviour/personality trait is just reserved for her family?

A: Politeness and rudeness fall on a continuum, and how we interpret people’s comments and actions will depend on our own values and previous experience. So your daughter’s behaviour, in another environment, for example, may not be considered rude. It is also the case that children can treat their parents and siblings very differently than they treat others.

If you talk to others outside your family about their experiences of your daughter, you will get a clearer picture of whether her behaviour is just reserved for you. My best guess is that her attitude and behaviour towards you possibly reflects a particular, family-based dynamic. Otherwise, you’d probably already have heard complaints from teachers and other parents.

Changing that behaviour requires a consistent, kind, but firm response from you. Every time you feel she is rude or disrespectful, I’d suggest you say something like, ‘When you talk politely to me, then I will help you.’ Phrasing like that shows her that the issue is her manner of speaking, and that whatever she wants from you, will only come when she meets your standards for politeness.

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