It’s so easy to be the center of attention when you have small kids. They follow you around and imitate you. The little tots’ hero-worship you, and all you see in their eyes is admiration.
Fast forward a few years, and those same eyes that looked at you with wonder and awe have suddenly changed to ones that watch you with disdain and contempt. When puberty strikes and hormones take over, it is common for your child to be more sullen, secretive, and irritable.
Instead of challenging them at every turn, questioning their behavior, and showing them that you lack trust in their abilities to overcome their problems, empathize with them. Not in a patronizing way, but in a way that draws them out from within themselves. Reach into them and find that little boy or girl who once loved and respected you unconditionally.
The only way to gain their respect is to show them that you respect them.
Here are 6 ways to earn your child’s respect as they grow older:
1. Listen when they speak. Don’t interrupt your child when they are speaking, even if you disagree with them. Give them the floor to express themselves. Whether they are ranting or raving, they need your full attention. Listen carefully to the point they are making. Acknowledge that you heard them—restate their position if you have to. Then, offer them the alternative.
It is easier to get what you want when your child feels they have a choice and share in the decision-making. As long as both of you communicate your frustrations respectfully, there will always be mutual respect.
2. Set reasonable boundaries. The boundaries you set them when they were younger need to change as your children grow. You can discuss these changes together. Ask their opinion on which rules work and which ones need to be revised.
While some things are non-negotiable, like eating as a family or eating dinner at the table, there are other limits such as sleep time that can change. It is not realistic to expect a growing teen to be in bed and asleep by 8 p.m., especially if they have homework and extra curriculars after school.
Show them that you value their input. The rules will work better if you are on the same page.
3. Give them responsibilities. Likewise, give them responsibilities and then reward them when they act responsibly. This could be anything from keeping to the curfew to doing their weekly chores adequately.
The responsibilities should be age-appropriate and not unrealistic. Take time to choose tasks with them and explain your expectations of them.
4. Respect their privacy. Don’t take it personally if your child pushes you away or withdraws into themselves. Remember, these times are just as confusing for them as it is for you. Sometimes, your teen just wants to mope around and be left alone, so give them space.
While it is okay to be alert to any danger signs for drug abuse or suicidal tendencies, respect your teenager’s privacy. If you have a relationship of trust built up from their infancy, you can count on your child to come to you when they have a problem they are struggling with.
Trust is a two-way street. Trust them, and they will find it easier to trust you. Going through your child’s phone and possessions doesn’t show your faith in them, and this practice can backfire on you when they start hiding things from you.
Make time for them in your busy day. Let them know you are available at all times for them. If your child trusts you and knows you will help them and not judge them, your child will let you know when they are in over their heads.
5. Respect their beliefs. This is a tough one, even for me. We bring our children up thinking they will be like us, just better—the 2.0 version. All those values and beliefs we instill in them to make them better people. And then, along comes puberty, and everything changes.
Your meat-loving kid is now vegan. Or your child decides that yoga is the new religion to follow (it’s an exercise!). Along with meditation and daily mantras, your child now wants to be a free spirit and live a zen life!
Look at the bright side; all these things are good for their health. It is way better than the mum with the punk rock kid next door, who is blasting music that bursts their parents’ eardrums.
But, if you are the mum with THAT kid, then that’s okay too—embrace it. Fighting over your child’s choices is detrimental to your health and your relationship with your child.
So, respect their beliefs even if their views are different from yours. Have faith that you have raised a good human being. Your child will be able to distinguish right from wrong—no matter the color of their hair, the numerous ear or body piercings, or their dietary choices.
6. Encourage their dreams. Your child is their own person and you can’t expect them to follow your dreams. So, let them live their lives by guiding them to be the best that they can be.
Nurture their ambitions, encourage their dreams, and help make their dreams a reality.
In the words of Khalil Gibran,
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow…” — The Prophet
They need you in their corner to reach their full potential. Be that parent who gives their child all the tools they possibly can to achieve their goals.
Whether your child is a budding baker or a Neil Armstrong in the making is not important. However, you being proud of their achievements is, so keep the applause coming. You got this.