Here it is… the long awaited post. Forget the 100 Things I Want My Teen to Know lists. Whose got time for that and what teenage boy is going to read 10 things you have to say, let alone 100 things you have to say?!? Here it is; the single most important thing you can say to your teenage son. Say it often, say it creatively. Say it with your actions and reactions. Say it to yourself. When he is grown and gone, if he remembers nothing else, make sure he believes and lives by this one simple statement.
Respect is a word we throw out all the time. Our teens hear it as; be nice, follow my rules, listen to teachers, do as you are told. But respect is so much more than getting the lawn cut on time. Respect is so much bigger than following the rules. Respect is deep and complex.
It means valuing each other’s points of views. It means being open to being wrong. It means apologizing when you are wrong or just when you have hurt someone else’s feelings. It means accepting people as they are. It means being patient and kind even when you are annoyed. It is understanding that the world does not revolve around you. It means other people matter. It means, you are lucky and privileged to have what you have and be who you are. It means your teenage son has a responsibility and moral obligation to share his greatness (talents, experiences, gifts) with the rest of the world.
We want our teenage boys to respect women, to respect teachers, to respect themselves, their friends’ parents. But how do we teach that? We can tell them, demand it of them, but how do we instill it?
Teach respect by breaking it down to its many smaller parts. Use these words while raising your boys. Look for and point out times when you see these values in action, either his own actions or those around him. Give him opportunities to experience these emotions in his everyday life.
This list is a direct copy from Thesaurus.com for synonyms for RESPECT
A few of my personal favorites:
Appreciation: If your teenage son grows up appreciative for what he has, what he is given and who he is, he will have learned respect. He should say thank you every day. To you for a meal, for going to work and providing for him, to his sibling for doing his chore, to his teacher when they pass back a test or paper, etc. Your teenager should know that he is lucky to have the life he has. He should be exposed to as much difference as possible. He should have opportunities to work in a soup kitchen, or go on a volunteer type trip, to donate supplies and money that he has earned. He should know from an early age that he has many advantages that are not a guarantee. He will respect his good fortune even when he desperately wants the latest iphone upgrade or a car of his own.
Dignity: Every person deserves dignity. Teach your son how to preserve his dignity in difficult situations. Talk to him about his power to preserve the dignity of others. Treat your son with dignity and expect that he treats ALL others that way. Even as your son is going through the gawky, awkward stage and he is trying to look cool, be cool and be accepted, teach him to care about others. Be sure he is treating his old friends and neighbors with dignity. They may not stay in the same social circles, but he can still be kind. That will teach him later in life that there are many different people, from many different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, but he will be a more interesting and sought after person if he has learned to treat everyone with dignity and ultimately respect.
Courtesy/Regard/Honor: Be nice. Be kind. Be respectful! Every other human your teenage son will encounter has feelings, has a family who loves them, has value and worth in the world. Teach your teenager to know that. Their teachers, their neighbors, their peers, their friends’ parents, their boss, their girl friend and ex girlfriends, have value and matter. Be courteous, in person and online. Have regard and honor for who they are. They may be different than your son. But that is OK. Show your son this by finding courtesy, honor and regard in your own relationships and talking about it. They learn respect by watching and modeling you.
Awe: Love this one! When was the last time you used the word “awe” around your teenage son? Teach your sons the meaning of awe. They will understand the word, awesome. Start there. Be positive. See things and behaviors and accomplishments that are awesome. Then help them understand the awe part. Take a moment to honor and respect an accomplishment and say “I am in awe, I am so proud, that is not anything I could ever do. I am amazed”! Help them see the awe in things around them. The awe in the beauty around them, maybe for you that is a beautiful sunset, or a kindness around you, or a clean house, or whatever brings you to a moment of “wow, this is great”. Maybe that moment doesn’t last very long in the midst of crazy lives and busy families, but take a moment to show your teenage son what brings you a moment of “awe”. Teach them to find their own moments. In recognizing and appreciating a moment of “awe”, your teenage boy will be honoring who he is, taking time for himself, and demonstrating an incredibly mature moment of respecting himself. How many adults live and breathe everyday going through the motions and feeling stuck, bored, overwhelmed? Your teenage son will have experience and practice in taking a few minutes out of his day and connecting with something that really matters. Help him respect his own moments of awe. Expose him to yours and encourage him to find his own!
Grab anyone of these positive words and ideas and start using them with your teenage son. These are the building blocks to teaching respect. He will value himself and those around him. And isn’t that the best we can hope for ultimately? Raising a good, kind, decent human being is a huge accomplishment.
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