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The Secret Way to Teach Your Teenager Respect

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“Oh my gosh, Mom, you told me that 10 times already,” my 14-year old complained with a dramatic roll of her eyes. Ugh, I thought. What’s the secret for how to teach your teenager respect? And more importantly, how do I actually earn her respect?

Here’s what I’ve learned: Demanding respect doesn’t work. Reminding teens that you’ve already taught them respect doesn’t work. Do you want to know how to teach your teenager respect? It’s by respecting your teenager. What they receive they will give back. But how do you show them respect when it feels like they haven’t earned it?  Try these 5 small yet practical ways to begin (and your teenager won’t hate them)!

Knock before entering.

I know it’s not an earth-shattering idea, and I know it’s “your house,” but teenagers crave their own private space. Even if you don’t allow closed doors, simply knocking and waiting for a response shows that you acknowledge this is his space. He could be dressing or not ready to see people for whatever reason, and you can patiently wait for the green light to enter.

Knocking shows that you see he is growing up and, therefore, respect his privacy.

Ask her opinion and then take it.

Not every time, but at least every once in a while, ask your teen’s opinion and then actually act upon it. Teenagers think adults don’t really listen to their opinions and automatically dismiss them as inferior. While it’s true that we have loads more life experience than our teens, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a great idea or a valid opinion that’s worth acting on every once in a while. So when possible, take it. They will feel shocked—and validated.

Taking her opinion into account shows her that you respect her thoughts and ideas.

Let him manage his bedtime and wake-up time.

For those of us who like to have control (ahem), it is very difficult to leave bedtime and wake-up time up to our teens. When they go to bed too late and are tired the next day, we’re the ones who have to deal with the repercussions. However, there’s a lot a teen can learn from managing his own sleep time. He will learn (the hard way) that it’s brutal getting through the school day and sports practice if, for five days in a row, you’ve only slept for four hours. And when he puts homework off until the last minute, the price to pay is either one long, grueling night or a low grade. These things are usually pretty good teachers, albeit hard to witness.

Letting him manage his own bedtime shows that you respect that he is able to learn from his own choices.

Give her a longer window to do her chores.

When I ask my kids to do something, I really want them to do it right now. And there is value in teaching kids to obey right away. But teens do have more responsibilities, and they often have their own agendas. So consider giving her a longer window to complete the task. For example, instead of taking out the garbage right this minute, ask her to take it out before dinner tonight. Or if you see that she is busy, ask, “When would you like to take care of this?”

Being more flexible doesn’t mean you are making the task optional; you’re just showing your teen that you respect her time.

Give him a privilege the younger siblings do not get.

We often expect more from our older kids because they are capable of more. While the youngest child is asked to clear her plate after dinner, the oldest child is asked to wash all the dishes. The oldest children also have to manage more homework, more complex relationships, and perhaps even their first paid jobs. It can seem like a rotten deal to be the oldest—unless you give him privileges that the younger kids don’t get, like choosing the restaurant or staying out later.

Gradually treating your teen more like an adult will show him that you respect his age and status in the family.

I know it’s difficult to show your teens respect when you don’t think they’ve earned it. So treat it like an experiment. Choose just one of these things and see how it changes your relationship. As you show your child the respectful way to act, rather than lecturing or demanding it, he or she will actually want to respect you.

How do you build respect with your teen?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

What makes you feel like someone respects you?

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