Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Win My Parents’ Respect?
You expect Mom and Dad to be upset. After all, you promised to be home by ten, and ten has long come and gone. But how were you to know there would be an accident blocking traffic in both directions? And you would have called—if you could have got to a telephone.
Finally you are home, nervous but confident that your well-rehearsed explanation will be sympathetically heard by your folks. Instead, they pounce on you with questions so quickly that you can hardly catch your breath. Mom cries that she ‘almost called the police,’ while Dad decrees that you are ‘grounded’ for a month! ‘Why don’t they trust me?’ you ask yourself. ‘Why do they always treat me like a kid?’
MANY teenagers complain that they just do not get the respect they feel they’re entitled to from their parents. Rather than being trusted, they are judged guilty without a trial. Rather than being allowed freedom, they are hemmed in by rules. Said one teenage girl: ‘My father has set so many rules and restrictions, I feel as though I’m in prison. I’m growing older and I am tired of being treated in this way. There are certain things that I want and expect from my parents at this stage of life. I want to be understood, to be treated as an individual.’
Perhaps you, too, would like your relationship with your parents to be a little more based on mutual understanding, tolerance and respect. But how is this accomplished?
Changing Images, Changing Patterns
Writer Andrea Eagan observes: “By the time you’re a teenager, you and your parents have a long and complicated relationship behind you, and you’ve developed patterns in relating with one another that may be difficult to break.” So if your folks at times treat you like a small child, remember that not too long ago you really were a child. Your parents’ image of you as a lovable, helpless infant is thus quite fresh and not so easily set aside. Nor is it easy for them to change their long-established methods of dealing with you. The childish mistakes you used to make may be quite fresh in their minds.
If your folks are upset because you have stayed out too late, ask yourself: ‘Have I been out late before without a legitimate excuse? How often?’ ‘Are there times when I have been less than honest with my folks?’ Some youths find themselves ‘reaping what they have sown.’ (Galatians 6:7) When problems arise, their parents may almost by force of habit jump to conclusions.
Fortunately you can change your parents’ image of you. A young man named Timothy was once told: “Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Timothy 4:12) The message here is that young people can earn the respect of others. What are some ways you can do this?
In stating the famous golden rule, Jesus Christ said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) So if you want your parents to treat you with respect, treat them with respect!
This may not always be easy to do. When you’re a small child, you tend to look upon your parents as all-wise and all-knowing. “Then, with dizzying swiftness,” says writer Mike Edelhart, “our emerging adulthood shifts the focus of our view, and our parents become merely people, a man and a woman with gaping holes in their personalities, with huge frustrations, failures, uncertainties.” At least, that is how he viewed the matter. But it is true that, when you become aware of your parents’ faults, there may be a tendency to magnify these in your mind.
Some youths view their parents as “villains” (‘They don’t care about anybody but themselves!’). Some conclude they have somehow “outgrown” them (‘My folks just don’t know what’s going on!’). Others even disrespectfully talk back to them. A youth who reacts in these ways, though, not only alienates his parents but also spotlights his own immaturity. Acting like a child, he will surely be treated like one.
The apostle Paul, however, once recalled: “Furthermore, we used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect.” (Hebrews 12:9) The parents of these early Christians were no more infallible or all-knowing than your folks. Paul continued (Heb 12 verse 10): “Our human fathers . . . could only do what they thought best.”—The Jerusalem Bible.
At times these men erred in their judgment. Yet they merited their children’s respect. So do your parents. Sure, they have flaws, but remember, you have a few “gaping holes” in your personality too. Try being objective about their faults and give them the same respect you want for yourself.
Another opportunity to win respect comes when misunderstandings occur. Suppose that you have two angry parents to contend with. Getting angry yourself just makes a bad situation worse. Recall, however, how young Jesus handled himself when his parents were upset. Having accidentally left Jerusalem without him, his anxious parents searched high and low for him for three days. Upon finding him in the temple, innocently discussing God’s Word with some teachers, his parents were nonetheless quite upset. But did Jesus launch into an emotional tirade, cry, or whine about how unfair it was of them to impugn his motives? Note his calm reply: “Why did you have to go looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” (Luke 2:41-49) No doubt Jesus’ parents were impressed by the maturity he here displayed. And there is no record that they ever again questioned his whereabouts.
“An answer, when mild,” not only “turns away rage” but can also help win your parents’ respect.—Proverbs 15:1.
Rules and Regulations
Until you fully win your parents’ confidence, they will likely place some restrictions upon you. How you respond to their demands, though, has a lot to do with whether these restrictions will eventually be loosened or tightened yet further. Some youths, for example, openly defy their parents or secretly disobey them. But the authors of the book Options warn: “Lying to them when you want them to trust you makes as much sense as stealing to prove how honest you are. When they catch you, they’re likely to crack down on you even more, just for being a sneak.”
Try a more adult approach. If you want permission to stay out late, don’t make childish “demands,” or whine that “all the other kids can stay out late.” Says writer Andrea Eagan: “Being reasonable with your parents includes a number of things. One is telling them as much as you can about what it is you want to do, so that they really understand the situation. . . . If you tell them all about where you’ll be and with whom and why it’s important to you to stay out later . . . they just might say yes.”
Or if your parents want to screen your friends—as well they should—don’t whimper like a child. Recommended Seventeen magazine: “Bring friends home with you from time to time, so that when you say you’re going to the movies with Bill, your father has no reason to roar from the other room, ‘Bill? Bill who?’” And even if you feel your folks’ demands are unreasonable, don’t rebel. Talk it over with them.
This may not be easy. So keep a tight rein on your emotions. Says Proverbs 29:11: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” Assure your folks that you love them and that you appreciate their concern. Explain that you want to grow up into a responsible adult, and discuss straightforwardly the things that you feel will contribute to this growth.
After hearing what you have to say, your parents may—or may not—make an adjustment in what they require of you. But in any event, they will have observed your mature handling of matters. And over a period of time, as they observe your responsible behavior, their image of you as a helpless child will begin to fade, and they will find themselves looking at you in an entirely new way—with a newfound respect.
[Blurb on page 22]
“Lying to [your parents] when you want them to trust you makes as much sense as stealing to prove how honest you are”