I really love teenagers. They are so creative and funny! If you want to have fun and laugh, just spend some time with a teen. The weight of the world has never felt their shoulders.
Sometimes though, raising one can be a bit more difficult than just spending a couple hours giggling… but you know this, or you wouldn’t have googled and found this blog.
Ugggggg… if your teenager rolls her eyes at you one more time…. or says, “I knooooow” when you give an instruction – well, you might just find out if gypsies really do buy kids. Sorry, all the folklore talks about is that they buy little ones – even the gypsies know better than to buy teenagers! You’re stuck with ’em!
That’s okay, teens are actually really amazing people to know! I don’t know one single teen who doesn’t add to the joy and wisdom of my life.
Yes, raising one can be quite a different experience sometimes. I know. I have a 15 year old. I love him to pieces, every last atom in his body has my heart. But even as a psychotherapist who engages in the strategies I write here, there are those moments when I wish the gypsies had a 1-800 number.
I say that in jest, because I want you to know that I understand those feelings of loving someone so much, and also feeling alienated from them in certain ways. But the work you put in right now will pay huge dividends now and when they are grown and have flown the nest.
Listen carefully, this is important: Your teen learns how to respect you by the way that you respect them. You may not realize it, but at every moment of every day – even when the kids, tweens & teens aren’t around, you are ROLE MODELING.
In my practice, I so often hear: “I’m the adult and what I say goes.” That’s true, but how are you saying it?
This is a lengthy blog, and there are a lot of parent traps and the strategies to help in the body of this post below. But I want to take a moment to tell you that YOU ARE AN AMAZING PARENT. Do you know why I’m saying this? Because you are trying. You are googling. You are reading. You are seeking help. You are engaged. You are not just sitting back, complaining and expecting things to change. You are here! I admire and respect you for being here. So, if you feel convicted in the bullet points below, I just want you to know that there is hope.
Here are some unhealthy role modeling traps that parents fall into, and then don’t understand why their teens are so disrespectful to them daily:
- Yelling across the house. You’re in one room, your spouse, teen, or child is in another room, and instead of getting up and walking into that room to tell them something you yell and expect them to not only hear you, but also accommodate you by stopping what they are doing to follow your instruction, now. What are you role modeling?
- Wanting it done, now. When you’re in the middle of something, can you just stop your task and divert your attention? Cooking dinner, and switch gears immediately. Folding clothes, and switch gears immediately. Watching a tv show or reading a book, and switch gears now. No? Well, when you tell your teen to drop everything to do something that’s just as difficult and insulting for them. Are you role modeling patience?
- Telling them what to do and how to do it, without asking for input. If your spouse, employer, or parent asks you for a favor and they want you to do it a certain way – but you might have a suggestion or thought on a better or different way to do the task, you want them to hear you out. Parents often mis-think that they have the only right way to do something and they take it as a power struggle when their teen wants to do it differently. What role modeling is being done here?
- Power struggles. Power struggles will happen, it’s natural. But they don’t need to happen as often as they probably are. “What I say goes, end of discussion” or “Because I’m the adult and I said so.” Sometimes you have to set down your foot, and when the power struggles are at a minimum in the home, these statements can sometimes work – but when that’s the regular verbiage, you can kiss their effectiveness goodbye. What can you do to role model respect, while also maintaining your authority as the adult of the house? More info below!
- You engage in those same annoying behaviors. You roll your eyes. You use sarcasm with your partner or kids when you’re annoyed or frustrated. You gossip about your teen or spouse to your friends when you’re frustrated (while you’re in hearing distance from the other members of your family). You call names “You’re such a brat.” “You’re such a prima donna.” Role modeling.
Do you see any of these parenting traps happening in your family? Do you hear yourself or your partner in any of these examples? Before you read on, I would like you to take a moment to reflect on a time or two when this has happened in your home.
So now what? I’ll just go ahead and address the behavior patterns to engage in by addressing each of the parent traps according to their number listed above:
- Get uncomfortable. You don’t want your teenager shouting across the classroom to her friends. You don’t want to listen to your kids shouting to each other across the room, or shouting to you. It’s rude. Just because we just sat down after a long day of work, doesn’t mean that we have different rules of etiquette. In fact, if we want our children or teens to talk to us with respect, we need to walk into the room they are in, make sure we have their attention and they are looking at us before we speak, and then tell them what it is we need from them. No talking to the back of their head while they are on their phone or computer, wait the few minutes they need to pause what they are doing, and then speak. You can start by saying, “I need you to pause what you’re doing and listen to me, I have something quick to tell you.” And then wait for them to give you their attention.
- Wait. We want and need them to wait for us before we can give them our attention. We need others to wait for us to finish our task before we can switch gears and help them with their request. We need to exhibit that same patience to our kids and teens. It’s okay to give them an appropriate time limit. “You have three to five minutes to wrap up what you’re doing and put your task on pause, I have a very important thing I need you to do and it needs to be done now.” Asking them to drop everything is a rude behavior that you don’t want them expecting from you, from their friends, or from their teachers. Just because we are the parent doesn’t give us the right to be dictators.
- Get input. It is the mission of the teen brain to come up with better ways to do things than their parents. It’s part of growing up and differentiating from us, the parental adults. They aren’t just looking for an easy way to get out of something (okay, sometimes they are) – but they are looking at ways to improve your method. Use this to your advantage! If it looks like they’re looking for an easy-out, engage them in conversation. “Why do you want to do it that way?” “What will you do if it doesn’t work out this way?”
- Refuse the power struggle. You don’t need to engage in coercion if they are refusing to obey a house rule. Offer the option to enjoy the privileges that come from honoring the rules, or experience the logical consequence. No bantering back and forth about it. This might sound like the “because I’m the parent and I said so” example I stated as a parent trap power struggle. However, usually when that phrase is uttered there’s not the conversation of option: Option #1, enjoying privileges, or Option #2 experiencing consequence. The ball is in their court, and you were polite and respectful when you reminded them of their options.
- Be self-aware. Some of these annoying behaviors teenagers pick up from their friends and school peers. But, some of these behaviors they learned from you. Think of the body language your teen does that you abhor. Really start paying attention to see how often you do those things. You might have even picked it up from your teen, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are the one teaching them how to argue, how to ask for things, how to handle disappointment, frustration, etc. – if you are rolling your eyes or turning and walking away during an argument, then you are responsible for showing your teen how to change behavior. Are you role modeling the behavior you want them to stop?
And lastly, have a sincere and honest conversation. Tell your teenager that you have been struggling lately because you really feel like he/she has been really disrespectful. That you noticed they do these certain things and you need to see the behaviors change.
Then, ask your teen what things you do that makes them feel disrespected. Hear them. Take it in, even if you disagree. Tell your teen that you will work hard to be self-aware and to work on these things, too. You’re in it together, you’re a team, you might just need a few tweaks or you might have a long road.
Self yourself up for success. Pick one thing to focus on and change at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep building the relationship (see the previous post titled Gaining Respect from Teens through Relationship Building), and focus on ONE of the bulleted points until you and your teen have developed a bit of mastery, and then move on to the next bullet together.
You will build a closer bond while also building respect and trust.
You’ve got this!!!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 #MFC46406.