3 Effective Respect Builders by Ron Powell


Mutual Respect!

That was the main thing 110 parents of teens shouted back at me when I asked, “What is the foundation of a great relationship with your teen!” But when I asked “How do we get that level of respect,” the crowd was less certain.

I have given this a lot of thought and talked with many parents about it. Here are 3 ideas we’ve come up with:

Maintain Credibility

Amy Morin is a professional counsellor who blogs at about.com on the subject of parenting teens. She suggests that respect is based on maintaining our credibility as parents. This includes maintaining a healthy relationship with our teen and consistently working to maintain that relationship. Moring suggests:

“Spend quality time together and develop healthy patterns of communication.Be honest with your teen. That doesn’t mean you have to tell your child all about your past transgressions or adult problems, but it does mean giving your teen accurate and honest information.”

She also advised, “Many parents give teens messages like, “Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol is bad.” Although it’s good to advise teens not to drink, telling them that alcohol is bad can actually ruin your credibility.” This is particularly true if they are used to observing you enjoying a drink from time to time.

Credibility is best achieved by living up to our word. Nothing erodes trust like changing our mind when it is convenient and breaking promises to our kids. Teens despise hypocrisy and have no respect for adults who lack integrity. We may equally despise being judged by students but its only right that we should be people of our word and practice what we preach.

We are not required to be their best buddy but we do need to follow through on our commitments if we want their respect.

 Communicate Value

Our kids have less life experience than we do but that doesn’t mean that they know nothing about their world. There are things that they know about youth culture and the emerging world that we are not aware of. If we acknowledge this and give them credit for what they know they will be more accepting of our point of view.

Respect is not built upon us being right in all circumstances. Likewise, it isn’t built on constantly proving teens wrong. The more we are able to listen completely and value a teens’[ input, the more that they will feel our respect for them.

One way that we demonstrate this is by becoming more democratic as a family. The “my way or the highway” approach leaves teens feeling that their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. As they move toward adulthood, hearing them out and including their opinions in family decisions will help build a relationship of mutual respect.

 Allow them to Fail

It’s hard to admit that I have failed, but I have. As adult that is my prerogative. As teens take on adult responsibilities they need to be allowed the same freedom that we have. That is the freedom to make a wrong turn on the road, buy a bad product, or get stuck in awkward situations because of a bad choice. Of course this doesn’t mean we let them decide everything but with time we let them decide more and more.

Letting teens face the natural consequences of their choices instead of jumping in to rescue them in every circumstance helps us show respect for their choices. As they recognize that we are not going to bail them out they will weigh the consequences more carefully.

The other benefit of letting teens face the consequences of making their own decisions is that they begin to understand how we make decisions. Greater understanding always accompanies greater respect.

There’s Always More

Clearly these are just 3 practices that help foster a relationship based on mutual respect. Teens are not the only ones who cross lines in this area. It can be challenging to respect someone who we taught to ride a bike. Sometimes we are guilty of treating them like they are still six years old. Providing respect that is appropriate for their age will help them develop into a mature adult.

Maintaining our credibility, showing we value their thoughts and feelings, yet allowing them to fail (if the consequences are not too grave!) goes a long way toward building respect teen to parent and parent to teen!

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