“But what about this B?”  We were in the middle of a student-led conference, and the mom was interrupting again.
“Mom!  I already told you I have a plan for that!  It’s no big deal!”
“No big deal?  You have A’s in all your other classes, so it seems to me like this is a big deal! Are you even trying in this class? If you really cared, you’d. . .”
“Let me finish and I’ll explain! You never let me talk!”

At this point the mom turned to me and said, “You see what I have to deal with? All this interrupting and talking back? She doesn’t respect me!” Having listened to the two of them bicker back and forth for 10 minutes, I thought it was time to make a point. “It seems to me,” I said cautiously, “that the two of you are very much alike. You’re going to have to figure out a way to communicate with each other.” And the other three parents at the table (step-dad, dad, and step-mom) all nodded their heads in amused agreement.

I have a poster in my classroom which reads, “If you want to get respect, be the first to show it.” This is so very true when parenting teens. Spend a few moments in self-assessment. What tone of voice do you use when talking to your teen about unpleasant topics? Is it dripping with sarcasm? How about harsh and angry? Do you interrupt or brush off comments you deem unimportant?

Once your child reaches the age of 12 or 13, you can pretty much expect him to respond to you the way you speak to him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent and a middle schooler going at each other in the hallway, and I can see exactly why the teen sounds the way he does. They’re just echoing each other!

This is another area where you should begin to treat your teen more like an adult and less like a child. Approach your teen with more respect, and you’ll have the right to demand it in return. Just be sure you’re actually modeling the kind of behavior you are expecting.


  1. These are tremendous words of wisdom, presented rationally and calmly. It would be tempting to raise my voice and say, “Lady, what are you thinking? You should hear yourself! No wonder your daughter gets upset with you!”

    Thank you, Sue, for not only suggesting what to say but also modeling how to say it.

  2. Pingback: You’re Not Your Mom (or Dad) « BRIDGE*Parenting – Mrs. Acuna's Blog

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