Excerpted from Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind by Michael J. Bradley, Ed. D. (Harbor Press, 2002)
If I could bottle it, I'd be on Oprah. If I could define it, I'd be on the Supreme Court. Like pornography, it's much easier to spot than to define, let alone teach. I can see it when it walks into my office with some families. I can also see the black hole it leaves when it's missing, sucking up all of the warmth, love, and hope in a family. Let me tell you what your kid says about respect.
WHAT YOUR KID SAYS INCREASES HIS RESPECT FOR YOU
Some of these comments you've heard yourself. Others may surprise you, but they are all typical thoughts kids share with me about this respect issue. Maybe you can figure out how you can use this for yourself. Be forewarned, though; it's a tough list.
• He says he respects your honesty, particularly the hard kind where you admit to your mistakes.
• She says she respects your consistency, like when you keep trying every night to help her with her homework, even though she coldly rejects you.
• He secretly loves that you keep showing up for his games even when he says he doesn't care.
• She admires how you always offer affection without begging for or demanding it in return.
• He says that not taking yourself too seriously makes him respect you. The fact that you laugh at your own goofs helps him listen to you about his.
• She says she gets really impressed when she sees you setting aside your own needs for her - like when she knows how important cleanliness and order are to you and yet you don't take her disorganization and messiness personally.
• He says he can't believe how you kept from going crazy on him when he dented up your car.
• Her eyes filled with tears of admiration when you apologized for yelling at her for denting up the car.
• He silently cried when you told him how sad and scared you were the night he came home drunk.
• She was stunned by your courage when you told her you got pregnant at 17.
• He gets awed by how hard you work to provide for him without ever complaining.
• She is mystified by how you handled that abusive racial slur without losing your dignity.
• He wants to know how you do that thing where you seem so strong, yet you never raise a hand in anger.
• She is so envious of the skills you have to keep your husband feeling special after all these years.
• He is curious to know about how you seem to treasure your wife after all these years.
• She wants to learn how to love a husband, raise children, have a career, and still be such a powerful and distinct individual, like her mom.
• He sees how you teach by living your life, and not by lecturing.
• She loves that you don't ever say, "I told you so."
• He is inspired by how you never take cheap verbal shots at him, even when he deserves it and it would be so easy.
• She says that you're, you know, like, really a grownup.
• He says that you're, you know, like, really a grownup.
• She says that she loves you for all those times you don't tell her what to do.
• He can't say enough about how you let him make lots of decisions that he knows you wanted to control, but you didn't because you wanted him to grow up.
• She says she listens to you about drugs and drinking because you do neither.
• They both respect you the most for staying calm when they go nuts. They shake their heads at your self-control, as if you were some Zen master. They sometimes ask me, "How do my parents do that?" I love hearing that question from your kid. I know it means I won't be seeing very much of him.
WHAT YOUR KID SAYS DESTROYS HIS RESPECT FOR YOU
Be forewarned before you read this list, also. It's a tough one, too.
• She says finding your stash of marijuana caused her respect for you to go up in smoke.
• He says finding out about your sexual affair ripped his heart in half.
• She becomes disgusted seeing how small you look after your sixth beer.
• He hates it when you beg for or demand affection.
• She feels lost when she sees you getting cold with her because she's been acting like such a little snot.
• He gets frightened when you retaliate in kind for his hurtful words to you.
• She becomes panicked when you act as small-minded as she does.
• He cries hard tears when he finds out his father is so weak of character that he uses strength of muscle to punch his own son, even though the kid "deserved it."
• She sees you shrink in size each time you are sarcastic.
• He feels less hopeful each time you resort to anger to get him to do things.