It’s the Delivery, Not The Message – Part 2

 This week, we continue the conversation about how to develop a respectful response from your teen when setting limits.

Does your teen disagree with your expectation that they have to follow your rules because you birthed, raised, and fed them? While I understand the reasoning behind your expectations, most teens do not.

Maintaining a relationship that involves respectful interactions with your teen is not a given. It requires work and, ultimately, an investment of time. Many parents I work with are busy and stressed by maintaining both a job and a home. As a result, down time with their teen becomes difficult to find. Compound this scarcity of quality family time with a teen’s natural tendency to be more independent and it can be hard to find time to spend together other than in the car or coming and going through the house.

BUT, finding quality time has to happen if you want to be and stay close to your teen and if you want to have her respond to the consequences and limits that you’ve set.

In the tips this week, I discuss how you can earn their respect via your attentiveness and an obvious interest in understanding who your teen is becoming, which will reflect in the way in which you deliver, or share, household expectations and limitations.

These days, our parenting models do not use fear of physical or emotional abuse as a motivation for respect. Now we use relationship. This approach is trickier to wield with a teenager who inherently does not want to do it your way; they want to do it their way.

Getting them to buy in to your message requires that they have a healthy dose of experiences with you that are not about limits or structure, so that when it is time for you to hold limits and structure they are invested in respecting your requests because they ultimately value their relationship with you.

A few notes:

This approach does not claim that they won’t complain about or fight the limits you’ve set. What you are ultimately going for is their compliance with your guidelines once the dust has settled.

Try these tips:


1. Are You Present and Available?

Respect is ultimately about the quality of the relationship. Relationships need time and attentiveness. If you don’t make time to be with or listen to your teen, then guess what? They won’t have time for you either and they definitely won’t have time to accommodate your rules.

In a world that can be super busy, creating time to be present is a constant battle. If you are having a hard time with this, schedule dates with your teen on a weekly basis. Please do not skip this.

To learn more about the profound impact of being present and available in your teen’s life  read, Hold on to Your Kids  by Gordon Neufeld

2. Listen to your teen.

If being present and attentive is the first half of the formula to developing mutual respect with your teen, listening closely to your teen is certainly the second half. This includes listening to their friend dramas and listening even when they disagree with you. Listening, in fact, is one of the most powerful ways to show respect and value for another person. If your teen knows you value what they think and feel, they will be more likely to value what you think and feel.

When you are upset with your teen, can you listen to their experience?

If you are too upset to listen to your teen’s feelings or opinions, then it’s time for a break. Part of skillful parenting is knowing when you need to ask for a break in the discussion so you can try to resolve the issue later.

Do you roll your eyes when they talk about “going out” with a boy, or feeling in crisis over what clothes to wear, or being consumed by friend dramas?

While these issues hardly seem important compared to what you deal with daily, these areas of their lives are very real to them. You can more effectively steer them away from frivolous matters if you listen first and provide perspective later.

Next week:

Knowing when to let your teen make the decision.

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