High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for many teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with the advancement of social media, a majority of children over 12 years old having smart phones and computer technology not to mention the increase in drugs that are currently available to teens. Teens have access to designer drugs such as ecstasy, spice and pink as well as prescription drugs such as Vicodin or Concerta can easily be obtained on any middle school or high school campus today. And yes, this is the true. These drugs are available on middle school campuses. Furthermore, the current state of politics in our country has made life more difficult for parents. It is hard to ask your teenager to be respectful of others when they see the leaders of our nation being disrespectful to people.
Our society is advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. One thing that has not changed is that parents are a child’s main role models for life. However, many parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary role models. Many parents have also forgotten that they can tell their teenagers no. They do not have to buy their teenager the latest smart phone or the latest fashion.
I have many parents tell me that they do not feel respected by their children in middle school or teenagers. However, very often, parents don’t require teenagers to be respectful. Many parents may set rules and their teenager blatantly ignore their parents and their are no consequences. Parents tell me this often and I suggest suspending their teenager’s phone service or not taking them on family trips. Many parents looked at me and say they cannot do that to their teenager. Their teen relies on their cellphone or have been counting on a certain family trip. Parents also tell me if they take such actions their teen will become very difficult to live with and might break things in the house.
So who is in charge? Your teenager is in charge. Remember they know you very well. They know you will be anxious or feel guilty about imposing tough consequences. Therefore, they are not afraid to disrespect you and do what they want because they know there will be little to no consequences.
Therefore parents if you want respect, don’t be afraid to impose consequences. Remember your teenager needs you to pay their bills and give them consent to get a drivers license. Parents you have more power than you realize. Also if you don’t expect respect and allow disrespect that is what you are going to get.
Many times I have explained to the teens I work with how much their parents do for them. I then ask what would happen if mom and dad stop doing all these things? Teenagers always stop and think at this point. If the teen still chooses to test the limits with their parents, as soon as they see mom and dad will stand by what they say, they soon learn to respect mom and dad. Parents you must remember to only set limits that you are willing to follow through with and impose. If you don’t impose the limits you have set, your teenager will not respect your word or authority.
Parents it is also important to remember that you cannot just start teaching your child about respect when your child turns 13 or 15 years old. By this point in their life, you have established patterns of disrespect. You need to start setting limits and taking to your children about respect when they are one or two years old. This way it is a concept they grow up with through their lives. It is a process that takes time. It is important that you remember this fact.
Besides discussing respecting their parents it is important that you also talk about respecting authority figures such as grandparents, police and teachers. It is also important that you talk about respecting themselves. Remind them they are special and worthy of being treated nicely by other people. It is important that you educate your child and teenager that no one has a right to use them or make them feel bad about themselves. They need you to remind them that they are important and no one has a right to disrespect them either.
Remember, since your child was born, they have been watching you and studying you about how to act and what actions are appropriate and what is inappropriate. They have been listening to what you have been saying to them about how to act as a responsible, decent member of society. I know many parents feel that once their child started middle school that their child stopped listening to them, but that is not true. They may act like they are not listening or that they don’t care about your opinion, but they do.
I have teenagers come into my office all the time and complain that they feel like their parents do not care about what they do. Often teenagers make this assumption because they say their parents set no boundaries for them or they feel that the parent cares more about their careers than their children. At times parents do focus more on careers or stop setting limits because they feel that their child doesn’t listen to them. Parents often feel this way because their teenager will say, “I don’t care what you think or I don’t care what you do”. However, they do care and often they say these things or act this way because they feel hurt.
Every child, no matter what they say, wants to know that they are important to you, that you care about what they say and you care about what they do. One major problem that I encounter with parents is that many parents do not practice what they preach. Yes you are an adult and you have a right to drink alcohol or engage in other adult behaviors, but you need to do so responsibly. Therefore, if you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Also watch how you speak to your teen and others. Do you do so in a respectful manner or are you rude to people?
A lot of parents will come in and tell me that their behavior doesn’t matter and that their child has no idea what they do so they can do what they want. The truth is, your behavior does matter and your children know what you are doing even if you think they do not know.
I have had eight year old children complain that “my mommy drinks too much wine”, or “my daddy smokes pot in the garage” or “my daddy talks mean to people”, or “my parents fight too much.”. When I try to talk to a teen about their behavior after they have said something like this, the teen responds if my parents can do it, why can’t I? This is difficult to argue with if the parents are using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol. Also the fact that eight year old children also make these comments demonstrate that if you want your teen to act respectful, then as a parent you need to model respectful behavior starting when they are born. Also children want to know that they are important to you and setting rules and enforcing rules communicate to your children that you care about them.
The bottom line is that as a parent you have the most significant role in your child’s life. If you want your child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult, then you have to act like a mature, responsible adult and you need to do so from the day they are born.
In this world where things are changing over night, children need to know they can rely on their parents to protect them and guide them. Again given how fast society is changing, this is not an easy job for a parent. The easiest way to sum it up is to remember to practice what you preach.
Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. Dr Rubino is considered an expert in this area. For more information on Dr Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or Facebook page at facebook.com/Drrubino3.