PST #48: My Teens Don’t Respect Me

“My teen is so disrespectful. They’re living in my house, why can’t they follow my rules?” Feelings of exasperation and disrespect are common among parents of teenagers.

But what parents don’t realize is that oftentimes, behavior that you see as them intentionally disrespecting you isn’t related to respect at all.

In situations like these, both parents and teens end up frustrated. Parents because their rules aren’t being followed and teens because they are used to managing things on their own.

Teens feel like they’ve done a good job proving they are responsible. They see their parents as freaking out about how things get done (what time they get up in the morning) rather than noticing what they get done (albeit at 2:00 am). They feel like their efforts to be responsible go unnoticed.

In today’s episode, I’ll show you how to see these situations in a new way that doesn’t include you feeling disrespected. We’ll see how a new perspective on these situations can restore harmony in your household and create a strong foundation for the healthy, adult relationships we want with our teens.

If you’d like to dial down disagreements, I can help.

Let’s hop on a free, 30 minute, no pressure call. We’ll talk about what’s happening, what you wish was happening, and how to bridge the gap so that you can enjoy improved relationships with your whole family. Click here to schedule.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How parents and teens both end up feeling disrespected in the same argument. [3:29]
  • Hear examples of how issues of respect get muddled up with issues of trust, control and autonomy. [4:11]
  • Enforce house rules without fighting. [5:23]
  • Learn a powerful question to untangle issues and help you see things from their perspective. [7:20]
  • Ways to feel more respected and less irritated right away. [8:08]

Get a full episode transcript:

Read Full Transcript

We got a Wall Street journal delivered to our house yesterday instead of a regular newspaper. And there was a really great article in there about how the different generations are responding to the corona virus. It made me think of you all because I did a podcast while ago called the three conversations. If you haven't listened to that you should absolutely go back and listen to it because this podcast is building on that one.

The article describes how when people in our generation, that middle generation, are talking to their parents, very often we're feeling frustrated because we are understanding the restrictions differently than they are. I have talked at length about this with my friends, about how it almost seems like it's as hard to get our parents to comply with other restrictions as it is to get our kids to comply.

This article is really great because it gives some examples like when a forty or fifty something person asks their parents like “why would you go to the grocery store? We'll get your groceries for you. What were you thinking?” we are saying loving things like “I'm worried about your safety. And I want to take care of you. I want to help you. I want you to be around.”

What our sixty something, or I don't know how your parents are. Sixty, seventies, eighties. My mom's in her eighties. What they hear us saying is “you're much older and more vulnerable than you think.”

So we think we're saying something super loving like “We want to take care of you and want to help you what you be safe.” They're hearing that “you're old and stupid and vulnerable for acting the way that you are.”

This is so common right? This doesn't just happen with our parents. It happens with our kids too So what I really want to talk about today is this idea that we're making things that are happening. That are different. Like what we are saying and what the other person hears is very different, than how we're perceiving it. We are unnecessarily making things hard by not being aware of it. Sort of seeing our own blind spots.

Hey I completely understand we can’t see our own blind spots. That's why they are blind spots. but I'm hoping that today's podcast will kind of shine a flashlight on them.

It's one of the things that I'm hearing a lot as older children that are used to having more responsibility are coming home. Especially college students that are now used to living on their own, that are now back under our house. We are saying like we want things the way we want them to be. And they want things to be the way they were in college when they didn't have all of our rules. That clash. What I'm hearing come up a lot, is the issue of respect. Of parents feeling disrespected and of teens frankly feeling disrespected. Because they're used to managing things on their own and they feel like they've done a good job. They’ve proven that they're responsible.

Now they’re home and their parents are freaking out about what time they get out of bed in the morning. The kids are focused on getting what they need to get done in order to meet their university requirements or their high school requirements. Whatever their school requirements are. They feel like how that happens doesn't matter as much. But the parents are making what time they get up a matter of respect.

Parents are having one conversation in their heads. They're like “wake up time is an issue of respect” and the kids are seeing the issue as an issue of autonomy and of control. So there are two completely different issues happening. So of course there's going to be a clash, because they're really not even having the same conversation.

Let me give you another example. Another example, especially with kids that have been away and living all in one room, is it now they're home, they are very familiar with eating in their room. Maybe they always ate in their room and that's not a problem at your house. But there are a lot of families who don't like there to be dirty dishes or eating in their kids rooms.

I understand both sides. I definitely have clients that feel both ways on this issue. Which just goes to show this issue is a preference and not a moral issue. Whether or not the kids follow the rule, you can't eat in your room or they have to bring your dishes down when you're done eating in your room.

Whether or not they follow that rule can be separate from the idea of respect. Taking something as simple as asking your kids to bring their dishes down when they're done or you going in there once a day and grabbing them because it's not that much work. But it's a lot of work if it turns into an issue of respect.

Again I'm not saying that you should go get your kids dishes. That they shouldn't be responsible or they shouldn't follow rules. What I'm suggesting is the idea that however you execute these rules that you separate them out from making them about respect.

What you don't want to do is to get into a situation where your kids need to behave in a certain way, that something as simple as a fork left and in their room, to let that affect how you feel within your family.

You want to ask yourself a question like “Would it be possible for me to feel respected and have a child that didn't get up when I wish that they got up?” Ask yourself, “Is there a way that I could think about the situation that separates those two issues for me so that my feelings are not tied to their actions?”

Again I say, you can still enforce the rules. But you can enforce the rules from a calm place as opposed to enforcing the rules from feeling disrespected. You wanna start to separate out those two issues. You want to ask yourself, “How could it be true that they love and respect me even though they leave clementine peels on their dresser?”

Because I guarantee you they are not thinking “I don't love my mom and so I'm not gonna take my Clementine feel downstairs.” They are thinking is I'm hungry and I'm watching a movie in my room and I want to eat. And then they are not thinking about that food trash at all.

Same with sleeping in or staying up late texting their friends. All they’re thinking is “I'm missing my friends.” Okay they're not thinking “I'm gonna piss my mom off by getting up late.” Those are totally separate things. When you're believing that they're tied together, when you're believing that the time that they get up is an issue of respect, you will find all kinds of evidence to support your belief. Because that's what our brains do.

Whatever we think, we scan the environment for. And for sure we find evidence that it’s true. We definitely know this is not just true for our families. lMe my friends read the same news stories and have completely different views of what's happening. Completely different. They are looking for evidence of their beliefs and find it in the same story that I read and I find evidence of my beliefs.

So if you are believing that your child is disrespecting you or taking advantage, or doesn't value your time, or all of those things, you for sure will find evidence of that. And then you will spend all this time being together in the house with people that you believe don't respect you. That feels terrible and it's unnecessary.

You can be an effective parent that either enforces the rules or relaxes rules. Go either way from a place of calm. If you change your thoughts and look for evidence of it being true that they respect you or love you or value your time or whatever that that is for you. If you look for evidence of that, I guarantee that you will find it.

My daughter, for example, cannot seem to remember to hang up her towel and it's not a huge deal. I pick up that towel every single day. And she doesn't feel like I'm invading her privacy because I guarantee you she doesn't remember that she dropped her towel somewhere. It's not that big a deal, because I'm in there once a day doing something else anyway. I just grab it off the floor, because for me it's not an issue of respect.

I've turned my focus on all the ways that she does help. Like whenever she puts water on, she puts it on for both of us. Whenever she makes a snack she asks me if I want a Clementine as well.

I look for evidence that she loves me and she's valuing my time and I'm for sure going to find it. Then some of those other things I can just let go of. What I'm really doing here is transferring responsibility for how I feel on to myself, rather than controlling her behavior. Which doesn't work. We're not super successful usually in getting people to change.

I am focusing on the thing that I can change, which is my behavior, my feelings about the situation.

Hey for the thousandth time I want to say this is not an excuse. I'm not telling you that your kids don't have to have any responsibilities in the house. What I'm saying is that when you are responsible for your own emotions. You can make requests. You can state the rules. You can enforce the consequences. Whatever you choose to do from calm happy place. Either way, they follow the rules or they don't follow the rules. It doesn't dictate your feelings. You can still feel loved and respected either way.

And when you are responsible for your own feelings, you are more fun to be around. You're more creative in the way that you think. You'll notice things that don't bother you to do. Rules that maybe it would have bothered you if you had made them about respect.

It's more easy for you to be flexible when you are thinking about the conversation they're having in their head about autonomy. Heck you'll find ways to both give and get respect more easily when you are responsible for your own thinking.

So I hope this was helpful. I love this wall street journal article so much. They had a whole list of examples of what we say and what our parents hear. It just reminded me how these relationships that we have with our kids. What we're building are life long relationships. Think, in the very best of circumstances, someday our kids will be feeling like we’re out of control! Have a great week everyone. Thanks for listening!

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