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Re-Connecting to the Disrespectful Teen

reconnecting to the disrespectful teen
A friend asked me “what can I do when my teen has lost respect for me?”

Disrespect Comes From Pain

It is important to understand what lost respect means.
Lost respect isn’t something that the kids are doing TO the adults,
but rather the adults did something that ended up losing the respect of the kids.
If we look at it from this perspective then we can make our efforts towards re-earning what was lost.

When most people talk about making kids respect them
it is because they want to BE respected!
They don’t want to be treated with disrespect.
This attitude totally ignores the experience of the young person who is in pain.
Only pain leads to disrespect.

It’s Not All About You (sorry!)

Instead of being concerned with our own need for respect,
we should be focussing on healing the pain that has caused the situation in the first place.
Once we have this shift of focus the issue is no longer one of getting respect (which is an effect),
but of healing, of relating, love, connection,
of seeing, listening – deep listening and accepting (dealing with the cause!).

If we’re really serious about regaining respect then we must be patient and persistent.
It cannot be an overnight job. Once a person loses respect, trust and feeling safe with you, it takes time to repair.

Healing Relationships Takes Time

Think of a person you no longer feel safe with, someone who doesn’t accept you,
who has judged you and has made you feel less than worthy.
What would it take for that person to regain your trust, for you to believe that they are sincere, even after all they have done?

This is how we must approach bringing our disenchanted youth back into the fold.

We must show them that we really are worthy of their respect.
Part of this process is for us to admit, at least to ourselves,
that we have been disrespectful to our kids and figure out how to be more respectful.
If we can admit it to them so much the better.
When they begin to see us treating them differently they will respond.
Really they’ll have no choice!

Small Changes Every Day

Make these changes even a little more each day.

-Can we honour them for who they are rather than trying to impose upon them our values and ideas of who they should be?
-Can we give them the freedom to make their own choices, even if we don’t agree with them.
AND support them through whatever the consequences of those choices are?
-Can we celebrate them equally in their successes and their failures?
(Don’t we always say that our mistakes are really opportunities? Why is this true for everyone but kids?)
-Can we demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance so they can begin feeling safe to be themselves around us?

Healing is More Difficult

The problem is… how many adults are willing to go in this direction?

How many can see the disrespectful teen as injured rather than rude?
Can feel the pain of the youth before their own indignation?
Can see the problems of youth being as serious as their own?
Can see the long, difficult and dedicated path of LOVE
as the road out of the situation rather than hoping for a quick fix
such as stricter discipline to “keep them in line”?

When more of us see them this way more healing will occur.
The healing will bring self-respect and then respect for others will naturally arise.

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