Often I get questions from moms asking how to get their kids to respect them. I hear the anguish in their voice as they talk about the disobedience, the yelling, the consequence, and then more yelling. I absolutely can relate. I’ve been there too many times myself wishing things had not gotten so out of control. Wondering what I could have done differently.
After all, in the heat of the moment, what’s a mother to do?
Let’s take a moment and unpack a typical scenario so you can think of how to respond rather than react.
Sam comes in from school with plans to go hang out with his friends. Mom was in the basement earlier today and noticed that it was a mess. Sam had promised to clean it if some of his buddies could come hang out last Friday night. Friends came, but the basement now looked as if a tornado had blown through.
How do you respond when Sam comes through the door saying, “Hi, Mom. Practice was canceled today. I’m heading over to Bobby’s for a few hours.”
“You aren’t going anywhere, son, until you clean the basement!”
“Sounds like fun. Just be home in time for dinner.”
“I know you enjoy spending time with your friends. I think we could use to talk before you leave. Why don’t you run your books up to your room and I’ll make us some hot chocolate.
Some of you are laughing at the responses because you can already pick out your own.
If you would respond similar to Scenario 1, you are like most parents. You are already upset before Sam even walks in the door. This response is one of a need for control. When we have uncontrolled anger and a need to control a given situation, it means that our identity is tied up in something else. In the scenario with Sam, could it be the need for full, absolute obedience from our kids at all times? Could it be the need to have a perfectly clean house? Could it be a need to have our kids always follow through in whatever they commit to? Is it perfectionism–perfect kids + perfect house = perfect mom?
Hmm…something to think about.
If you are the Scenario 2 mom, you probably have a “I just want my kids to be happy” attitude. If I don’t rock the boat, all will be calm. Maybe you’ve already cleaned up the basement because Sam wouldn’t clean it as well as you do anyway. After all you’re just glad he has such good friends. My question to you is, “How does Sam learn to keep his commitments? Is Sam learning that someone will always clean up after him? What will that mean for his future wife? ” Now a question about you, “Is your identity wrapped up in allowing your kids to have a ‘perfect’ childhood. Are you modeling boundaries which will make them stronger adults?”
Typically when I mention Scenario 3, the first response is, “How can I be calm enough to respond that way?”
Now, mind you, I am not saying that your job is to be your child’s best friend. But if you are like most parents, you want a healthy relationship with your kid that will last a lifetime. I’m suggesting that the best way to teach our kids respect is to be respectful in our responses to them teaching them to own what is theirs to own. By responding in that manner we will help our kids feel respected and in turn they will learn to respect us. If we are secure in who we are as parents, and our identity is based on our relationship with God and not wrapped up in something else, then we can calmly work out a win-win scenario for both us and our child.
Let’s take Scenario 3 to the next step. Now I’m fully aware that it won’t always result in the same calmness that it will show up in print, but I am suggesting that if you choose your words carefully and instill a sense of affection toward your teen, tempers are less likely to escalate and respect can be achieved.
Scenario 3 continued
“I love a good cup of hot chocolate! Thanks for giving me an excuse for making it. I love spending one-on-one time with you. So you and Bobby are planning to hang out this afternoon. What do you think you’ll do?”
Then your job is to listen–really listen. Ask questions. Show interest. Let Sam know that you realize how important Bobby’s friendship is to him.
“I know that you are planning to spend time with Bobby, but I have a problem I need to solve. (Notice it is your problem and not Sam’s. Wording is everything.) You had your friends over on Friday night and if I remember right, you agreed to clean up when they left. Is that right?”
Again, listen to his response. If he whines and complains that you don’t want him to go. Just listen and don’t react. When he’s through then it is time to calmly reply.
“You know that it is important to say what you mean, mean what you say, and keep your commitments don’t you? I would really like you to keep your commitment about cleaning up the basement. I allowed you to have your friends over and I need to know when you are going to fulfill your end of the agreement.”
Here’s where you remain calm and listen to his ideas of when he will clean the basement. Negotiate if you want to. Give him an “I need to have it finished by ________ time” that is within reason if necessary if it comes to that.
But respect Sam enough to let him be part of the “when” for the cleanup.
When kids see that we respect them by not trying to control the situation, and respect ourselves as parents in holding them accountable rather than letting them off the hook, maturity and respect will blossom.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer everyone.
Dare you to check to see if you are trying to demand respect with your teens. If so, is there something your identity is tied to that might be impacting the respect that you want?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Message me and we’ll chat.
“Let go…and let God,”
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