Teaching your teenager to respect adults might seem impossible, especially when he seems determined to do just the opposite. While frustrating or even hurtful, his disrespectful behavior is likely a normal part of teen development. In fact, incomplete frontal lobe development in his brain makes it difficult for him to consider how his disrespectful attitude affects other people, according to Frances Jensen, pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, in an article for NPR.
1 Establish your expectations for his behavior and reinforce that disrespect is not tolerated. Define what respect means for you. Explain that being respectful does not necessarily mean he has to agree with someone else. In fact, respect can mean different things to different people, according to Drs. Carla L. Spagnoletti and Robert M. Arnold in a 2007 "Journal of General Internal Medicine" article. What might initially appear to be disrespectful behavior might stem from a misunderstanding of what respect means.
2 Enforce consequences consistently whenever is he disrespectful, but forgive mistakes that both of you make. He will not feel respected if you constantly remind him of past mistakes. Through it all, keep your sense of humor. The teenage years are a tumultuous time and sometimes you might need to take a step back to gain some perspective on the situation. Even though he may vehemently deny it, he needs your loving structure, non-conditional support and guidance in his life.
3 Model respectful behaviors and he will likely emulate them himself, as Dr. Robyn Silverman, child/teen development specialist, recommends. Hold the door open for the young mom with three small children in tow. Speak kindly to service people such as restaurant servers or repair people. Most importantly, show your teen respect. Maintain good eye contact when he wants to talk.
4 Command respect in your own life, suggests Elizabeth Svoboda, author of "What Makes a Hero?", writing for Psychology Today. Some people seem to always put others needs before their own. Unfortunately, this does not teach your teen self-respect or respect for others. Learn to say no once in awhile. That might mean you turn down a request to bake six dozen cookies for the school bake sale or schedule a pedicure for yourself once a month instead of taking your teen to the pool.
- NPR: The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet
- USA Today: Experts Help Parents Get a Grip on Teen Lip
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Even More Difficult to Teach Than to Define
- Dr. Robyn Silverman: 10 Tips on Teaching Respect to Children: You Can’t Get it if You Don’t Give it!
- Suny Cortland: Excellence and Ethics
- Psychology Today: Field Guide to the People-Pleaser: May I Serve as Your Doormat?
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