Teens have adultlike emotions and goals, but lack the emotional control to regulate themselves.

Ways to Teach Respect to a Teenager

by Damon Verial

Teaching your teen respect is different than teaching younger kids respect because teens see themselves as pseudo-adults -- children who don’t need to take direct advice from parents. But despite this difficulty, as a parent, you still have many methods to counter this attitude. Knowing where disrespectful actions and comments come from will help you define the root problem and develop appropriate strategy to turn your teen around.

1. Aim to Regulate Emotions

At the root of most actions of disrespect is an emotional drive. Emotions are the driving forces behind all actions, but in the adult world, people hold back their emotions as a way of respecting others. For instance, an adult attending a meeting might have come to the meeting in a bad mood, having fought with her lover or child beforehand. But she does not bring her mood into the meeting or turn her emotions into disrespectful actions. Adults have something called emotional intelligence, the ability to think of others’ feelings and control one’s own. But this skill is not one we are built with: Emotional intelligence is a learned skill. Help your teens regulate their emotions during a circumstance in which they commonly disrespect you or others. Walk them through what they are feeling and make the fact that their emotions are controlling their actions salient to them.

2. Accept Differences

The moral values and goals of teens and parents diverge as teens near adulthood. Many times, disrespect arise in situations in which parents and teens meet at an impasse. A parent has the tendency to wish her teen to adhere to her values. Teens, on the other hand, tend to insist on their own beliefs, often to the point of being disrespectful about these differences. In many cases, this can result in arguments and character attacks, with both parents and teens engaging in name-calling. A mom might vent her frustration by calling her son “lazy and irresponsible.” A teen who’s frustrated with his mom might call her “boring and stubborn.” But parents can prevent such circumstance by accepting differences and teaching their teens to accept differences. Instead of focusing on what you both don’t like, focus on the areas in which you converge and find goals that you can work on together.

3. Put Communication First

As a parent, you know that you know more than your teen. But according to psychologist Michael Riera, author of the book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” this very fact could be causing your teen to lash out at you. If you are too obvious about your knowledge, such as to the point of trivializing your teen’s problems, your teen will feel you are looking down on him. Hide your knowledge when necessary -- put communication first. Use questioning to find out how your teen feels about certain circumstance and why he acts in certain ways, even if you already have a good idea. By doing so, your teen will believe that you not only care about his issues but also respect him.

4. Separate Adults from Peers

When a child reaches her teens, the parent-child dynamic changes. One of the most apparent changes is the difficulty in connecting with your teen on a deep level. Parents often experiment with being their teen’s friends as a way of getting closer to their teens. But doing so could backfire, causing your teen to disrespect you. The fact is, the position of “parent” is one of immediate respect, whereas that of “friend” is not. When you become your teen’s friend, you show her that you believe you two to be on an equal standing, which is not true. Your teen will be less likely to take your suggestions, comments and expectations seriously. So separate yourself from your teen’s peers by taking and maintaining the role of the parent, even as you witness your teen distancing herself from you -- she will respect you for it.

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