How to Teach Teenagers to Respect Adults

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You may fondly remember a time when your grandmother warned you that all good children respect their elders. As an adult, you may find that this isn't as true as Grandma hoped. Some teenagers have difficulty showing respect to adults. This could be because the teenager doesn't care, but it could also be that the teenager doesn't understand how to respect an adult or feels that adults don't deserve respect. Whether you are a parent or teacher, help your teens learn to respect the adults around them even when they don't feel like it.

Explain what respect means. Some teenagers are under the impression that respect means you have to be falsely nice to someone you don't like. Other teens think that respect means you have to obey any adult who gives you an order. Both of these definitions are incorrect. Respect is simply an attitude of caring and consideration toward another person. It means that you listen when other people speak and treat their opinions with dignity and fairness.

Model respect in your everyday life. If you order a teenager to respect adults but don't respect the people around you, your teenager isn't going to listen to you. Demonstrate respectful behavior everywhere, especially if you're having a difficult day. When your boss yells at you, avoid yelling back and instead respond in a firm but compassionate voice. If someone cuts you off in traffic, avoid screaming at the person and instead say something like, "Wow, he must be late to an important meeting." Most importantly, show respect to your teenager. If she comes to you with a problem or issue that you think is silly or childish, genuinely listen to her concerns and offer calm, collected advice. If you don't respect your child, you cannot expect her to respect you.

Notice when your child is respectful to someone and verbally affirm him. You can say, "I noticed you were very respectful to your grandmother today" or "you did a great job showing respect to Mr. Miller." Tell your child that you understand how difficult it can be to be respectful and that you are proud of him.

Create a list with your teen of ways you can show respect. You can include items like "don't make fun of people" or "hold the door when someone's hands are full." Talk about the list with your teenager and make a point to try to implement the items in your own life.

Understand that your teenager is going through a difficult period of physical and emotional changes. Be patient as you help your teenager learn to respect adults and avoid growing weary or irritated if your teen slips up. Instead of growing angry if your teenager is disrespectful, use the moment as an opportunity to teach your child further. Talk about ways your child can respond next time the issue comes up and talk about why your teen responded the way that she did.