Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size

    Help! My Kid Is a Jerk!

    By Lisa O'Neill Hill
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

    Your kid is great -- good sport, lots of good deeds -- but he has obnoxious moments. And those moments threaten your sanity.

    Sometimes he doesn't listen to you. He won't take no for an answer. He's mean to his sister. You start to ask yourself, "Is my kid a jerk?"

    Some ages are naturally harder on kids -- and parents. But how can you tell what's normal? What can you do about it? And when should you get help?

    "All of those behaviors are typically one of two things: a cry for help or attention," says Christine Carter, PhD, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. "I see these things as flags, maybe not red flags, but certainly yellow or orange."

    The answer to many of these problems may surprise you.

    "The best thing that parents can do is listen," says Kristin Kenefick, associate professor of clinical psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. "Stop talking and really listen to your kid."

    Here are some common problems and some tips for dealing with them:

    They dish out sassy or back talk, yell, or have angry outbursts.

    Why they do it: Disappointment, anger, or frustration

    What you can do: Point out the difference between what your child feels and how she acts. Feelings are always OK. Tell your child you understand her feelings, but help her take the heat out of the moment.

    "The most appropriate response [when you feel] angry is to do something to calm yourself down so you can be effective," Carter says. Suggest your kid take 10 deep breaths or write a letter that she never sends. After a few minutes, she can come back and try again to talk calmly.

    They disobey or ignore you.

    Why they do it: She's testing her limits. She probably wants more freedom but might feel too controlled. "Sometimes ... parents don't adjust their expectations for the kid, so they may still be treating the kid like he or she is 8 or 9," when she's older, Kenefick says. Kids, especially teenagers, need a bit of freedom. "When parents don't give kids this opportunity, that's when they see a lot of conflict."

    What you can do: Let them make choices that are right for their age. "Their lives are so structured and they're just trying to carve out a place for themselves," Carter says. But they also need limits. "If they don't feel like they have boundaries, they will start disobeying you a lot to test you," she says. So it's important to follow through when they break the rules -- each and every time.

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
    mother and daughter talking
    child brushing his teeth
    Sipping hot tea
    boy drinking from cereal bowl
    hand holding a cell phone
    rl with friends
    girl being bullied
    Child with adhd