It’s the Delivery, not the Message, that will determine your relationship with your teen.

Part 1

Parents often share with me that they don’t feel their teen respects them. Really frustrated parents will say, “I don’t know who my teen is. I don’t know where she learned to behave like that.”

What I don’t say to those parents right away, but am thinking, is that respect is earned. In other words, there must be some way in which you have lost your teen’s respect.

Unless your teen is suffering from a mental or developmental illness, her behaviors are often just a mirror of your own in some way. Most often, the way in which parents express their feelings (or deliver the message) can lead to the erosion of a respectful relationship with their teen.

I will share six tips with you over the next month, to help you improve the manner in which you communicate with your teen and, as a result, create a more respectful relationship between you. Here are the first two:

1. Manage your anger
This is by far the hardest and the most important parenting skill you can develop. Count on working on this throughout your parenting life.

Some clues that you may need some improvement in anger management are:

a. You sometimes regret the way in which you expressed your feelings after the incident.
b. Your teen instantly shuts down when you begin to talk about your feelings.
c. Your teen begins to yell louder than you.

Try these tips if you struggle with anger management:

a. Have a friend or your partner tell you honestly how well you manage your anger. Do you come in yelling, do you swing your arms around, make threats, call people names, become physically threatening? If so, hearing it could be the first step to controlling this type of damaging behavior.
b. Talk to your teen about your communication style, especially during heated moments. Allow them to share their observations and experiences, even if it’s challenging to hear and what they say doesn’t match your own version of events. Then, try to make adjustments based on their feedback.
d. If you are having a hard time making changes, seek professional help. Your improved relationship with your teen will be well worth the investment.

2. Keep the limits you set

If you buckle frequently on limits you are indirectly telling your teen, “Never mind me, I don’t mean what I say.”

Parenting can be filled with moments of doubt especially when the dust has settled after a fight. You might also find yourself experiencing second thoughts when you watch your teen’s discomfort as they deal with the consequences of their actions. It’s important to be able to tolerate your child’s discomfort and trust that the experience of discipline will provide growth and maturity in your teen. More importantly, following through with what you said you were going to do builds respect.

Try these tips if you struggle with holding limits:

1. Establish the consequence ahead of time. Consequences for an action work best when your teen already knows what they will be. Thus, you are not making something up when you are angry. This also creates a sense of fairness between you and your teen because they took the risk knowing what the outcome would be.
2. Make the consequences fit the crime. For example, staying out past curfew does not justify enforcing a month of no socializing for your teen. A more accurate response would be setting an earlier curfew or perhaps holding your teen back from their next social event.

Once you are comfortable with your standards and have expressed them, it will make it easier to hold to the consequences and not second guess yourself. If the consequence still feels fair when you are not upset, but you waver once you have enforced it, you are likely just experiencing anxiety over your child’s discomfort, which is not a good reason to not follow through.

Next week’s Tips: How well do  you Listen? and How present are you in your teens world?