Parents and Teens: Why Respect Goes Both Ways

October 5, 2011 by

One way I’ve always viewed parenting is through the eyes of mutual respect.

It seems to me there is a lot of talk about controlling behavior, and less RESPECT when it comes to the parent/child relationship. Almost like an authority type relationship. You might be thinking, “WELL Yeah, I do have authority over my child, I am the adult here!” And that is obviously true. But that is not ALL there is, right?

I’ve always looked at my daughter as an equal human being.  Not only is it important for her to respect me, but it’s also important me to respect her.

As parents we want to raise our kids to be wonderful, well-rounded people. And we do that the best we know how, with what and where we are at that time in our lives. We raise them based on our upbringing, our experiences and beliefs, and how we visualize what we want their future to hold.

One of the best ways I can think of accomplishing that is to treat your child with the same respect we would like. The fact is we ARE older than our children, and we do have authority over them. That’s not what I’m arguing. But I think when we can see our children as imperfect humans, and ourselves for that matter as flawed humans, we’ll get a lot further in relationship with our kids. It goes both ways. We need to create mutual respect.

There are so many road blocks for parents who don’t have this view. Kids don’t want to share with their parents when they feel threatened or afraid so they’ll hide, lie, and retreat. They don’t enjoy talking to their parents, and they push their parents away. Do you think some of this could be because of the respect we demand? And all the while we are busy demanding respect, we lose insight on our kids hearts?

Does anyone who demands respect really get it?

We’ve got to get busy respecting our kids, and building harmony with them. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t “in charge” it just means we are in charge AND we are respecting them. Treating them not only as a child that we are raising and guiding, but also as an important human being that needs to be heard, validated, and encouraged, no matter what.

It means we are “in charge” AND we are disciplining them. It means we are in charge and we are talking with them through conflict and giving them a voice. It means we are in charge AND showing grace when they mess up. It means we are in charge AND we are patient with them. It means we are in charge AND give them their freedom. It means we are in charge, AND give them advice and guidance. It means we are in charge but we understand what they are going through because, hey, haven’t we all been there?

We are entrusted with our kids and it’s not only a blessing, it’s a privilege. I for one am not going to go through each day thinking I am in control of my daughter, because no matter what I do, unless it’s short of tying her up in her room until she’s 18 — I am not in control of her life.

So I need to learn balance, and I think that starts with looking at her as an equal. I’m just a flawed human delighted to raise her up the best I can, and she’s just a flawed human entrusted to me with no choice — wanting to be the best child she can be, because you know what? Our kids look up to us. They need us. We need to give them love. Yes we do know what’s best for them for sure, and as we start building more of this relationship, and walking through life with them, they will believe that we know what’s best.

This balance may look different for each situation and each child, and I understand that. But I can honestly bet that if we all started looking and thinking about our child in terms of equality, they would come around in a heartbeat. When we have a controlling way about us, it pushes them away. If we have a tender heart, and invite them in as equal beings, they will run toward us. Which direction do you want your child to run in?

Gina Norma grew up in St.Paul MN, and enjoys art, reading, traveling, thrift shopping, picnics, volunteering and spending time with her 16-year-old. One day she hopes to go to Italy, attend college, and solve world hunger. Gina says, “To me, parenting is all about building relationships with our kids and walking along side them — not trying to control them or use shame.” You can read Gina’s blog at www.walkwithyourteen.blogspot.com.

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