Q: My teenage son keeps telling me that I don’t “respect” him as I should. I’ll admit that we often butt heads, but I honestly don’t believe that I’ve ever done anything to insult him as a person. What does it mean for a parent to “respect” a child? I can’t just let him have his own way all the time, can I?
A: Many teens make the mistake of equating respect with permission. They say, “If you respect me, you’ll let me.” But respect and permission are two very different things. You’re the parent, and your child needs to respect your authority and abide by your rules as long as he remains under your roof.
Respect is best defined as the act of giving a person the particular attention or special regard he deserves. It’s demonstrating that you consider him worthy of high esteem – even when he’s not reflecting it back to you. That can be hard. But here are some helpful hints:
- Listen completely before drawing conclusions or making decisions. Take as much time as this requires. Note: “Listening” doesn’t mean “agreeing.”
- Trust is earned. Give your son as much freedom as he has shown he can handle. No more, no less. This can be a tough balancing act.
- Be consistent in your words, deeds, decisions, rules and choices. It’s hard for a teen to respect anyone who is inconsistent or hypocritical.
- Establish rules that are logical, fair, reasonable and truthful. Resist the temptation to make rules for your own convenience, or to satisfy a need for control.
- Admit when he’s right and you’re wrong. Honesty is the backbone of mutual respect.
- Never belittle or intentionally embarrass him – publicly or privately. No name-calling, even if you’re angry. Careless words hurt.
- Distinguish between behaviour and character. It’s one thing to point out wrong actions, but be careful not to attack your child’s character in the process.
By doing these things consistently, you’ll show him respect – even though you won’t always “give in” to his requests. This balance of justice, guidance and respect will be a valuable example of how he should extend respect to you (and others) even when you don’t see eye to eye.
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