Parents and Teens: Why Respect Goes Both Ways

Posted 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 17-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

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  1. Ramiro Report

    Yes I truly agree 110% w/ everything you’re say… My relationship w/ my kids…, though they’re practically adults now…, is basically an open door… Anytime you want to talk about anything…, feel free to walk through w/out reluctance… I believe as long as you leave that door open …, there’s a good chance it will remain that way… The open door represents objectivity, fairness, mutual respect, mutual trust and place to go when your child feels he/she has no other place to resort to during times of need…

  2. rsh678 Report

    KC – I have the same problem and dilemma with my daughter. She is 17, started drinking, smoking pot, and sneaking out when she was 15. She routinely leaves evidence of her actions around the house. She blows up and screams at me, swears at me when I take away priveleges as a result. She does not understand the term “respect” nor do any of her friends. Rules do not apply to them and they don’t care if they are caught breaking them. I would love to give her “respect” but right now I feel I need to be a police woman to make sure she is not coming in drunk, abusing drugs regularly, getting picked up in the middle of the night when she sneaks out, smuggling drugs into the house, etc. So I cannot giver her the privacy I would like to because she has already shown that she will abuse that. We argue daily about her behavior so she gets little positive feedback from me.She refuses to come out of her room and spend any time with me so our interactions are limited to when I need to tell her something or she wants something from me or I catch her doing something bad. Before age 15 she got lots of “respect” from me and positive reinforcement because there were positive things to reinforce. I am genuinely concerned for her and her future. So please define “respect” and how I would show her that I “respect” her under these conditions. Thanks for listening.

  3. KC's mom Report

    I was just having this argument with my 16 yr old son the other day. he wants me to respect him, yet all the things he does repeatedly against my wishes, tells me he has no respect for me or our home. He sees nothing wrong with smoking cigarettes & pot, is failing school, and took a beer out of my room that we previously took away from him. He said he just had a taste for one the other night! So…..tell me now – how do you respect this person as an equal? I love him dearly, but am having a difficult time liking him and respecting him right now. And as Sam said…..these kids have no idea of what EARNING respect is. They refuse to be accountable for their actions and until they are, my respect for them is not given freely – it must be earned by their actions.

  4. Auntie Di Report

    I’ve treated my kids with respect all their lives. What I mean by that is, I truly listen when they want to talk without judging so they know I’m always there for them and they can tell me anything. I play with them, what they want to do, even if I think it’s boring. I always keep my promises. I let them make some age appropriate decisions to help build confidence. And you know what, they absolutely worship me. They don’t always like the rules but they know I love them and they want to please me. They haven’t hit the teenage years yet and I know there will be bumps along the way but I think if they know what is expected of them and they have my live and support, we can get through it.

  5. sam Report

    The article you wrote was very nice. I will certainly try to put this information into action.
    My comment is this,… how can you give your kid the respect “they are entitled to”,when the pressures from schools,peers,TV,music seem to lead them in the other direction. Leaving a parent with a sour taste in their mouth ~ this generation doesn’t even know what respect is or how its earned. They arguably don’t respect themselves. Don’t spoon-feed a kid respect unless they are ready to step up to the plate and truly listen,take action and be accountable.

  6. AnnJ Report

    I wonder how many people will really stop and evaluate their roles after reading this article.

    No matter what age both parent and kid are at, they can benefit from reassessing their relationship, and take the time to learn how to be stronger together. Professional help, deep self-reflection, reading guiding books are all important options.

    I see too many people just floating through, doing it the ‘way it’s always been’ and with that belief, there isn’t room for growth.



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