Can a Parent Expect Respect?

by Sissy Goff

"If I talked to my dad the way my son talks to me ..." is a statement I've heard countless times. Kids today feel a new freedom to speak and act in ways that most parents would never have considered when they were growing up. Parents can't help but wonder if respect is outdated or old-fashioned. They find themselves wondering, What's a modern parent to do?

Throughout my years of counseling, I've found that parents want their teens to trust them and to be able to talk to them, so they play it safe. They let the first roll of the eyes and "Whatever, Mom" slide. Before they know it, they've got a problem on their hands. Disrespect.

The reality is that you can — and should — expect something different. As a matter of fact, in the world of teens, expect and respect have quite a bit to do with each other. As you redefine your expectations in hopes of building a respectful relationship, consider the following:

Expect your teen to speak to you civilly. Your teen needs your help in learning how to express his frustration respectfully. Rather than reacting to your teen's attitude or how he rolls his eyes, calmly ask him to express his feelings without disrespect. Simply ask that he "try again."

Expect your teen to treat her siblings the way she would like to be treated. Brothers and sisters will obviously disagree from time to time, but they should not be allowed to use hurtful or disrespectful words.

One savvy mother came up with a creative way to curb her children's tendency to "parent" each other. Each time one of the children parented the other, he or she was required to continue parenting by making the other's bed or lunches for a week. This mom simply set a clear boundary and expected her teens to show respect for each other.

Expect your teen to be a helpful member of your household. Teens need responsibilities at home because the experience prepares them for life and reinforces their confidence as capable individuals. When you expect your teen to help at home, you curb his selfishness and help him to respect and honor the people he lives with.

Respect is not outdated or old-fashioned, and modern parents have a responsibility to teach their teens to be respectful in a myriad of ways. Regardless of what is now accepted as the social norm, respect is relevant to many areas of your teen's world. However, don't assume that changing your expectations automatically means your teen will enthusiastically comply. As you parent your teen, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Model respect in how you treat your teen and how your teen sees you treating others.

  • Choose your battles wisely.

  • Follow through with promised consequences.

  • Enjoy your teen. Respect comes more naturally when you make time to simply enjoy one another.

You have been chosen by God to be a parent to your son or daughter. God will equip you with all you need to love and train your teen, so dare to redefine your expectations. You can be a good parent without playing it safe.


Sissy Goff is the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., and has authored five books, including Modern Parents, Vintage Values.

~ See more articles for parents of teens. ~

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