By Valerie Rice and Andrea Watson September 30, 2020
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS TO ME!” Aretha Franklin immortalized those words in song form in 1967, and they are epic. If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here. You’re welcome. Now, we were talking about raising those delightful teenage beasties, yes? What does this have to do with respect? EVERYTHING. The teenager is notoriously prickly, and you have to give it to get it. WHAT!? WHY?! Those ungrateful, good for nothing, little so and so…..wait. Hear me out.
GIVE AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
The relationship you had with your child is changing because they are growing up. These kids are pulling away from their families- it’s a developmental milestone- and gaining the respect of their peers and other adults in their lives. You just don’t hold the place of center-of-the-universe anymore. If you show them respect, they will return the favor. If you are genuine about it, they will be too. Remember how I said they were sponges when it comes to social behavior? That’s how they learn. Now imaging they mirror what they see. Have you met people who stomp around demanding respect because they exist, only their behavior is really in poor taste? Yeah. We don’t want that. Those people are insufferable. And I don’t respect them.
Kids today have a lot going on, and parenting is more than telling them what to do. So let’s do an exercise in genuine praise, shall we? Get a pen and paper. I want you to write a list of your child’s favorable qualities. At least ten. Got it? Now, I want you to casually drop praise for one of these things the next time you get the chance. Say your kid wanders into the kitchen and starts washing the dishes. Recognize that. Maybe say, “You know, you have a lot of integrity. Not many teenagers would wash up just because it needs doing. I really appreciate that.” Boom. Praise drop. It is genuine, timely, and shows respect for the person they are. They need these comments scattered throughout the day because it shows that you recognize them, validate their actions, and appreciate their actions. So keep it up without forcing it. But don’t fall back on empty compliments about their looks or performance, this sends the wrong message.
There are a few things we discussed in Part 2 that may need some explanation. It is obvious that people their age need privacy, so knocking should be a no-brainer. SHOULD be. I know parents who believe that privacy is a privilege and not a right, and will go so far as to take away a child’s bedroom and bathroom door. Please don’t be that guy. Removing privacy can range from mad disrespect to actual creep levels, so don’t. Remember; Children are not their parents’ property. Let that sink in. No human is property, so don’t think you have the right to strip them of their dignity, and just let them change their clothes in peace. Say “please” and “thank you.” Yes, you expect them to do something, but they value their time as much as you value yours. So show them that. It doesn’t hurt to be polite and they will do the same. Don’t yell or call them names. Seriously, you don’t put up with people yelling at you, right? So they shouldn’t either. This is just the basis of decent communication. Speaking of which…
Building trust goes along with respect, and the best way to do that is through open and honest communication. This is probably going to be tricky for a lot of people. I get it, you have an image to maintain. Parents want to be seen as infallible authority figures and omniscient beings. But we are really not. So let’s drop the facade. Seriously, your kids will have more respect for you and are going to be more likely to listen to your advice. So the first thing you do is simple. Don’t lie to them. About anything. I went all out and never did the whole Santa thing. It was just creepy to me. I give them total honesty and expect it in return. My kids know that they are more likely to get in trouble for lying than for doing something they aren’t supposed to. The next thing you do is admit when you are wrong, and apologize for it. So you screwed up, misspoke, whatever. You’re human. Own it. If you expect them to own up to their mistakes, you should too; don’t let pride get in the way of setting a good example. And finally, don’t make topics taboo. Teenagers are well aware of sex, drugs, drinking, and all those things most parents cringe when imagining their kids doing. Come on, weren’t you a teenager once? So stay calm, hear them out, and let them talk to you without consequence. Tell them how you feel, and your experience with these things, and they are more likely to come to you in the future. They are also more likely to avoid these things if you explain the consequences in a logical way instead of an irrational and emotional way. And just like that you built trust and gained their respect.
Growing up is never easy, and neither is parenting. Hopefully this series helped you get a handle on how to reduce the stress for you and your teenager. I know, it seems impossible, but it isn’t. I have four teenagers and have used all of these things to make parenting relatively stress free. Yup. It’s true. My kids do their chores, get up and do their school work, run errands, have a blast on family nights, and act as amazingly respectful, responsible humans. Not 100% of the time, life is hard, but almost all the time. So whatcha got to lose?