It kind of feels like… “Hey, I should already have respect from those kids!” But you know those eye rolls, insolent answers and comments, and general lack of keeping their commitments all reeks of being disrespected. You know they should respect you, but they sure haven’t been acting like it lately. What’s up with that?
Just because you should receive that respectful behavior from them… doesn’t mean you do. And that’s why you’re reading this blog post, right?
It’s so easy to get caught up in what our kids and teens should be doing. But if we keep going around and around in those “shoulds” we’ll never move forward – we need momentum and to propel those kids forward!
Let’s change the language from what they should be doing – to what they could be doing, or even what we’ll teach them to be doing.
This comes down to three things: relationship, modeling & expectations. In this post, we’ll focus on relationship. We’ll work out modeling and healthy expectations in the posts to follow.
Think back to your adolescence. Who were your favorite, most respected school teachers?
The teachers who were burned out and always looking for the next kid to yell at, “Knock it off!”?
The teachers who were generally nice, went about their day, taught class, and just expected you to do the work and get a grade?
The teachers who knew you; who took time out to find out a few things about who you are, what you like, and then reference that when providing feedback on assignments?
My best bet: the teachers who you remember now that you’re an adult is the teacher who knew and liked you for you, not for your grade, not for your popularity status, not for anything other that the fact that YOU were/are an amazing person and they saw that in you. For those teachers you paid attention. For those teachers you (gasp) studied! You wanted to make them proud, and you wanted to prove them right! You don’t want to let them down by half-assed calling it in, no way!
Well, that is exactly the same for your teenager.
She’s not the same girl she was in third grade when her favorite color was yellow and her favorite song was from Disney. She isn’t sure what her favorite color is, but she knows it’s not yellow – heck no, yellow is the worse! She isn’t super sure what her favorite song is, there are so many good ones out there! She used to talk your ear off in the car, and now she gives you one-word answers.
How do you have a relationship with that? You’ve been trying! She’s just not giving you anything to work with!
Okay, then we have a starting place! Don’t do what you’ve been doing. Stop it. Right now.
The more you press her, the more she resents you being nosey. She thinks you have an agenda. Do you like it when someone is being nice to you in order to accomplish their agenda? Okay, well that is how your dear, sweet angel is interpreting your questioning.
Offer pieces of yourself. Show her how to open up by letting her know that you believe she is a safe person and a worthy person. You aren’t the same parent she knew when she was 8, either. You were pretty infallible back then, and suddenly you don’t have all the answers and you aren’t the shining beacon of amazingness she once thought you were – I know, your imperfect humanity is becoming clearer – so now you get to show her how to be imperfect, respectfully.
Engage your teen in activities that you will both like, and with no ulterior motives. So no bribing her: “If you go mini-golfing with me, then I’ll let you go to the malt shop with your boyfriend.” Tell your teen how much fun you have with her and that you just can’t wait until you get to go do this fun thing together. IGNORE the eye rolling or complaints. She has to do that. Her ego can’t admit how much she wants to be wanted by you, her ego wants independence.
Engaging ideas that seem to work for me with my teen:
- Go to a movie, and then follow up with a meal or ice cream to talk about our favorite parts.
- Watch funny youtube videos together. Later, during regular life interactions, reference the jokes and comedy.
- Brainstorm ideas for the upcoming weekend or school break. It takes patience and a little coercion, but I’ve found saying “I don’t want the whole weekend to be all about what I want to do, I want you to get to do some of the things you want to do, too.” Then if the suggestions from the teen are: “stay home and have quiet time in the bedroom and/or go visit friends.” A response that works for me is, “I totally get it, you’re around people all the time at school, and you can’t really hang out with your friends when you’re there. I really think you’re a cool person and I like hanging out with you. I’ll feel much better about giving you your private time and your ‘friend-time’ if you and I get to do something fun together, too. What do you suggest?” Then he can trust that he’ll get his needs met, and also help decide on what to do together.
- Play a video game with her – usually one from the 80s or early/mid 90s because those are the ones in my comfort and skill levels. Tekken (button mashing) or tetris.
What are some of the things that your teen might be able to engage in with you? Make sure the activity is something you will both enjoy – you can’t build relationships with someone by doing something they hate.
I love hiking. My son hates hiking. When I’m in relationship building mode, I don’t choose hiking.
I do, however, make him go hiking with us as a family because teens also need to learn that they don’t always get to do only the things they like to do. It’s much easier to get my teen to go hiking if I have invested in relationship building first!!
The point here is that when you build a relationship with your teenager they will be more invested in maintaining your approval and maintaining harmony within the parent/child relationship. They will be more able to take in your guidance in modeling, and they will want to reach your expectations.
Written by Jessica Wilkerson, M.A.
You can find this, and other articles by Jessica Wilkerson at www.jessicawilkerson.com/blog
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Jessica, you can contact her via email at email@example.com or by calling (530) 921-5122.
Jessica works for Chico Creek Counseling as a Marriage & Family Therapist Registered Intern #IMF69783 under the supervision of Joe R. Taylor, LMFT #MFT46406.