Sitting in a local coffee shop with my son, I asked him a question that totally caught him off guard. I was having one of those mom moments when I wanted to make sure we were connecting. He was at that stage in life where manhood was just around the corner–the threshold of independence.
“Son, you know that I love you don’t you?” I spoke with tenderness as I looked him in the eyes wanting him to feel the depth of meaning in my words.
He assured me that he felt loved.
“Do you feel like I respect you?” I continued.
I was expecting an even deeper emotional bond at that moment in time. Instead I was met with a quizzical look on his face. “Gee, I’ve never thought of that.”
“What does respect look like to you?” I prodded. “I want to make sure I get it right.”
“I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. I know that I certainly feel disrespected by this girl at school. Every time I say something she cuts me down.”
“When I make suggestions at work, the supervisor doesn’t even acknowledge that I said anything, he just totally keeps talking like I am invisible.”
We had a bit more dialogue as he started searching for what respect meant to him.
“Thanks, Mom. I’m glad you brought the conversation up. I never really thought about the concept of respect before. I do want to be respected.”
Similar conversations have come up many times in our home since that conversation with my oldest. In those conversations, I’ve come to realize that while we might not readily recognize it when someone is respecting us, most of us can quickly identify disrespect.
Disrespect feels like we are being scorned or disregarded. Another word that might come to mind is that we feel the other person has contempt or disdain for us. It attacks who we are as a person.
Respect on the other hands helps us feel esteemed, highly valued, or honored.
Don’t we want the people we interact with, especially our family, to understand their worth to us?
The tween and teen years can be difficult as our kids are trying to figure out who they are. Their brains are not fully matured, their bodies are transforming, and their emotions–well, let’s just say they’re wacky out of control at times.
So what is our job as parents?
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
So here’s the list. By no means is it complete. But it will give you a start on building connection with your teens.
101 Ways to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens
- Recognize that your child is separate from you and will have different opinions.
- Listen to your teens without judgment.
- Show empathy when your teens are struggling.
- Ask questions rather than make demands.
- Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’, ‘no’.
- Pause when emotions are high. Come back to the conversation when calmer heads prevail.
- Encourage your teen rather than nag.
- Have a life outside of your kids.
- Take care of yourself so you will have more capacity to parent well.
- Respond to your teens rather than react.
- Make parenting decisions with your spouse.
- Teach your kids to deal with conflict.
- Respectfully consider your kids requests even when you want to immediately say “no”.
- Give your kids grace when they make mistakes.
- Follow through on consequences that you’ve set in place.
- Establish boundaries for your family so your kids understand what is appropriate and why.
- Separate your identity from your kids.
- Don’t own your kids’ mistakes.
- Allow your teen to experience natural consequences without bailing him out.
- Model self-control with your words.
- Allow homework and projects to be your child’s responsibility, not yours. Assist only when needed.
- Coach siblings to work out their differences rather than being a referee.
- Make home a place of acceptance where mistakes will be handled with grace.
- Be available to your kids.
- Encourage relationship between your child and the other parent.
- Coach through difficulties rather than blame your teen for mistakes.
- Listen to all sides of the story before taking action.
- When consequences fail, push the reset button and work out a better solution.
- Choose to ditch the sarcasm in your home.
- Catch your kids doing something right and let them know.
- Use your tongue to bring life to your kids.
- Apologize when you lose your temper with your teen.
- If your child becomes defensive in a conversation, create safety in your words, body language, and facial expressions before continuing.
- Teach your teens skills that allow them to become independent such as cooking, cleaning, yard work, and basic home maintenance.
- Talk about the pitfalls of electronic devices. Set parameters and talk about the monitoring process and potential consequences your family will be governed by.
- Have conversations with your teen about their identity in Christ versus the identity of the culture.
- When you hear something that concerns you about your teen, give them the benefit of the doubt first and deal with them with compassion and mercy.
- Let your kids manage their relationships and problems. If they seek your advice, by all means coach them through the process.
- If you see your teen struggling, ask if they would mind it if you offered a suggestion.
- Create daily interaction with your teen one-on-one letting them know how important they are to you.
- Encourage your spouse to have a separate one-on-one relationship with your teen.
- Make your marriage a high priority so that your teen sees a healthy relationship.
- Bring up a current event and ask your teens’ opinion on the subject. Actively listen to their response without judgment.
- Make consequences appropriate and enforce them in a non-emotional way.
- Focus on your teen’s strengths and verbally let him know the character attributes you see.
- Create an environment where the family builds each other up.
- Say ‘I love you’ often through physical touch such as ruffling your teen’s hair, putting your hand on his shoulder, or giving her a hug.
- Allow your teens to make mistakes without making them feel stupid.
- Talk to your kids privately about their sexual purity and listen to their struggles without condemnation.
- Rather than fixing your teens’ problems, ask them if they want you involved.
- Say “I’m sorry” when you’ve been harsh or said something inappropriate.
- When you teen’s attitude is showing, respond with something funny to change the mood.
- Dream dreams with your teens about the person they will one day marry.
- Brag about your kids to your friends when your kids can overhear the conversation.
- Keep your kids apprised of family obligations during the week so they won’t be blind-sighted by your plans vs. their plans.
- Date your kids individually. It lets them know they are a priority in your life.
- Don’t wrap your identity up in your kids. Let them see you have a life separate from theirs.
- Respect your teens’ privacy.
- Make sure the calmer parent teaches your teen to drive.
- Choose to not criticize your teens nor point out out where they are still lacking.
- Let your kids know how proud you are that they are in your life.
- Extend grace to yourself when your kids get upset with something they think you did wrong.
- Model what you want your kids to catch.
- Pause when emotions are out of control.
- Pray regularly for and with your tweens and teens.
- When your teens are emotionally out of control and say something hurtful to you, choose not to respond harshly.
- Give up your need to always be right.
- Validate your kids’ feelings by letting them know you understand why they could feel that way.
- Remember that your teens’ brains are not fully mature. Don’t freak out when they do something that is beyond your capacity to understand.
- When your teen offers up an idea, acknowledge that it might be a good option before expressing your own opinion. If possible, go with your teen’s suggestion.
- If you are tired, get rest so you don’t react in ways that are detrimental to your relationships.
- Model life balance for your kids. Help them to recognize when they are trying to do too much.
- Make sure that rules are age appropriate.
- Allow appropriate freedom. Let your teen know that if they handle freedom well they will have more opportunities.
- When teens handle freedom poorly, pull in the boundary, but let them try again in the near future.
- Choose to influence your teens rather than using control.
- Be your teens’ No. 1 Cheerleader.
- When your kids have friend difficulties, listen and offer suggestions, but don’t try to fix it.
- Allow your tweens and teens to establish their own fashion statements (within reason). Boldly walk beside them even when it is uncomfortable for you.
- When others talk negatively about your teen, defend your child’s right to be his own person.
- Walk the talk. Be consistent in your behavior as you want to see in your kids’ behavior.
- Let go of fears for your kids and give them to God.
- Find a hobby/sport/activity that you and your tween or teen can do together. Then do it.
- Let your kids fail at something. It helps them realize they are not perfect and it will help them with adversity in the future.
- Talk to your kids about spiritual matters and what God is doing in your life.
- Spend time studying your child’s heart. What makes him tick? What are her passions? What are his values? What are her skills? Then communicate what you see.
- Create a sense of team in your home by having each person be responsible for their chores.
- Pause before saying ‘no’. Ask yourself if you ‘no’ is out of fear or if this could be a learning opportunity.
- Make connections with some parents of your kids’ friends. Doing life in community helps your tweens and teens build bonds for life.
- Maintain open communication. When conflict messes it up, apologize, reconcile and rebuild trust.
- Take inventory often of time spent with each child. Is it equal? Fix what needs to change.
- Choose to be thankful for each child’s unique qualities.
- Choose not to compare your kids to each other or to other people’s kids.
- Be available to your kids–not only physically present, but emotionally connected.
- Parent together. Talk about consequences together before enforcing them.
- Spend time working together with your kids–yard work, dishes detail, or making dinner–anything that has you working shoulder to shoulder.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say, and keep your commitments to your kids. It builds trust and solidifies expectations.
- Parent ahead. Allow your kids to know what the expectations will be with each rite of passage. i.e. You will need to pay for the insurance when you get your license.
- Be real with your kids. If your kids think that you’re perfect, then they won’t share their struggles.
- Let your kids see you working on your marriage. It will add value to their future.
- Stay calm. When you feel anger or frustration well up, leave the room, spend time with God, and let His peace get you through the moment.
Hope you will join me on the journey of building a more fulfilling relationship with our kids. I don’t know about you, but I so want my kids to know how valuable they are to me–God’s precious gift.
Respect takes work–and sometimes, as parents, we mess it up. A lot.
That’s where grace comes into focus–for us and for our kids.
Remember, whatever we pay attention to grows! Cultivate a garden of respect in your home and water it daily.
“Let go…and let God”,
P.S. I’d love to dialogue about what you might add to the list.
P.S.S. Hope you’ll join me on the journey with our new book, With All Due Respect (Thomas Nelson), which will be released August 2, 2016. Grab some fellow moms and pre-order your copies now. It’s a great study to do with friends.