How do I earn respect from my teenage son?

Dear Gigi,

How do I earn respect from my teenage son while gaining his love at the same time?

And we thought they were challenging in preschool!  My oh my, teenagers can be hard!  There is no magic formula and no guarantees.  We do our best and we pray long and hard.  That said, here are a couple of thoughts:

Respect starts with you.  If you want your teenager to respect you, you need to respect him. Whatever you expect from him, you need to be demonstrating it first.  For example, you can’t respond to him with sarcasm or anger while expecting him to speak in a respectful tone.  If you are going to blow, leave the room, calm down, and talk to him later. 

Say what you mean and mean what you say. If this has not been your habit, now is the time to employ this important skill.  If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.  If you do mean it, then follow through.  Before you give a directive, make sure you mean it and are willing to exact a fair consequence if it’s not carried out. Lay out your expectation ahead of time and stick to it.

Lead your family well.  Demonstrate love, grace, compassion, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, hard work, serving others, keeping your word – the values you want to pass on.  My daughter has this on her dining room wall: Being a family means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life, no matter what.  With adopted children, this is something they want to communicate constantly – we are a forever family – and so they repeat it daily. What are the values that are most important to you? Live them by example, and lead your family in them.

The cold hard reality of teenagers is that you can do everything right and still have years of irrational behavior.  It may just take time, even growing up and living on their own before they start to get it.  There are hormones, the craziness of our world, the isolation of shelter in place…many things contribute to this challenging season in these uncertain times.

At the end of the day, your job is to love your child well, lead your child well, and do your best to model the behavior you expect.  We can’t control the feelings of our kids, and we can’t make them love us.  My kids are 43, 41, and 39.  They are responsible adults, making their way, raising their own kids.  And now that they are in the trenches themselves with teens and pre-teens, they are grateful for the upbringing they had and they regularly express their love for us.

Hang in there.  Get through it.  It will look better from the other side.


People of Israel, what does the Lord your God want from you?
The Lord wants you to respect and follow him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul.
–Deuteronomy 10:12 (CEV)

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