Real Talk     Hot Topics     Teen Health    

Real Talk



A professional's perspective

teens, moms of teens, raising teens, real talk

 

GET THE OTHER PERSPECTIVE. Get the answer from a mom of teens!

As you struggle trying to raise a respectful child, keep in mind that respect for oneself and others is the foundation on which a healthy and successful life is built. With all we do for our kids, and I’m no exception, it can leave them feeling entitled, rather than respectful.

There are a number of things you can do as a parent to help your kids to develop a more respectful way of interacting with people. The following are some ways to teach your child respect, especially with members of the opposite sex, an arena that becomes increasingly important when your child enters adolescence.

As a parent, you can play a vital role in teaching respect for people of differing beliefs, one child at a time. Working to raise a respectful kid will mean standing your ground and not backing down when you feel your child is being disrespectful, or saying disrespectful things. When both parents are tired from spending a full day at work, teachable moments can feel exhausting. 

Take a breath and remember you are a vital part in building the respectful society we all want to live in. 

It begins early


Parents whether meaning to or not, begin treating boys and girls differently from the time of infancy. Girls are encouraged to be more passive and thoughtful, whereas boys get away, and are even encouraged to be aggressive. The statement ‘boys will be boys’ highlights the society’s acceptance of aggressive or destructive behaviors in boys but not in girls. This bias even extends to the toys girls and boys are given—while boys are given construction equipment and cars, girls are given dolls and stuffed animals to play with. Even in pretend-play games, often little boys are encouraged to roughhouse while girls are prompted to play the roles of princesses waiting for their princes. Children observe these differences early, internalizing that there are socially acceptable ways for them to conform to traditional gender-specific roles.

It starts with us

We are the first model of respect (or the lack of it) that our children have.

Parents teach children more through their actions and behaviors than through their words. Children form ideas by observing important adults around them. The way parents speak to each other and the roles they play at home will significantly influences the attitudes and behaviors of children.  If a boy consistently observes his father treating his mother disrespectfully, he is likely to believe that such behavior is acceptable and will think that is applicable to all females. He will most likely treat girlfriends in adolescence similarly.

To change children’s perceptions we need to first look at our own attitudes and behavior and also that of other adults who regularly spend time with our children. It is important that the adults show equal respect towards roles of all individuals in the house.

Watch how you speak


If we often tell a little girl that she looks beautiful, she may begin to focus excessively on improving her looks and draw her sense of self-worth from her physical appearance. Especially around puberty, girls are sensitive towards both positive and negative reinforcements about their appearance. Additionally, if we discourage young boys from displaying their emotions by saying things like “boys don’t cry” it may adversely impact their emotional health. Consider whether you only give your children gender specific compliments or statements.

Monitor the media

Media reinforce gender stereotypes that are already prevalent in the society. Most popular fairy tales reinforce the perception that a ‘princess is always rescued by or waiting for her ‘knight in the shining armor’. Similarly, comic books, movies and video games tend to focus on men as always strong and courageous beings. We can’t completely prevent such content from influencing children; we can however help them process these messages the right way through discussion or play. Monitoring what our children read or watch can help them understand and not conform to rigid gender stereotypes.

Teach what you want to be

Open the avenues for exploration despite gender.  Realize that some aspects of this perspective may be outside of your own comfort zone and may not be what you have experienced; change the patterns from what you know to what you want to see.  Parents should refrain from placing gender-based expectations on children and instead encourage boys and girls to explore their interests and all possible career options.

Have standards and consequences

Your child should know which behaviors are and are not acceptable, both when they are with you and outside of the home. Hold them to that standard. When your child becomes disrespectful or misbehaves, address the behavior and use corrective action. Decide based on what you think will work for your child individually. They should know that whenever they behave or speak disrespectfully, it will be dealt with, and not ignored.

The consequences of respect become magnified when a child reaches adolescence with its emerging sexuality and dating. Teaching that respect is a two-way street will make the difficult adolescent years somewhat easier, and hopefully more angst free.

Teach empathy

Respect for people is a necessary component of every relationship, whether it is between siblings, a parent and child, or when adolescents begin more intimate relationships with the opposite sex. Talk about how it might feel in certain situations by role playing with your children.  Teach empathy by having conversations with your children about how certain behaviors make them feel, and then asking them to try to understand how this might make others feel.

Expect respect in your home between all family members. Correct adolescents when they are rude act or speak disrespectfully.  Kids will usually interact outside the home with others the way they interact inside the home with the family!



More Real Talk


  • USC quarterback Caleb Williams supports young adults' mental health

    The athlete teams up with national "Seize the Awkward" Campaign

    In Collaboration with the Ad Council, AFSP, The Jed Foundation, Caleb Cares Foundation & USC, a new student-produced Public Service Advertisement encourages young adults to check in on their friends. read more »
  • "I Have The Right To" launches nationwide pledge

    Offering support to students and survivors of sexual assault

    In an exciting announcement and a first for the celebrated organization, I Have The Right To launches a nationwide pledge to ensure all students receive an education free from sexual assault. read more »
  • Proper medication use can help tobacco users overcome nicotine addiction

    The New York State Smokers' Quitline can help you kick the habit

    The New York State Smokers' Quitline (Quitline) reminds New York State residents that cigarettes and vape products are highly addictive. read more »
  • Weeklong FAIR Film Festival 2022

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) Hosts a Film Screening Plus Q&A

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) will kick off the FAIR Film Festival 2022 with an in-person screening of the documentary film I Am A Victor plus a selection of short films on Sunday, June 12 at 1:00pm EDT at Caveat on the lower east side in Manhattan. read more »
  • Resources for LGBTQ youth

    Positive online places for your child

    LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied and harm themselves because of it. read more »
  • How to prevent cyberbullying with technology

    Who is at risk and what you can do

    Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent among children and teens, as young people now spend more time on phones, computers and digital devices. About 6 in 10 teens have been bullied or harassed online, according to Pew Research Center. read more »
  • Teenage Period Cramps

    How much pain alerts to medical conditions?

    More often than not prevailing period stigma holds adolescents back from expressing concerns about severe menstrual pains. Experts say that debilitating cramps are not normal and might be caused by underlying medical problems like endometriosis. read more »
  • Mother Shares Her Journey with Heroin-Addicted Daughter

    Read the gripping new book about this family

    September is National Recovery Month and one mom has shared her journey with her daughter struggling with addiction. read more »
  • Learn How to Help Your Struggling Adolescents Navigate Change and Overcome Anxiety

    Parenting expert Erica Komisar has a new book that can assist you

    Adolescence is a notoriously complicated time for kids as well as their parents. Plus, the epidemic of mental health disorders in young people has made parenting today even more challenging. But it’s not too late. Parents of adolescents can still have a profound impact on the health and well-being of their children. read more »
  • How to help high-achieving students manage stress

    Tips and insight for parents

    School administrators at Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) in Maryland were surprised to learn that high-achieving students wanted to get rid of class rank—a measure of student success that weighs higher-level classes differently when calculating grade point average. The class ranking system created an unnecessary burden, students said, and discouraged them from taking the classes they really wanted. read more »