How to deal with other people’s (challenging) teens

Solid advice for every little scenario you may come across. By Yvonne Walus.

It’s difficult enough to handle your own misbehaving teenager. Dealing with somebody else’s certainly adds a layer of complexity: how will they react, how will their parents react, what consequences could you possibly enforce? It might help to remember that if a teen is behaving in a disrespectful manner, it could be that they crave the spotlight, or feel powerless, or want to show off. However, that’s no excuse for being rude. Here are a few ideas for how to treat a teenager who’s overstepped the line. 


Simply saying “Language!” should do the trick, particularly if you do it with a friendly smile. No lecture needed. If they genuinely seem baffled, you might want to explain that swear words are like chilli flakes: all right in certain dishes, but not too much, and never on a Pavlova. If they try to argue that this is how all teenagers speak, don’t get sucked into a discussion: reiterate that while you understand their point of view, they need to be mindful of yours. 

Disruptive behaviour 

If your teenager is having a few people over for “drinks” or to “hang out”, and the guests start misbehaving, you have every right not to tolerate it: your house, your rules. Still, be mindful of your child’s feelings: if you step in, they may be mortified. Consider calling your child away from their friends, describe the bad behaviour, and ask whether your teen would like to handle it, or should you. Assuming your child gives you the go-ahead to be bad cop, simply pointing out the house rules to the visitors should do the trick. If they choose not to comply, they will have to leave. 


If you’re hosting other people’s teenagers, and you notice bullying or a conflict, step in before it turns into something dangerous. To teenagers you know, it’s enough to say: “Josh, don’t be a dick.” To those you don’t know – that depends. You might start by asking their name, and when they tell you, you could follow it up with: “Nice to meet you, Josh. Now, don’t be a dick.” Or, if that’s not your sense of humour, you might try: “I can see you’re upset. It’s all right to be upset. It’s not all right to act on it. What you’re doing is not cool.” If that doesn’t work, ask them to leave. If the situation is getting out of hand, dial 111 and ask for the police. 


When you’re in charge of a bunch of teenagers as a parent helper, you are ultimately responsible for their safety. Should they disobey your instructions, you can threaten to abort mission, and make good on the threat if needed.

Disrespectful team member 

As a coach, you need to build a team out of teenage individuals. In addition to sports skills, teach them the value of self-discipline, set clear limits and expectations, be positive and encouraging. If one of the teenagers refuses to cooperate, take them aside and ask what gives. Chances are, the kid is posturing in front of their peers, and you. Dealing with other people’s teens needs a solution that helps you both save face. Failing that, ask the perpetrator to put away the equipment at the end of the session, pick up rubbish, write out lines or do maths sums. Nowadays, it’s not politically correct to use exercise as punishment, but you can still ask the whole team to run laps for fitness (and to burn off excess energy) if you see them getting restless. The most important thing is to pay the well-behaved team members a lot more attention than the rebel. If you reward what you want, you’ll get more of it.

By Yvonne Walus

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