My Pearls of Wisdom on Raising Respectful Teenagers

pearls of wisdom

The difference between toddlers and teens is that, whereas you can control a toddler, you can only hope to have influence over a teen.

The ability to buckle my children into a stroller when they misbehaved was lost long before they became teenagers.  This is why, for those of you who still have young children, it is important to know that you start raising your teenager the day you become a parent, not when they turn thirteen.

There are three requirements that must be in place in order for a parent to have “influence” over their teen:

First, you need to have their respect.  Respect is earned through consistent and fair actions and reactions over a long period of time.

The second is ownership.  You need to take ownership of your part when a problem surfaces. (When a problem occurs that you have no ownership over, you have very little influence over changing the situation. So it is better to hope you have some ownership, so that you can enact some change.) This does not mean that the problem is your fault, it means taking responsibility for the part of the problem that you CAN change, because the only person that you really can control is yourself.

Finally, communication is also an essential ingredient in gaining influence over your teenager’s decisions.  There are no perfect parents, we all make mistakes.  When we do make mistakes with our children, we need to sit down and talk to them and let them know we are sorry and that we will take the steps necessary to make things right.  This teaches them that there are consequences even for us and that we take responsibility for our own mistakes.

Respect + Ownership + Communication = Influence

As a parent, we need to be willing and able to put our own egos aside so that we can recognize our role in the problem; because only then, can we have an impact on changing the situation.  Respect cannot be demanded, it must be earned and love should never be confused with respect.  Your child might love you and know that they are loved by you, without respecting you or feeling respected by you.

Honesty (or what we call full-disclosure) is also important. When our children lie to us, we stop trusting them.  If they tell us the truth, we work with them to resolve the issue or problem.  If they lie to us and we find out they lied, there are consequences that follow including our lack of trust going forward and, therefore, additional restrictions that are put in place.  Let them know that the important thing to learn from mistakes is to change so that in the future, the same mistake is not made over and over again.

Personally, I prefer to reward good behavior rather than punish bad behavior.  But when behavior does not improve, take away their activities and let them earn the right to have them back.  Truthfully, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The more you can teach them when they are younger, the easier it will be when they are teenagers.  When my children were young, there were times when I had to remind myself that I was the one in charge.  It is so easy to give in and let them run the house, but I promise you, you will pay for that when they get older.   Author of The Tin Box Trilogy

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