Preteens are notorious for acting out. What's the best way to handle a child who purposely disregards manners to annoy you?

By La Colombe
October 05, 2005
Credit: Raphael Buchler

Q: Now that my daughter has turned 12, her manners are suddenly embarrassingly bad. Why is she regressing like this?

A: Actually, she's not. She's progressing -- into adolescence. "It is not unusual for a child this age to suddenly start to 'forget' her manners," notes Linda Braun, executive director of Families First, a family-support program at Wheelock College in Boston. "But if you begin to nag, it will indicate to your daughter that her bad manners are pushing your buttons." She may decide to use this behavior, Braun adds, as a safe way of showing a little bit of preteen rebellion.

Tell your daughter that you think she's sending the wrong message about herself to other people when she is impolite, and ask her how you can help her to remember her manners more easily. Maybe the two of you can brainstorm together on a secret signal, such as winking your right eye or quietly clearing your throat, that you can use as a reminder for her to be more courteous.

You might tell her, "When you're with your friends, you can act as unmannerly as you please. But let's make an agreement that when you're with me or other adults in our family and among our friends, you'll try your best to use your manners."

The rule of thumb: The more your daughter feels like she is an active participant in suggesting solutions on how to clean up her manners, the more likely it is that she will cooperate.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.