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Dr. Sylvia Rimm


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Teacher Finds Teens Disrespectful


Q. I'd like to share an experience I had with a student yesterday. I let the students have a dry erase marker so they could play hangman on the board at the end of the period. The word they chose was "mobster." When they tired of hangman, one of them started drawing gang symbols on the board. I explained that he would be written up if he did that and that the markers weren't for play.

Next, he started writing graffiti on the board, so I asked for the marker back. He whined and said I was silly. I said, "The markers are my personal property. I paid for them, and I don't want them wasted. I use them for teaching and for educational purposes. Please give the markers back to me." He said, "What? These cost 50 cents," and punctuated it with a choice expletive. I then said, "Young man, the markers do not belong to you, and they're not to be wasted. Please hand them over."

I turned back to my newspaper and waited, pretending not to watch. After about 15 seconds, he put the marker back on my desk. I told him to erase his graffiti, which he did slowly.

I think that teens don't like it when parents and teachers say no to them. I never would have acted the way this boy did, so I wonder if he's not made to follow rules at home. I was too tired for a battle, but I couldn't let this happen either. It's a struggle getting students to follow simple rules.

A. Adolescence has always been a time when teens push limits a little, but you're absolutely correct that more teens are disrespectful today than in the past. It does seem that each generation becomes a bit more difficult to parent and teach, and that adolescent disrespect begins earlier and earlier.

The media's image of teens being disrespectful toward adults hurts parent and teacher efforts.

Fortunately, there continue to be many wonderful teenagers who look to their teachers and parents for guidance, and who accomplish amazing contributions and challenges. Consider also that the disrespectful ones may be dealing with their own feelings of failure.

Thanks for hanging in there and setting limits for those teens who push too hard. While the cost of a marker isn't the major problem, the boy's disrespect had to be stopped, and you managed that beautifully without further battle.

Remember, for every student who stays in school just to push the teacher's buttons, there are hundreds who look to you as a role model and willingly learn what you teach so that they can lead productive and positive lives. By the time children are in high school, parents don't often take the opportunity to thank teachers, so on behalf of all those parents who are also struggling to guide adolescents, we appreciate your firmness and your kindness.

For free newsletters about the parent-teacher united front or growing up too fast for middle or high schoolers, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more parenting information.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Its teachers like u who piss teens like us off!get a life. We are tired of people controlling our lives. We feel so uncomfortable and insignificant. We just want to be independant. WE CANT WAIT TO LEAVE HOME!!!!!!!!
Comment: #1
Posted by: james
Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:38 AM
I agree that there are teens who are disrespectful but it is not that they are but learned it from somewhere in my opinion. and mabye you did something that made you lose their respect. wether you are teacherstudent or parent you all have to earn respect. its not supposed to be something thats gift wrapped for you and given. not a gift. you have to try and earn respect (and try in diffrent ways) because there are plenty who can consider you disrespectful.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Justin
Fri Nov 6, 2009 5:44 AM
Yes, kids had to have learned it from somewhere, the relevant thing is that someone has to put a foot down and say enough. and responding to the other previous comments-it's blatant "screw you" attitudes and the "I won't follow the rules laid at by you"(by the way-you wouldn't tell a judge well I don't want to follow your rules so you can't do anything about it, no I won't pay the fine, no I won't do community service, no I won' you tell your parents) kids that have no self control that just like "YOU CAN'T WAIT TO LEAVE HOME!"it makes us parents feel that"WE CAN'T WAIT FOR YOU TO MOVE OUT!"
As the old saying goes, James and Justin and all other teenagers like you-"HURRY, MOVE OUT WHILE YOU STILL KNOW EVERYTHING!"
Comment: #3
Posted by: Catherine
Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:50 PM
Their are plenety of kids that are disrespectful to teachers and other adults. Ash yourself why? It maynot be the parents fault and i not saying it yours; infact, i think you handle the problem very well, but their some teacers that need to go back to school and learn how to deal with kids. If you hollor at them and talk to them bad what do you think the kids are going to do? They will give you attitude, because you look at them as if they don't have any feeling. Most of you try and embarass them which further escalate the problem. I think some teachers don't how to handle children. And those are the ones that should be laid off!!!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Terri
Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:07 PM
Sorry for the mispell words. I forgot to check it before posting it.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Terri
Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:10 PM
Re: james
James, perhaps you need to do some reflection of your own and "get a life." Narcissists like you are too busy doodling genitalia on your desks and eye rolling to see how ridiculous and annoying your behavior is to others around you and to your teachers. If you want to be free, go out on your own and make your own money to live and eat - without an education. You will soon see that your life is just a dead end embarrassment.
Comment: #6
Posted by: A Minute of Reflection
Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:45 PM
I used to teach junior high school. I always showed respect to my students, but there were some who showed respect to no one. Not me, not the other students, no one at all. When I saw them with their parents, it was clear why this was so. They spoke to their parents with such disresect, even contempt, that I understood why they were disrepectful in class. But I relentlessly tried to teach them respect, as long as they were with me, because I knew that unless they learned respect from someone, they would never be successful on a job, or anywhere, really.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Patty Bear
Sun Mar 3, 2013 1:20 PM
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