Respecting Your Teenager

How do I give my teenager the respect he deserves? I'll admit that we butt heads pretty often – he's the type that requires a lot of correction and guidance, and as a result ours isn't the most peaceful household on the block. But I honestly don't believe that I've ever done anything to denigrate him as a person. In spite of this, he's forever telling me that I don't "respect" him as I should. 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?

Teens often make the mistake of equating respect with permission. They say, “If you respect me, you’ll let me.” Is that what you’re hearing from your son? If so, you need to know that this simply isn’t true. Respect and permission are two very different things. You are the parent, and your child needs to respect your authority and abide by your rules as long as he remains under your roof.

What exactly is “respect”? And how can it be effectively observed within the context of a relationship between two individuals who are not “equal” in terms of position and authority? We’d suggest that respect between parent and child can be best defined as the act of giving a person the particular attention or special regard he deserves. It’s a matter of demonstrating that you consider him worthy of high esteem. It is always extremely important to give your son this “particular attention” and “special regard.” Even while he’s a minor. Even when he’s not reflecting it back to you. That can be hard. But you can do it successfully if you follow these helpful hints:

    • Listen completely to your teen before drawing conclusions or making decisions. Take as much time as this requires. It may or may not change your mind, but listen first. “Listening” doesn’t mean “agreeing.”


    • Trust him to the extent that he has proven himself trustworthy. 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. Rules are often made out of convenience for the parent, or to assuage an adult’s fears or satisfy his need for control. Resist that temptation.


    • Admit when he’s right and you’re wrong. Such honesty is the backbone of mutual respect.


    • Never belittle or intentionally embarrass him. Publicly or privately – it doesn’t matter. Don’t indulge in name-calling – not even if you’re angry. Young people can be gravely wounded by the careless words of parents.


    • Distinguish between behavior and character. It’s one thing to point out wrong actions, but be careful not to attack your child’s character in the process.


  • Remind him that he is made in God’s image. This is basic to what it means to be human. And if your son is a Christian – if he claims to represent the Lord – he should be seeking the respect of others as a way of honoring God with his witness.

As you do these things consistently, you’ll be showing him respect – even though you won’t always be able to “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 even when you don’t see eye to eye.

If you’d like to discuss your questions with a member of our staff, get in touch with our Counseling department for a free consultation. They’ll be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


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