A number of years ago my husband taught a junior high boys small group. One of the topics that would always come up was how to treat members of the opposite sex. I remember one of his lines well: “Remember, you don’t know whose wife you are dating. Treat your girlfriend the way you hope your future wife to being treated now by the guy she is dating.”
As the conversation progressed, they would talk about holding hands, hugging, kissing, and the list would continue.
While the talks always centered around abstinence, the underlying theme was respect.
Sometimes as I talk with parents now, it is like the light bulb begins to brighten.
If you are like me, most of our parents tried to teach respect with negative reinforcement. “If you ever do that again, I’ll ______________.” I’ll let you fill in the blank with how you were parented. 🙂
As I was growing up the same methodology was used with the breaking of any rule. Breaking the rule = punishment. Or maybe I could talk myself out of the punishment this time.
One of the conversations that I try to have with parents as they think about trying to get the “right behavior” from their teens, is to address the behavior change through heart change.
In other words, give them an understanding of what it means to show respect to themselves and everyone involved in a particular situation and maybe you’ll change their heart and their behavior.
A woman approached me about her college student who was living under her roof for the summer. She was frustrated that her son would come in sometime during the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep. While the mom always kept the light on so her son could see to get in, the garage door would wake her up. Then she and her husband would hear the kid fumbling around in the kitchen making a snack while they were attempting to go back to sleep. She was at the brink of saying, “If you can’t come in at a decent hour, you will need to find somewhere else to live.”
But thankfully she stopped herself. Had she done that, most likely she was have instigated defensiveness and anger from her son tearing apart the relationship.
After we talked through her scenario, here’s what she said chose to say to her son.
“Honey, I know it’s hard to come home and have to live with our schedule. However, I’d like to talk through what’s happening. I know you really enjoy being with this girl. As a matter of fact, I like her too. I think the two of you are good for each other. Can I put a different spin on this whole dating process and give you a different perspective of what is currently playing out?”
“Sure,” came his response.
“I know that you easily lose track of time while the two of you are together. You seem to have a lot of fun together. However, may I suggest that you become the leader in this relationship and show this girl how to respect herself. She needs her rest and so do you. You will always have more time to be together.”
“I’m also guessing that her parents will be more open to you as someone they would like their daughter to see more of if they see you as respectful. Didn’t you tell me that they both work?”
“Well, I’m wondering if they get woken up when their daughter comes in?
One of the ways to get others to respect you is for you to respect them. By getting your girlfriend home at a reasonable hour, you are communicating that you respect the girl and her parents.”
“I never thought of that”, he replied.
“There is another piece to this. I know that you don’t mean to wake your dad and me up when you come home; but the fact is, you do. When you are getting food from the kitchen after you come it, it keeps me from getting back to sleep easily. This is starting to make me feel disrespected and resentful. I’m guessing that is not what you are trying to do, but you need to know that I don’t like feeling frustration towards you. I love you and want the best for you and for everyone involved. You have the ability to influence what people think and feel based on your interactions with them, and I’m hoping that you will work on respecting yourself by respecting the other people in this situation. Just know that I love you and want this to work for all of us.”
“I never thought of it that way. I do want her parents to respect me and I’m not trying to interrupt your sleep. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.”
When I asked the mom how it was going after the conversation, she was honest.
“Well, it certainly isn’t perfect yet. However, he is better about texting me when he is going to be late. I’ve also noticed he’s a lot quieter in the kitchen now,” she laughed.
“And the other thing is, I’m more confident in continuing to have the conversation. I’m realizing that one time with these kids doesn’t solve the problem. But just understanding why he’s coming home late puts my mind at ease so I’m learning to sleep better and not worry. And I’m beginning to understand more about who he is now on a heart level rather than a behavior that is frustrating me level.”
These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Dare you to look at life through the lens of respect as you teach your kids how to interact with others. When kids learn self-respect, they can more easily apply it to how they can influence others in a positive way.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Do you know parents who are struggling with their tweens and teens? Or maybe you have kids that are starting to pull away in a way that feels foreign and a bit unhealthy?
That’s why With All Due Respect was written.
It will challenge your thinking as you parent toward the launch of your kids into the adult world.
Here’s what one mom had to say:
“I can’t believe how much this book has shifted my thinking, my behavior, and my expectations. I had no idea how much I could do to influence my “problem” child. Thank you for writing this book!”