By Stan Dubin
This is a question too many parents are asking these days. And it seems the age at which this problem manifests is getting younger and younger.
Let's look at some of the apparent reasons for this:
Peer pressure. Kids tend to emulate what the "other" kids are doing so if they observe their friends being disrespectful to their parents, this makes it easier for them to follow suit.
Turbulent school environment. If the scene at school is rough and kids are learning not-so-wonderful character traits, this of course rubs off at home.
Parents not around. When both parents work or spend too much time away from home, children find ways to let their parents know they object to this. Disrespect may certainly be one of these ways.
Each one of the above most certainly can be factors, but let me suggest another possibility:
The parent and the child are OUT of communication with each other.
What does that mean: "out" of communication? It means simply there may be talking going back and forth, but communicating isn't really happening. The child has things on his mind that s/he doesn't want the parents to know or is too embarrassed to tell them. The parents observe conduct that they consider non-optimum and instead of sitting down with the child and discussing this, they get backed off or consider they just don't have the time to do so.
Then there's the simple every-day communication that can disappear in a family. There's the question: "How are you doing?" AND really wanting to know the answer to that question. Not a fast "how's it going?" with the too-often superficial response. The child may be struggling to understand something about life or upset about something that happened with a friend. The parent who gets in there and finds out these things and is there to gently help the child resolve these concerns is a parent who is instilling respect into the relationship. And this respect goes both ways: from the child to the parent and from the parent to the child.
A vital ingredient in helping your child grow is communication. It cannot be brushed off. To the degree that your conversations with your child are superficial, to that degree your child will go out of harmony with you. You, the parent, are in control of how much harmony and respect there is in your home.
Each of the three factors given above (peer pressure, etc.) may be present in your child's life. But if you and your child are in superb communication, these factors just do not have the same impact they would otherwise.
It is never too late to get into better and better communication with your child. Every step in that direction is a major step in the right direction.
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Stan Dubin is President of Marriage Success (www.MarriageSuccess.com), and author of the book When the Thrill Is Gone, How to Put the Life and Excitement Back Into Any Relationship (helpyourmarriage.com/). He also offers phone marriage counseling (www.marriagesuccess.com/phone-counseling.html) with the first half hour free.
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