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Dealing With Disrespect In Your Teenager

Disrespect is one of the biggest problems I see in families today.  While it can start with light jabs, if not checked, it can grow and evolve into all out punches.  It can become the way the child relates to parents and family, and it can even be passed from generation to generation. Parents who fail to correct disrespect out of fear that correction will hurt their relationship may actually bring harm to all of the relationships in their child’s future.

As any parent of a 13-year old knows, disrespect can be displayed by the roll of their eyes, an arrogant attitude, a sideways look, a turned back, cutting or barbed comments, sarcasm, pouting, or raging. And nowadays, it can include popping in the iPod ear buds, texting on the cell phone or playing the video game instead listening to a parent.  Disrespect can even include how the child treats your personal belongings; demonstrated by purposeful damage to your home or car, taking things without asking, or invading your privacy. These are all signs of disrespect.

But I don’t have to tell you to be watching out for disrespect in your teenager. You innately feel the sting of it when it happens.  And there’s no need to point it out to the teen either, since they know exactly what they are doing when they first begin exhibiting disrespect.

Causes of Disrespect

What causes disrespect to begin showing its ugly head? I find it can be sparked by others showing disrespect to the teenager, like an authority figure disrespecting or abusing them.  Or, it can come from the child mimicking the way his peers respond to their own parents or authorities. Children may also become disrespectful to distance themselves in front of their peers from parents they deem to be weak, dorky, behind the times, or just stupid. And step-children can often show disdain for their step-parents, just to show them that they aren’t their “real” parents.

Parents can even bring on disrespect in their children by exasperating them with too many unnecessary demands or inappropriate rules.  Winston Churchill said, “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.” That goes for household rules as well. Or, maybe the parent is failing to be respectful to the child, making the child feel as though they are unheard and their opinions don’t matter.

Disrespect can also be something learned from the parents… like a son who sees his father showing little respect for his wife, or a daughter seeing her mother talking disrespectfully about her husband (or former husband). I like what actor Tim Allen, father on the old TV show Home Improvement, said about it.  He said, “A dad needs to show an incredible amount of respect and humor and friendship toward his mate. If I respect Mom, they’re going to respect Mom.”

A parent cannot ask a child to show respect when they fail to demonstrate it themselves. So, be sure to model how to be respectful of others. If not, your children will pick up on your bad habits. Ask yourself, “Am I talking about and responding to others the right way, and treating them respectfully?  Am I gossiping in front of my children, or tearing others down?  Do I show respect to the authorities God has put in my life?”  Then ask a spouse or a significant person in your life what they see.  The goal is to get to the truth, and you must be willing to hear it and act on it. Look at your own attitudes first, because you can always make changes in yourself and that will model respectful behavior in your children.

Yes, respect is best learned when it is “caught,” but if not, it can also be taught.  Any Marine recruit understands that concept all too well.  Treating someone respectfully is a controllable choice regardless of one’s opinion of that person. In other words, I may not agree with or even like someone, but I can still treat them respectfully. It is easier and better for your teen to treat you respectfully if they actually feel respect for you, but sometimes feelings must follow action.

Dealing with Disrespect

If your teen has been become disrespectful, it is time for things in your home to change. So, say this to your teen, “Honey, I love you – nothing you do or don’t do will ever take away my love for you – but we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Tell them that even if they don’t have feelings of respect for you personally, or even when they are mad at you, they will still treat you with all due respect in the way they act, speak, and engage with you. If not, they will have to deal with the consequences of lost privileges.

And remember this… it is never appropriate for your teenager to engage in a verbal tirade with you. So, if your teen ever becomes disrespectful in the way he speaks to you, don’t engage in mutual shouting matches. The better way is to simply disengage… leave the room, hang up the phone, or just stop the car and allow the teen to take a walk.  This demonstrates to the teen that whatever they wanted to accomplish by yelling or being disrespectful is off the table until they can speak more respectfully.  And it will send a clear message that disrespect is never allowed in the relationship.

The longer a parent waits to address disrespect in their teenager, the more entrenched the problem becomes, especially if the child finds they can gain some ground or get their way by exhibiting disrespect.  Whenever there are respect issues, the key is to deal with them immediately with stiff consequences. If you’ve not been respectful to your child or others, admit it, accept it, and apologize. Make speaking with respect a hallmark for yourself and for everyone in your home and you’ll see disrespect disappear from your child’s actions and attitudes.  It doesn’t mean that they’ll suddenly begin respecting you, or snapping to attention when you enter the room (not that you’d even want that), but at least they’ll learn to treat you with all due respect.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


A Calming Prescription for Frustrated Parents

What is it about teenagers that makes it so easy for them to get under our skin?  We love our kids, for sure.  But between the ages of 12 and 20, teens really start to develop and refine the unique ability to raise our blood pressure!  Maybe it’s because we care about our kids so much that they can invoke such strong reactions in us.  I’ve loved every one of the 3,000 kids who have made their way through the doors of our Heartlight campus.  But let me tell you; there were times I was so frustrated with a teen’s behavior or attitude, I was about ready to put him on the next ferry to Iceland and wish him Bon Voyage!

Maybe, like me, you can point to every gray hair on your head and explain how your teen gave you that particular shade.  Or perhaps the constant tension and frustration in your home is tearing the family apart.  You’re fighting with your spouse more.  You’re spending less time at home.  You’re having trouble eating or sleeping.  Maybe the aggravation has built up so much that, although you wouldn’t say it aloud, deep down, you do not like your child right now.

If you’re a frustrated mom or dad, you’re in good company!  Certain teen behaviors increase the agitation between parents and children.  If you want to stop feeling the urge to bang your head against the wall every time you talk with your child, here are some ways to correct their actions.

Selfishness

If the egotism of your son or daughter is giving you ulcers, it’s time to inject a little humility into their lives.  One way to do this is to stop revolving your life around your teen.  If mom and dad act like their kid is the center of the universe, a planet-sized ego will be the result.  So don’t put your child in the center of your life.  That’s a place reserved only for God.  Secondly, give your selfish teen responsibilities.  Let them babysit the kids on your next date night.  Put them in charge of feeding the dog.  Make them responsible for getting up for school on their own, and finishing homework on time.  You’ll be well on your way to curing that selfish teen.

Disrespect

Disrespectful behavior is a sure fire way to get parent’s blood to boil.  If your teen is treating you with disdain, don’t pull your hair out just yet.  The truth is, disrespect problems are really relationship problems.  Work on your relationship with your teen, and chances are respect will follow right behind.

Also, enact fair and reasonable boundaries for your home, with clear consequences.  And, most importantly, follow though!  If the punishment for swearing is a month without a phone, then make sure your teen spends a month without a phone.  If breaking curfew means doing the family laundry for a week, then don’t start running the washer after only three days!  Clear boundaries and deliberate consequences can restore a level of respect in your home, and calm the tension in your family.

Unmotivated

Many moms and dads have come up to me to say, “Mark, our son won’t get off the couch, and it’s driving us up a wall!  What do we do?

I have a donkey on my ranch named Toy.  Now, Toy is a sweet, gentle animal.  But she is stubborn!  She won’t do anything unless she really wants to.  I literally have to dangle a carrot in front of her to even get her to move a few steps.  Now, I’m not comparing teens to donkeys (but if you want to, that’s fine by me!)  But like a stubborn mule, to motivate a lethargic teen, you have to show them what they will get out it.  Give them a reason to get a job, go to class, make some friends, or turn off the TV.  Make them believe that it’s in their best interest to act.  Offer your son or daughter incentives, and it’s likely they’ll motivate themselves.

Dishonesty

A dishonest teen is a major frustration for any parent.  It’s hard to build trust or strengthen a relationship with someone who cannot be taken at his word.  If you wonder why your teen is constantly lying to you, let me offer a little insight.  Teenagers live in a performance culture.  Every day it’s a competition with others to climb up the social totem pole.  So when your son or daughter feels that they cannot match up to their peers or earn their respect or value, they will lie to bolster their self-image.

For many teens, a lie is also a way to protect their relationships.  They’re fearful that if mom and dad knew what they did, said, thought, or failed at, you would turn your back and stop loving them.  Lying is a deceitful way (in more ways than one) for your teen to hold on to precious connections.

Lying is not only frustrating to parents; it’s also destructive to a family.  As with disrespect, this behavior has to be dealt with head-on and immediately.  Start by reaffirming as often as possible that there is nothing your son or daughter could do to make you love them more or make you love them less.  But explain that lying destroys relationships, and that it cannot happen in your family.  Even if the truth is something you don’t want to hear, thank your daughter when she does share honestly.  Commend your son when he tells you the truth.  And be a good example.  Plant yourself firmly in the truth, and force your kids to do the same.

Anger

When your teen gets angry and then you get angry, it snowballs into mounting frustrations, raw nerves, and stressful family life.  If dealing with an angry teen is making you see red, let me share some tips for cooling down the situation.

First, anger is a reaction to a need that’s unmet.  A teen is not getting what he or she wants, and the result is rage.  So when your kid starts the next outburst, calmly ask, “What is it that you want?”  Get your teen to verbalize what is making them so angry.  Once they share, try to work out how both of you can make it happen.  Sometimes it’s not a reasonable request, and you have to honestly tell your child, “I don’t think that’s possible right now.”  Other times, it’s a need that can be met very simply, and the anger is readily defused.

Second, don’t wait for the next eruption to see what your child needs.  Spend regular time catching up with your teen and asking, “What is making you the most happy right now?  What is frustrating you the most right now?”  If you let your child bottle up everything they are feeling, it will only make the resulting explosion that much bigger.  Communicate openly, ask clear questions, and you’ll be able to decrease the level of frustration in your home.

Mom and Dad, maybe your teen exhibits some of these behaviors, or perhaps shows signs of all of them!  No doubt this can be frustrating.  But remember this; God is teaching us right alongside our kids.  Just like teens need to mature and grow, so parents are maturing and growing with them.  Use those aggravating moments at home to stop and think, “What is God trying to teach me right now?”  The sooner you answer that question, the quicker you’ll learn the lesson God has for you.

Also, don’t play doctor in your home.  A physician’s job is to always be hunting for problems.  Unfortunately, some parents act the same way.  Even when family life is great, they are turning over every rock and leaf looking for the next issue.  If your home is experiencing a time of peace, enjoy it!  Praise God for it!  And if you are experiencing some hard times right now, focus on the problem at hand and don’t go searching for new difficulties to fix.  That will only lead to frustration.

Finally, pray every day.  Don’t let a day go by where you don’t bring your kids, spouse and home to the Lord and ask for protection, healing and direction.  Let God’s peace take the place of frustration in your heart.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


The Honest Truth About Teen Dishonesty

Always tell the truth.  If you can’t always tell the truth, don’t lie. –Author Unknown

Have you ever told a little white lie?  Ever crossed your fingers behind your back when you did it?  One of the legends regarding that little act originated with Roman persecution of Christians. It was said that to escape death, those who lied about their faith in Christ, just as Peter did, made the sign of the cross behind their back to ask God’s forgiveness.  It seems that somehow, sign language would nullify the deceit!

The legend of crossing your fingers seems like a myth to me.  But what is not a myth is the fact that many teenagers today are making a habit of “crossing their fingers behind their backs.”  A recent Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, shows that 61% of teens admit to lying to a teacher about something important, and a whopping 76% admitted to lying to their parents last year.  Another study, this one conducted in Britain, indicates that an overwhelming 84% of teens said they’ve regularly copied information from the Internet and pasted it right into their homework.

But it wasn’t necessarily those numbers that shocked me.  What really rocked me back on my heels was that this recent study of American teenagers reported that while over 50% of teenagers admitted lying, cheating, or stealing within that last year, 93% of those same kids said they are “satisfied with their personal ethics and character.” In addition, 81% of those teenagers said that “when it comes to doing what’s right, they are better than most people they know.”

It would seem, sadly, that while dishonesty is taking a hold of more and more teenagers, they are blind to the fact that it is morally wrong. While it is in no way an excuse, we cannot overlook the way our culture glorifies all forms of dishonesty. I think we’d all be hard-pressed to name five unimpeachably honest public figures today.  Who hasn’t turned on the TV or read the news in which a politician, business leader, sports figure, police officer, teacher or even a judge — those people we look up to as role models — has been caught in a lie, or has had a scandal exposed?  And let’s not forget the explosion of popular, so-called, “reality” TV shows, whose strategy is usually based on deception and lying in order to gain a monetary prize or fame.  While we should stress to our kids that we are all accountable for our own decisions, it’s difficult to reinforce the standards of honesty in a society that seems to broadcast that dishonesty is the far better road to travel.

So how can we reverse those statistics, and help our kids embrace truth over the lies?

Monitor the Media

Due to its anonymity and ease, the Internet is often a place where dishonesty abounds.  Within the safety of the web, teens can speak or act out anything they desire, regardless if it’s the truth.  Parents should be realize that such web-based deception can spill over and fuel an attitude of dishonesty in other areas of a teen’s life, as well.

When it comes to the Internet, or other forms of media, I tell parents to follow their instincts. Even if there is no obvious cause for concern, they should keep a wary eye on their child’s online surfing and make it a policy to know all of their teenager’s web passwords.  In fact, I recommend parents install good monitoring software to track all of their teen’s Internet activity.  Knowing that mom and dad are monitoring will go a long way toward keeping the teen honest in what they see, do and say on the Internet.

Make it a point to discuss with your teen the values they see in movies, television, or music.  Though we cannot control all the input that our kids receive on a daily basis, we can use media opportunities to have discussions about life, morality and values.  After watching a television program or movie, ask your child afterward, Why did that character act that way?  What do you think they were trying to gain?  Do you think they will ultimately achieve something by acting dishonestly?  What would you do differently? These types of questions can steer your child into interpreting what they see and hear in more honest ways.

Reduce the Pressure to Perform

Lofty academic expectations can put a lot of pressure on a teen to cheat. Holding kids to unnecessarily high achievement standards can often spur kids to achieve good grades at any cost. These looming stresses at school are more troubling for kids than many parents realize.  In fact, the Journal of Adolescent Health found that the stress to perform well in school keeps 68% of students awake at night.  With a lack of sleep, students have a reduced ability to think clearly and handle stress, so it becomes a vicious cycle.  As they fall farther behind, overwhelmed students may be tempted to cheat and lie their way to academic success.

If your child has been caught cheating at school, perhaps it’s time to bring the expectations down to a serviceable level for your teen.  Of course, we want our kids to do well in school, but we’d all agree that we want them to do so honestly.  It’s far better to have “C” student who came by their grades fairly, than an “A” student who was compelled to cheat because of unrealistic pressure at home.  By your words and actions, tell your children that grades and academic achievement don’t matter as much as honesty.

Don’t Avoid or Ignore the Problem

While dishonesty may seem like a minor issue in comparison to other problems like drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and eating disorders, it is a vice that parents should not ignore. Dishonesty is rooted in an attitude of disrespect—disrespect for others, authority, possessions, family’s values, and disrespect for oneself.  If you ignore your teen’s dishonest actions today, you may have to deal with bigger problems later.  Deceit won’t go away with the mere passage of time.  It will reappear at significant stress points later in your child’s life—when they go off to college, get a job, or get married.  Getting away with lying, cheating or theft today can lead to a lifetime of dishonesty, and that can land them in real heartache in the future.

If you’ve seen dishonesty creeping into how your teen talks or acts, or if you’ve learned they have cheated or stolen something, today is the day to expose it.  Here’s how to deal with the problem properly.  First, briefly describe the dishonest behavior, so you both know what happened.  Second, tell your child how you feel about it and how it that action is neither wise nor moral.  Then, most importantly, affirm that you know they can do better.  Let your teen know that you believe they can change their behavior.  Give them the confidence to do what’s right.  After your discussion, have your teen right their wrong, including confessing to whomever was wronged from the dishonesty, cheating or theft.  Finally, enforce appropriate consequences and make sure they know that you will be on the lookout for any form of dishonesty in the future.

Also, be sure to model honesty yourself, and make it a habit to be truthful.  If you think you’ve hidden dishonesty from them in the past, think again. Teens are extremely intuitive and they can spot hypocrisy a mile away.  If you know you’ve been dishonest in front of your teen, ask their forgiveness, and give yourself some consequences for the bad behavior, so your teen knows how important it is to be honest.  Teens need some good role models in regard to honesty.  Live out Proverbs 8:7, and your teen will follow suit; I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.