Posts

My Teenager Is Disrespectful and Has No Empathy. What Do I Do?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: Assalam aleykum,

I have a teenager who is hyper most of the time, is disrespectful to everyone around her (elders and children), has no empathy and says some things that are out of context. I am stuck as how to deal with her. Can you help me?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Assessment

I encourage you to bring your daughter to get some kind of behavioural and mood assessment. It is possible that she may be struggling with something deeper. If your teenager has no empathy, then she may be on the autism spectrum. If she is, then it is imperative for you to get the right kind of support.

If she is not, it still sounds like she is struggling with basic rules of interaction. Please consider finding a culturally-sensitive counsellor for her. Family therapy may also be useful for you and your daughter.

Hyperactivity

You describe your teenager as being hyper. What is her daily screen time usage? It may be a good idea to limit her screen time to one hour a day. Please look at articles like this for ideas.

What is her diet like? Common dietary causes of irritability could be certain types of food or preservatives. Look at articles like this to guide your teenager’s food consumption.

Connection

What are some ways you can help your teenager feel more connected to you? Can you spend some quality time, no-expectation time together on a daily basis? Please read this article for more ideas.

Respectful behaviour

I encourage you to set clear limits with your daughter. Before social events, remind her about what is respectful behaviour with elders: giving salams, addressing them by appropriate titles, making eye contact, smiling etc.

With younger children, encourage her to be compassionate, forgiving, gentle, and so on.

If you have already established these clear guidelines and she still does not comply, it could be because she is genuinely struggling to read social cues. Again, this goes back to her possibly being on the autism spectrum. She is not trying to be difficult; she may be finding social situations too difficult and overwhelming for her.

Self-care

I cannot imagine how stressful this must be for you. Please know that Allah Most High knows how much you are trying. Do not blame yourself for your daughter’s shortcomings. Instead of blame, focus on problem-solving.

Please look after yourself in this time. I encourage you to do at least one thing for yourself every day – a cup of tea, a walk in the park, or a phone call to someone who can listen to you and offer warm support.

Duas

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace), “The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): ‘I supplicated my Rabb but my prayer has not been granted’.” [Bukhari and Muslim].

Please remember the power of your duas. Don’t give up on your daughter, and please don’t lose hope. Allah can transform her. It will take time, but it is entirely possible for your daughter to become a kinder, more grounded, and  more compassionate version of herself. I know of many troubled teens who have become pillars of strength and support to others in their late twenties and beyond.

Spiritual nourishment

Continue to perform the Prayer of Need in the last third of the night for your daughter. Consider giving small regular charity and make dua for your daughter’s healing. May Allah draw you ever close to Him through this trial, grant healing for your daughter, and soothe your tired heart. Please keep in touch.

Please see:

A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah
Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long
Emotional First Aid

[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.