Respect: How to get it from your teenage children

Nan Coosemans

Everything parents should know if they want to restate their leadership

“My son doesn’t respect me”, “she never listens to what I say”, “he never helps at home”, “he’s always fighting with his siblings”, “she’s always raising her voice at me”.

This is the kind of sentence I keep hearing from parents of teenage children who don’t respect the rules and don’t behave responsibly.

Hi, I’m Nan, founder of Younite. If you are here, most likely you have children aged 9 to 18 and are having a hard time being respected.
Don’t worry; you are not alone! Most parents face this problem and I am here to help you!

In this article I will explain how to (re)establish family roles and re-obtain (or keep) your leadership as a parent. Let’s start straight away!

First rule (memorize it!): “you can’t teach a teenager to respect you”.

Yes, that’s right, I’m telling you exactly the opposite of what you usually find in articles and books: you cannot teach your children to respect you, you can only show them how to do it.
The only method that works is the example you give.

That’s why the sooner you stop repeating to yourself that “you must teach your children to respect you” and you start repeating that “you must show your children respect”, instead, the sooner you will reach the desired result.

To understand how to show your children respect, start asking yourself a very important question: what does respect mean to me?

Usually when I ask parents this question, many reply that to them “respect” means “not shouting”, “not offending”, “helping at home”, obeying without arguing”, etc. etc.
And what does respect mean to you?

So please take a few minutes to answer and make a list of actions that according to you should fall under the category name of “Respect”.

Now that you have defined this concept, I would like to ask you: do you do what is on your list?
Are you always kind and calm when talking to your partner, children and family members? Do you always give nice answers even when you are having a bad day?
If the answer is yes, then keep on reading and learning what else you can do to get your children to respect you. If the answer is no, then I advise you to remember that respect starts from you and if you want to keep your leadership as a parent, you can start working on yourself.

Avoid the most common mistake and discover what to do when your children don’t respect you

The mistake that most parents make is to take their children’s aggressive reactions personally and thus, every time their children misbehave, they blame them of not being respectful.

Actually, quite often teenagers have plenty of reasons for being nervous, they simply are not able to express their emotions consciously so they end up taking it out on their parents or siblings, screaming and being offensive or slamming their bedroom door and isolating themselves.

So your first move should be: avoid being hyper reactive and when your children lack respect out of the blue, force yourself to stop, think and ask them if there is something wrong. 

You have no idea how powerful this change of approach can be. By doing so you will attain two goals:

  • You will show your children that you care about them and care to know if anything is worrying them
  • You will manage to stay in your sphere of influence and control yourself rather that trying to control them

How can you stop being hyper reactive? This is one of the hardest things and that’s why I want to explain it with the concept of emotional fusion.

Learn to manage emotional fusions and put an end to furious fights

We have an emotional fusion when the consequences of the action and the emotional state of a family member fall upon all the other members.

Example: the mother comes back home. She is nervous because of an argument she had at work. She snaps back at the father. He in turn lashes out on the eldest son who, in turn, will vent all of his frustration on his younger sibling.
As you can see, the action starts from only one person (the mother, in this case), who is bringing her emotions home (too bad they’re negative) and transfers them on everyone else, starting chain fights without a real reason!  

What can you do in these moments of emotional fusion to prevent everyone from losing their temper?

First of all, take some time off to understand what the most frequent moments of emotional fusion are in your house; then, when they do happen, follow these 3 steps.

Practice emotional detachment: 

if your children answer you raising their voice, before reacting take a pause and ask yourself if they are the sole cause for your anger, or is something else the matter? As we said at the beginning of this article, it’s important to ask them and yourself questions so as to avoid reacting without thinking

Ask them what you want, explaining why you want it:

if in that specific moment you want your children to do some tasks, you can try asking them. Make sure you always explain the reasons why you are asking them to do something; that way it won’t seem that you are merely forcing them to do anything.  

Grant them the freedom of choice:

if your children refuse to do what you are asking them, I’m sorry for you but you can’t force them. What you can do, though, is to make the consequences of their choice very clear and let them free to decide, so that they can take responsibility for their actions

Example: your son takes a shower but leaves a mess with all the towels; you call him and ask him to clean up. The moment he refuses you can tell him that if he won’t do it, you’ll drop the towels in his room, because it is only right and respectful to keep the bathroom neat and clean for others as well.

Don’t be afraid to let your children be free to choose: this is the key to respect

Many parents are afraid to go from being authoritarian to authoritative, thus never forcing their children but always giving them the choice, instead.

I am here to tell you that allowing your children the freedom of making their own choices is the key to earning their respect. If you do so, you will prove that you are treating them as intelligent beings, capable of making decisions. Don’t forget that they must become adults.

If you aim at becoming authoritative, I advise you to always keep this question in mind: “what goal do I want to reach with my children?” Do I want them to become respectful, or do I only want them to tidy up their room today?”.
So, if your goal is to make your children turn into respectful and mature people, it will be much simpler for you to remember to always give them freedom of choice.

And now, 4 useful and practical tips

Before leaving you, I would like to give you a few tips that will prove very useful while training to become parents who “show respect” to their children:

1) Don’t have too many expectations.  

If you don’t let go of your expectations you will have a hard time detaching emotionally. If you have a clear picture of how your children should be, you will feel frustrated each and every time reality does not correspond to your ideal. If for you respect means valuing others, then you start by valuing their uniqueness and accepting their opinions and thoughts. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t express your expectations, on the contrary; if you are able to explain calmly how you feel, you will enable them to get to know you better.

2) Forget words like “in my days these things did not happen”.

One of the things that drives kids mad is when parents use stereotypes to make comparisons. For them this is a total lack of respect and they’re right! Also, I’d like to point out that what used to work for your family or in your days, in most cases wouldn’t work any longer nowadays. If you want respect, look at the present with an open mind.

3) Remember that your children are not their behavior.

This is crucial! You should always keep this in mind. The way your children behave does not define their being. Everything they do now: not studying, smoking, being disrespectful towards others, picking fights with their siblings… it’s all temporary and relates to this current phase of their lives. If you go on mistaking your children with their behaviors, you will encourage them to go on that way even as adults, because you will convince them that this is their real nature.

4) Remember all of your children’s good qualities.

We often forget that our children have many good qualities as well, and that they also do many good deeds. If you try to remind yourself all of your children’s good qualities, your frustration for their most irritating attitudes will dramatically decrease. Trust me. Try doing it for a few days and behaving more calmly with them and showing them more respect will come naturally to you.

With a bit of patience you will soon see miraculous results!

As for all important things, even obtaining your children’s respect requires consistency and patience. It won’t always be easy and sometimes you will succeed and sometimes not. Don’t let this discourage you and don’t give up. You are a human being and you weren’t born a parent; you are becoming one day by day facing big challenges.

Let me know if my tips proved useful and remember that if you need help, if you don’t know how to deal with your children’s teenage phase, if you are afraid of making mistakes or if you have no idea of how to manage challenging situations, you can change all of this by contacting us directly at:

Family Coach and Youth Trainer, mother of 3 sons

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Emotional Intelligence with Teenagers

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