Parenting Rant: Teens Should Show Respect

bench with rainbow and the word respect tiled on it

So. Teens. They can be frustrating! The respect around here has been occasionally…lacking. I tend to have high expectations for the boys. Not everyone agrees that children should be required to be polite and respectful. I get that. I’ve even tried to talk myself out of thinking that they should honor their parents and be the best humans they can be; but I just can’t.

A great many of the leading parenting experts espouse a “child-centered” approach. I’m all for treating children as an important component of the family, but having everything revolve around them? I can’t bring myself to believe that’s best. When they’re 18 and off to college, is the rest of the planet going to wait breathlessly for their every accomplishment and hang on every word?

I think not.

If I treat them as though they are the center of the universe, I’m not doing anything good for their sense of humility. Should I be insulting or negligent, or completely smash their self-esteem? Of course not. That would be the other extreme.

I’ve done a little poking around the ‘Net, and found a couple of articles that I really like. First, there’s a question on ExperienceProject.com about cocky arrogant teens that had a fantastic answer.

I think you have to analyze why teenagers become “cocky” and/ or “arrogant”.

“Cocky” is a confidence that is not backed up by experience and knowledge. That’s very common for teens, as they are young, they don’t know what’s what, and are ready to take on the world.

“Arrogant” is demanding consideration and respect. Teens, I think, usually become arrogant when they are treated as adults without the responsibility that comes with adulthood.

So how does discipline come into this? Well, I think it is the parent’s job to be sure that the teen knows where his or her place in the family and the world is, and prepare him or her for the future. A parent who is over-indulgent, sets no boundaries, and lets the child talk to him or her as if a peer is doing no favors.

I really like the part about helping the teen know where his or her place in the family and world is. Again, it’s not about crushing any egos. But knowing where you fit in the world really makes life more secure, don’t you think?

I for one wouldn’t choose to repeat any part of life before the age of 25. Not because it was anything terrible, but because I was 25 before I even began to feel comfortable in my own skin. I see much of that insecurity in my own boys every now and again, and I hurt for them.

At the same time, I get so frustrated when they’re rude and disrespectful. Because really…what else do I have to do to earn their respect?

My answer to that is: I don’t. Thinking that there’s more I need to do to earn respect from my children can be a trap. I can get stuck endlessly trying to win additional approval from them and fail miserably at instilling the very values I’m trying to teach. In fact, I see value in standing up a little straighter, speaking in a slightly lower voice, and simply being Mom. Both their needs and wants are met, everything I do is aimed at helping them be the best they can be. They don’t always like what I’m doing. They don’t see the long-term picture they way I do.

But why should they? They’re not exactly long on experience yet. I need to take that into account; to remember that I’m dealing with individuals who are still developing. I am the adult, and I am in charge. Whether they like it or not.

The other article that I really love and plan to print out is about instilling humility in children. All I can say about that is wow. And I love the reminder to stay calm and model respectful behavior myself. I do pretty well much of the time, but when I get frustrated? Then I’m not so successful at the whole calm modeling thing. I will continue to work on it.

At the end of the whole stream of thought here then, where are we? I’m going to go with “plodding forward”, having reminded myself that this part of the job is difficult but I can do it. There are amazing rewards coming; in the shape of young men who know how to treat other humans with true love and humility.

I just gotta keep on keepin’ on, and wait for it. What about you? Are you dealing with disrespectful children? What do you do about it?

Earnest Parenting: helping parents survive adolescence for the second time.

Photo provided courtesy of glsims99 via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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