Ready for a pop quiz? What are the two habits that will destroy your relationship with your teen and are guaranteed to make parenting a wasted effort? Answer: disrespect and dishonesty. Those two noxious weeds can creep in, and uproot entire families. And left un-weeded and untamed, they’ll only grow and spread their roots to areas outside the home. So how do you uproot disrespect and dishonesty from your teen?
Understand What The Habits Are
First of all, you have to know what you’re looking for.
Disrespect is characterized by contempt, rudeness, swearing, destroying personal property, disregard for rules and boundaries, or blatant defiance for parental authority. Dishonesty is a close cousin of disrespect. In fact, they usually go hand-in-hand. Dishonesty manifests itself in varying degrees of deception; whether it’s full-blown lies, white lies, half-truths, or obvious omissions of information. All these aspects break relationships.
Understand that It Will Happen
When it comes to dishonesty, parents should never be surprised when their kids lie. That’s not to say moms and dads look the other way when it happens. But you need to be prepared when your teens look you in the eye, open their mouths, and let fly a whopper! Here’s the deal; we’re all prone to deception, because we’re all born sinful. We come home from the hospital programed to lie. You never have to teach a toddler to hide a forbidden cookie behind her back and swear up and down she wasn’t eating it! We’re all concerned with self-preservation and pride, and when push comes to shove, our natural inclination is to say or do whatever it takes to get out of sticky situations with little damage to our character. By lying, a child may be revealing worried and anxious feelings about your reaction to their behavior. Filled with shame and stress about their mistakes, teens lie to avoid ruining their relationship with mom and dad. While these reactions may not be true in every situation, it is often fear that pushes teens towards deception. While it’s okay to be saddened when your teen lies to you, don’t be surprised when it happens.
Understanding disrespect means probing beyond the surface issues to see what’s underneath. Disrespect may come from an elevated sense of pride and a false sense of superiority. But many times, there are deeper reasons why your teen is balking at authority. Perhaps they’ve come face to face with the hypocrisy of someone who should be given respect, and they are reacting. As hard it may be to hear, sometimes as parents we make it extremely difficult for teens to show us respect because we’ve adopted the motto “Do as I say, not as I do.” We demand respect, but we don’t exhibit the same respect towards our spouse, our boss, our family, or even our kids. While there is no excuse for a teen to treat mom and dad with contempt, sometimes it takes exploring and asking questions to understand why disrespect is coming from your child.
Understand the Consequences
As I mentioned, you cannot allow disrespect and dishonesty to gain a foothold in your family. It will rot the family unit from the inside out. So to address these dangerous habits, you have to make it absolutely clear that both actions and attitudes cannot be tolerated any longer. Make the consequences for disrespect or dishonesty heavy enough that your child realizes it’s just not worth it.
If disrespect has already become a pattern in your home, it’s not too late to right the ship. Get everyone together and let them know that rudeness and lying are counter to your family values, and will not be permitted. State that as a family, we will not swear at each other, call names, scream, break things out of anger, punch the dog, answer sarcastically to real questions, or treat people with disrespect. In addition, there will be no more lying whatsoever.
Once you lay out the boundaries and ground rules, stick to your guns. Take the car away when you son lies about where he’s been. Take the cell phone away after your daughter starts screaming during a fight. Don’t give it back a day later. Hold your ground in firmness and in love. Set the consequences and follow through. Make it so teens know it’s far better to be honest and respectful than not to be. To foster honesty in your home, communicate often that you value the relationship, and that there’s nothing a teen could do to make you love him or her any more or any less. But also state that although mistakes won’t sever your relationships, lying will. Reiterate that it is impossible to have a relationship where people aren’t truthful, and that you want a relationship with your child.
Understand Your Teen
For some teens, developing respect and honesty is a hard task. They’re not used to operating by these standards, and it’s going to take a while to get the characteristics under their belt. So be patient. Understand that a teen who struggles with lying is not going to conqueror it overnight. Give them time to build these character qualities into their lives. As parents, we have the opportunity not only to correct them when they go wrong, but also to affirm them when they make an effort. Tell your son, “I know that you can be truthful! I’ve seen you do it, and I’m proud of you when you do.” When your teen confesses to a crime without any prompting or prodding from you, first thing to do is thank them for their honesty. When your child strives to treat you with respect, answer in same way and listen to what they have to say.
Also, understand that your teen is watching you. When you say, “Don’t tell mom how much this tool cost,” you are fostering an attitude of dishonesty. When you talk down to police officers, or mock and ridicule people in authority, you are displaying an attitude of disrespect that your teen is picking up on. Stop! Moms and Dads, we have to practice what we preach.
Proverbs 12:22 reminds us that, “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.” Encourage your teen to be a young man or woman God delights in. An attitude of respect and honesty is not just about pleasing mom and dad, it’s about pleasing God.
Developing these traits in your children will not be easy. We’re predisposed to act the exact opposite way. But these qualities will not only serve you and your family in the long run, but also prepare your child for a happy and healthy life outside the home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Go to www.heartlightministries.org. Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.