Respect is that critical ‘tool’ that all parents need to survive the adolescent parenting years. Virtually every piece of research confirms that teenagers who respect their parents have a greater chance of getting through the teen years with greater ease. When our kids are young, we can be very directive because they are more dependent on us and generally obey. Teenagers resist the directive approach. They call it control. They need to be influenced by us instead. Influence comes with respect.
Earning respect takes lots of time and effort. It can be broken easily. That often happens when us parents get worried and revert to treating our teens and young adults like much younger children. Disrespect of their maturity leads to a quick reaction of disrespect from them to us.
With some self reflection most parents can recognize their own self-serving or disrespectful behaviour. Most of us do not realize immediately its effect on their son or daughter. Demonstrating respect by example is a powerful way to teach your adolescent how to give respect in return.
According to Michael Bradley author of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind, and my own experience here lists of what destroys and what builds respect.
What Teens and Young Adults Say Destroys Their Respect for You
• When you retaliate to their attacks in kind with insults and hurtful words.
• When you are sarcastic, roll your eyes or say something under your breath.
• How you act after having too many drinks.
• When you beg or demand their affection.
• When you are so weak in character and restraint that you use physical force with them and then justify it by saying they deserved it.
• When you act like a teenager when upset.
• When you act like a teenager to be cool.
• When you act the opposite of cool, believing that fear and punishment from authority, perhaps the way you were raised, is a good way to parent.
• When you resort to angry threats and force to get them to do something.
• When they learn about an extra-marital affair.
• When they see you and your spouse quarrelling disrespectfully, and not resolving the problems in your marriage.
• When you don’t recognize how much it hurts to have parents who are divorced and do nothing to help them with the adjustment.
What Teens and Young Adults Say Increases Their Respect for You
• Your honesty, especially when you admit your mistakes.
• Your persistence when you constantly offer your help with some homework or assignment, even when rejected.
• Consistently showing up to their games and performances even when they’ve said they don’t care if you come.
• Offering affection without demanding it in return.
• When you laugh at yourself when you goof up because it makes it easier for them to tell you about their goof ups.
• When you don’t take their messiness personally. Especially if you are a very neat and orderly person yourself.
• Instead of getting angry, you express how concerned you are when they do something like coming home really late at night or drinking and driving.
• When you work hard to provide for them without complaining or holding it over them by expecting more gratitude.
• How you stay composed when they expect you to get really angry with them for something they’ve done.
• How you treasure your spouse and show how special they are to you after all these years.
• How you teach them by example by the way you live more than by telling them and lecturing.
• When you let them make decisions that they know you wanted to control.
• When your teen or young adult is going nuts about some drama they are involved in, and you listen and stay calm.
Your teenager is a version of you. They are influenced by primarily by two sources: your genes and your relationship. The degree of influence of each may be a matter of debate. Nevertheless, your influence with your teenager will be much greater when you continually nurture their respect for you, by showing respect for them.