One of the biggest problems that I see in counseling, particularly between parents and teens, is a lack of respect between family members. I have lost count of how many times, I’ve seen and heard shouting matches take place in session between a parent and a teenager. Most of the fights that occur between parents and teens are all about who is right and who is wrong, and there is often no room for compromise or even being willing to work together. The problem with this mindset is that it leaves no room for the one little word that an entire song was written about that is still a hit today; R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think we all can agree that all of us as humans are entitled to some form of respect. This is especially true in family relationships. Now allow me to be candid here with you all. This is not a post where I’m going to tell you that you should let your teenager walk all over you and have whatever they want. This is a post about educating your teen in how to treat everyone around them with respect and with dignity even if people do not agree with them. This is also a post about how you, mom and dad, can show respect to your teen as the man or woman that they are becoming. So join me on this candid conversation as we jump right into how to create a culture of respect for your family.
- Make it a rule that respect is a right and not a privilege when it comes to family members. Respect is an essential component in the health of a family, and also in any healthy relationship. Making it a requirement for your teen to address family members, even that annoying sibling that rubs them the wrong way, in a respectful manner will teach them how to address other people when they become adults. It will also help them know how to really foster a close relational bond with others.
- Have a zero tolerance policy for disrespectful or abusive behaviors in your family. Abuse is essentially tearing down a person’s dignity and personhood because the abuser wishes to control or use the victim and they use different means in order to do so (i.e. mental, emotional, physical, sexual, etc.). There is no place for abuse of any kind in a healthy family system. And this may involve quick and decisive action on your part as a parent. If you seen your teenager bullying or abusing family members, make it a point to end it immediately and establish that there is no place for it in your family. If another family member is being abusive, then it falls on us as parents to put an end to it immediately, and possibly seek out legal recourse.
- Be willing to agree to disagree when necessary. This is slowly becoming a lost art in our culture nowadays. Many people tend to stick with the following idea: If you don’t agree with me, then you are against me. This is not true. Many people may disagree with us, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t care about us or love us for who we are. It also does not mean that they are disappointed by the views we hold, or think that we are less than human because we have them. There are sometimes when some people just don’t agree when it comes to certain ideas or topics, and that is okay. The respectful thing to do is to allow them to think the way that they do even if we don’t like it. If they are trying to be abusive with their views (i.e. call you stupid for thinking the way that you do, degrading you by saying you are less than moral if you hold to the views that you do, or even saying that you don’t deserve respect because you think the way that you do, etc.), then you have every right to separate yourself from that person and not keep company with them. This is a necessary lesson that your teen must learn in order to have a healthy relationship with others.
- Encourage your teen to be open and honest about how they feel about a situation or a problem, respectfully. This is an important step in teaching them how to advocate for themselves. Being honest in a respectful way about how they feel about an unpleasant situation can encourage your teen to seek out help with handling the problem in a positive way, and help them feel connected and supported by you as a parent. This also teaches them how to express emotion in a way that is not volatile.
- Don’t be afraid to partner with your teen to solve a difficult situation. Don’t underestimate your teen’s intelligence. Many times we as adults like to dismiss our teens ideas as being silly or nonsensical because they are young. We do this to our detriment. Our teens may have a fresh perspective on an idea which could actually help us with possibly solving a problem. This may mean that we have to actually sit down and listen to what they have to say. Now that doesn’t mean that we automatically say our teen may be right or do what they say immediately, but it does mean that we have to hear them out completely and at least consider what they have to say before just automatically saying no.
- Don’t be afraid when your teen asks questions about what you’ve asked them to do. It’s natural for a teenager to question authority a little bit, and that’s what we want them to do to a certain extent. This does not mean that we allow them to out and out defy what we ask them to do, or allow them to say that what we’ve asked them to do is stupid. Instead, we allow them to ask them a few questions about what we’ve asked them to do, while keeping our expectations that a task must be done. We can also encourage our teens to look at what someone in position of authority asks them to do and