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10 Ways to get Your Teenager to Listen and be Respectful

Being a teenager is hard. Being the parent of a teenager can be just as hard, if not harder. Teenagers are faced with new emotions and confusion about how to be in this place that is not quite childhood but not quite adulthood. Parents find themselves wondering where their sweet, responsible child went. With a little understanding and guidance, navigating life with a teenager can be a little easier though. Here are 10 tips for getting your teenager to listen and be respectful:

  1. Talk honestly and openly with them. Being open with another person seems to be one of the hardest things we are able to do. There is such a deep fear that if we are honest, we are exposed. Sure there are some things people don’t need to know about us, especially our teenagers, but keep in mind that when you model honesty to your teenager, they respect it. Let them know the reality of situations, but don’t over-talk. Share the facts, tell them the truth and be real with them.
  2. Let them know you are human. No single person in this world is perfect. For many, their primary goal is to act like it. But they actually believe you when you lett your child know that you are imperfect, that you do the best you can with what you have. Our natural development causes us to look at our parents in our early 20s and evaluate ourselves in comparison to who they are. This is frightening for a parent when they realize their kids may “find them out.” Don’t be afraid or defensive, or sensitive to being “found out” — you are only human. We all do things we are not proud of. Own it, understand it, work to not repeat it, and move forward. We are honestly our ugliest persons with our children, because at the end of the day, no matter how awful we are, they still love us, and think we are amazing. Keep this in mind, and don’t take it for granted.
  3. Engage in fun activities with them. Just because they are growing, doesn’t mean they are not still children. Some of your best memories are probably playing outside with your child, going to the mountains, the park, or to do some fun activity. Take a day and sneak away to the theme park, go for a hike, book a hotel and get away, just for the fun of it! Be a kid with your kid. Remind them of your pleasure in their company. We all get busy, as do I, but making the time for these little memories is not time consuming, but life changing.
  4. Be a parent and not a friend. You are the adult. Being the “cool parent” will get you nowhere but into the category of the disrespected adult. Sure the kids will think you are cool now, but some day, they will look back and their level of respect and pride will be decreased. Remember, kids do things that are irresponsible, unsafe, scary and daring, all to test the boundaries and limits. It is your job to be there when they fall and pick them up. Be the adult. Show them the consequences if there are not already natural ones in play, and be the parent that keeps them safe at the end of the day. 
  5. Talk to them as if you are listening, not all-knowing. There is nothing I do more with parents than to help them talk less. Parents feel like they have little chances to say much to their kids, so they say it all when the time is allotted. Parents also experience a fear of whatever it is that they need to say to their child, so they often talk to reduce their own fears. Sometimes, less is more. Saying what you need to say and letting them sit with it gets the job done. Keep in mind that many times we need to repeat ourselves in order to feel validated. Trust that your child has heard you the first time, and don’t wait for them to validate you.
  6. Let them know you still care about them. Many times parents and their teenagers become so disconnected they forget one another is there and still cares. Let them know your vulnerable side, show them how important you are to them, and share with them your feelings and thoughts. They need this just as much now as they did when they were little.
  7. Show them responsibilities. Teaching your teenager responsibility helps them to gain security, self worth, independence and strong skills for the world ahead. If they break something, they pay to fix it. If they want something, they have to earn it or can split the cost, or whatever works best in your family. They have chores that are part of the lives you live that have no rewards, and they have additional tasks they can do for extra things, allowance, etc. If they are 18 and living at home, even if it is a little amount, contributing to the house — electric, rent, water, food — is huge. Come up with a reasonable figure that will help teach responsibility, but also help support their lives and independence and they will understand it better.
  8. Let them fall, then pick them up. There are no better lessons to learn than the ones we learn the hard way. Teenagers test every boundary, limit, expectation and rule to the limit, often without even realizing it. Letting them learn to be respectful but also to face the ramifications to the hard things presented is huge. Give them the gift of learning it by being there for them when and after they have fallen. Support them in getting back on their feet, but be sure you follow through with the consequences you have instilled, and or the outside world has, if it’s not important to you, it won’t be to them.
  9. Lead by example. This is so very hard for most of us. We all know the things we do that we shouldn’t do, but we do them. Right? It’s about doing. Are we DOING what we want our kids to see. If we smoke and don’t want our kids to smoke, we have to DO it too. If we lie and don’t want our kids to lie, we have to DO the opposite. The whole “I’m a grown up and I can do what I want and when you are a grown up you can too” is a nice concept but we often find that what we do, we create our children to DO as well. Leading by example shows them respect for not only yourself but also for them. And remember lesson No. 2: you are human.
  10. Ask for help when you need it. Sometimes, the best way to build something is to have the right tools. If you are having a difficult time with your child, that is OK, raising a human is the hardest job in the world, give yourself some credit and know that you are doing the best you can with the resources that you have. Talk with a professional, family member, friend, whomever. You don’t have to know it all or do it all on your own.


photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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