5 things you can do to raise the respect level of your teen

(taken from the book Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by  Dr. John Townsend. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. There is great content and an abundance of practical solutions is this book.)

Disrespect and teens seem to go together.

Defining the Problem

Most people find it easier to recognize disrespect than to define it. Disrespect can be seen in a tone of voice, a body stance, or a rolling of the eyes, or it can be evidenced in choices teens make that indicate they aren’t following their parents’ values.

Parents generally know when they are on the receiving end of a teen’s disrespect, because it feels like an attack, and it is one.

Disrespect is an assault on your place in the teen’s life.

Rather than the presence of something, disrespect is actually an absence of something. The absence of honor for someone. And respect conveys honor.

You show honor to people by giving weight to what is weighty about that person: their role in your life, their authority, their care for you. When teens disrespect, they dismiss that honor.

Instead, they have contempt for or anger at a person, or they simply ignore the person. This lack of honor can be directed at someone as a person or at his or her feelings, opinions, needs, rules, or standards.

Disrespect is rooted in several things that are going on simultaneously in your teen.

Self-focus.

Teens tend to be narcissistic. They are less invested in getting along with the family unit and more aware of their emerging feelings and thoughts, which they view as theirs and no one else’s.

And those thoughts and feelings are strong and intense. It’s hard for teens to pay attention to what their inner world is saying as well as to what others are saying.

So they listen more to themselves (and often those peers whom they admire) and less to others. This self-focus contributes to disrespect.

The more teens are invested in their own perceptions, the less honor they will give to others. Those around them feel negated and put down because the self-focus is so strong.

Power changes.

Teens are coming into their own sense of power. They are smarter, more verbal, more mobile, and freer than they have ever been. Along with this increase in personal power can come a disrespect for others’ feelings and thoughts.

Because they are experimenting with being a stronger person, teens may not be as careful or kind about others, so people around them get annoyed or get their feelings hurt.

Authority shifts.

Adolescents are also coming to terms with authority. They want to be their own boss and to be accountable to no one. Yet they are not ready for that sort of freedom, so they challenge, question, and argue with any and all adult authorities.

In itself this isn’t bad; it is a helpful tension for the teen to resolve. However, it can lead to disrespecting a parent’s feelings, wishes, rules, or values, which is defiance.

Meanness.

In addition, teens are experiencing their own dark side as part of the adolescent passage. They can simply be mean and cruel. It’s a part of humanity that is certainly not good, but we all have the capacity for meanness.

Meanness will often negate the respect and honor that a teen should give to other people. A teen may be sarcastic, attacking, or dismissive of others and not even feel bad about it.

 You may be thinking maybe I should just sit back and wait till he or she are out of the house. Don’t give in to that temptation.

You can help your adolescent work through disrespectful attitudes and behaviors. Your teen needs for you to take part, and when you do, you can make a difference.

Here are five things you can do to raise the respect level of your teen.

1. Be a person who should be respected.

Your kid should respect you, but you may be making it more difficult for your teen, particularly if you have unresolved character issues and problems, such as drinking, anger outbursts, self-centeredness, irresponsibility, people-pleasing, or a “do as I say, not as I do” stance, or if you depend on your teen to offer you comfort.

This bears repeating: Your teen doesn’t need a perfect parent. But your teen needs to be able to look up to you and think, That’s what an adult is. That is a good thing to become.

In other words, become an honorable person with self-respect. This tells your teen that you should receive honor, and in turn, your teen will be more likely to become an honorable person as well.

2. Make room for differences and anger.

Differences and anger are there, they are real, and they aren’t all bad. Adolescents need to have their own feelings and experiences and to know what acceptable anger feels like.

Don’t attempt to bring back the compliant nine-year-old you used to have, as you will be trying to force your adolescent to develop backward rather than forward, and he will (and should) resist it.

Instead, make it all right for your teen to have his own mind and feelings. When your teen disagrees, say, “Interesting thought. Why do you think that?” This approach disarms much of the challenge and provocation.

I often cook breakfast to help my wife and give our boys a decent start on the day. To keep things from getting boring, I’m always figuring out new things to cook.

One morning I made a special oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. Halfway through, one of my sons said, “Dad, just to let you know, I don’t like oatmeal.”

“Okay, that’s cool; thanks for telling me,” I said. He wasn’t being rebellious; he was stating a dislike. I don’t want my teens to grow up saying they like things they don’t and tolerating things they shouldn’t.

3. Require respect.

There is a difference, however, between differences and disrespect. Teens need room to differentiate themselves from their parents, but it can be done with honor.

Give specifics so your teen knows what is acceptable and what isn’t. It may be that she honestly does not know the difference. Or if she does, your being specific will let her know where you are drawing the line.

For example, say, “It’s fine for you to disagree with me and even to get mad at me. That’s how we know what we need to discuss and what problems we need to work out. But from now on, it’s not okay to disrespect me. Here is what I mean by disrespect: rolling your eyes at me, being sarcastic with me, having a disrespectful tone of voice with me, raising your voice with me, swearing at me, or calling me names. There are probably more, but I’ll let you know when you do them.”

Tone of voice is always tricky because it’s so subjective. But most teens understand what you mean by this. Their tone of voice gets them in trouble with their teacher at school and conveys contempt for the other person’s viewpoint.

But if your teen insists that she doesn’t understand what you mean, then act out for her what she does. Make your meaning clear so that your child is responsible for the information.

4. Be an accurate feedback system.

As the parent, you are your teen’s primary teacher for learning how to disagree and have respect, so your feedback needs to be accurate and clear. If you are easily hurt when someone is direct with you, do some work on that.

This is more your problem than your teen’s, and you don’t want him to be dishonest with the world because of what he learned from you.

But when your adolescent is being rude and disrespectful, confront him. He needs this information, so don’t neglect giving it to him, even if it’s inconvenient or difficult. Not long ago I was at dinner with some parents and kids, and one boy was in a foul mood, which he then directed at his mom, a friend of mine.

He would say hurtful things, such as, “You’re a crummy mom. You don’t know anything,” and she would divert him, saying, “How is your burger?” or “What movie do you want to see tonight?”

I didn’t interfere, but later I told the mom, “Travis was all over you. Why didn’t you say anything to him?”

She said, “Well, it wasn’t that bad, and I was just tired of fighting anyway.”

I understand being tired of fighting, I truly do. I could tell that she was exhausted by Travis. But no child should be allowed to talk to anyone like that. If your teen says similar kinds of things to you, something is wrong.

Get help, support, and strengthening from other people, so that you can begin giving your teen feedback that a rude and disrespectful attitude is not okay.

5. Enforce consequences.

If you have been clear about disrespect, but you haven’t been imposing consequences up till now, expect your teen to test the limits. So have your consequences ready, and follow through with them.

Here is an example: “I talked to you about disrespect a few days ago, and I told you that you would lose a weekend night with your friends if you were disrespectful. Well, when you used that tone of voice with me at dinner and rolled your eyes, that was disrespect. You’re grounded Friday night.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“I know you think that, but we’ve been over the rules, so they are clear. It’s okay that you don’t think I’m being fair, but I hope you don’t make things worse by disagreeing right now in a disrespectful way, because I will ground you for a second night.”

“But I didn’t know!”

“Well, we’ve talked about it. And remember, I gave you a couple of warnings about it before I gave you a consequence, so that you would know. I think you knew. So if you don’t want to be with me right now, you can leave the room. It’s okay if you’re mad, as long as you are not mad disrespectfully.”

You Can Do It!

Freely and generously give your teen love and grace, and require that your child respect and honor you and others. In so doing, you will be helping your adolescent become an adult who treats others with respect.

(taken from the book Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by  Dr. John Townsend. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. There is great content and an abundance of practical solutions is this book.)

The Weight of the Supreme Court’s Decision on Same Sex Marriage

Whether you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today on same sex marriage, it is hard to deny the weight and magnitude of their decision. It will shape policy and practice in our country for many years to come. A new course for marriage has been charted and mandated for all 50 states of our nation.

For those who claim that Jesus is Lord, and follow his teaching that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman, this decision is unsettling. I am unsettled. As a minister who doesn’t perform same sex ceremonies , I know I will be marginalized.

I think Justice Samuel Alito was correct in his assessment of the court’s decision, “This decision will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

I also realize I will be labeled and called a bigot by many. This is what Chief Justice John Roberts said: “It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage; it is something  else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s ‘better informed understanding’ as bigoted.”

With that said, this decision by the Supreme Court shouldn’t surprise me. I shouldn’t expect the world or our nation to embrace the principles and values of the kingdom of God. After all, the king himself came to our world and the world rejected and killed him. Decisions by our nation like this much like the Roe vs. Wade decision are reminders that I shouldn’t let my roots grow deep here in this world. It is a reminder that I am a citizen of heaven first.

For those of us who claim that Jesus is Lord, we must give up the hope that the world is going to all of sudden fully embrace the teachings of our king. It didn’t 2,000 years ago and won’t today. We shouldn’t expect the world or our nation to legislate Christianity. Jesus didn’t impose his kingdom on others when he came but graciously invited people as he showed them what his kingdom was about by healing their diseases, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead.

Yet, listen to what Jesus said in regards to popular opinion and the majority: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15:18-19 NLT)

If Jesus is your king, you are no longer a citizen of this world. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are now an ambassador to a lost and broken world. This is not your home. You are a foreigner and alien. You are looking forward to another country.

The creed of the Christian faith is “Jesus is Lord”. Such a declaration means that we submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus and not this world. We believe he is our God and not ourselves. He determines and knows what is best for us because he created us.

And we shouldn’t expect the world to jump on board. The world is in rebellion against God. A rebellion that will increase until the final days. It has been in rebellion every since Adam and Eve did the one thing God told them not to do. All of us have rebelled. Either passively or directly.

For those of us who claim Jesus is Lord, we know what happens when we choose to go on our way and make our own rules. Because we have all done it. We have all experienced the sorrow associated with that path. We know that God allows us to go on our way. He allows us to pursue desires that are not always best for us. By doing this God allows us to experience his passive judgement. He gives us over to the folly of our ways. That appears to be what we see today and will continue to see more and more.

Amazingly the words written by the Apostle Paul 2000 years ago still ring true today. “So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

God takes his hands off and lets them go their own way. I believe he does this in the hope that one day they too will turn and find the grace and mercy of the loving open arms of their Heavenly Father.

So remember you are a citizen of another nation, another country, another kingdom. Don’t expect the one we live in now to embrace the values on the one we will live in for eternity.

Should we want justice for groups like ISIS and others who persecute and kill Christians?

It has probably made you angry if you have seen, read, or heard about any of the recent beheadings of Christians in the Middle East. When we see some form of injustice, unfairness, or mistreatment, most of us want justice. We want justice to be served to the perpetrator(s). If someone harms a child, traffics and enslaves people, or beheads people who chose not to convert to a religion, we want justice to be served swiftly.

We should want justice. The need for justice is buried deep in our psyche. It is part of being created in the image of God. A world without justice would mean that the guilty go free. If you have ever been wronged or harmed by someone you personally understand the desire for the guilty to be punished for their crime.

So when we see a group like ISIS behead Christians again in the Middle East, it is normal and natural for us to want our world leaders to act. It is normal for us to want those men hiding behind masks to stop being cowards and to pay for their crimes. This is where Jesus’ commands to his followers may be difficult to understand.

Jesus taught, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

Jesus not only taught this truth, he experienced it. He was executed unjustly at the hands of the Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders. He died at the hands of an unmerciful system and unjust group of people. And he is the only person to do so who could say he was 100% innocent.

Even his followers didn’t want to go down without a fight. The night before Jesus was executed, Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of one the men who came to arrest Jesus. But Jesus told Peter, “Put away your sword,”… “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 NLT) Unlike ISIS and other Islamist groups, Jesus was reminding his that we should not seek to advance or impose God’s will on others through violent means. Rather we should use weapons like prayer and love.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” (Romans 12:14 NLT) And he wrote, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:19-21 NLT)

So our part is to love them. Bless them. Pray for them. Show kindness to them. That is how we respond on a personal level. We can and should want justice but instead of taking revenge on people we need to trust God to execute it in his own time and his own way. We can then trust God to be the judge. After all God gets angry. And we should know that it is much worse to fall into the hands of a righteous and angry God than it is to fall into the hands of an angry human judge on earth.

If people need to be paid back, God is completely able to administer justice rightly. And we have the promise that God will make all things right one day. He will judge all people. So even when we don’t see the justice of God in the immediate moment we can trust that one day He will judge every single person who has ever lived with complete righteousness.

Sometime overcoming evil with good will involve nations and governments stopping evil through the use of superior force. Much like the world stopped Nazi Germany in World War II. The Apostle Paul said, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.” (Romans 13:4 NLT)

But to follow Jesus’s commands to pray, bless, and love our enemies on a personal level takes a great deal of faith. It goes against what our gut level instinct is. The teachings of Jesus are often like that. His teachings often turn the world’s way of doing things upside down.

The Apostle Peter who was also executed at the hands of his enemies also reminded us why we should respond with such patience. He said, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)

God perspective on time is different from ours. It is not that God is slow in fulfilling his promise, but rather that he is patient. He is patient on all of us. He wants every single person to have the opportunity to turn to him in faith and receive eternal life. Even those who do evil.

Can God be trusted in the midst of so much trouble and suffering in the world?

The book of Job is one of the most profound books in the bible. It focuses on questions like – “Can God be trusted?” and “Is God good and just in his rule of the world?”

It was written to those of us who might struggle with the justice of a sovereign, loving, and all powerful God in a world filled with trouble and suffering.

Job, one of the main characters, falls upon incredibly difficult times. All nine of his children are killed. He loses his wealth. He loses his health. It gets so bad that even his own wife tells him to curse God and die.

Three religious friends come to comfort him. But they tell him that his troubles are the result of his own doing. They assume bad things don’t happen to good people. They tell him all of this is happening because of his sin. Job calls them miserable comforters. Listen to some of the things they say to him.

After all nine of his children are dead. One of his so called friends has the audacity to tell him, “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”

Maggots are under Job’s skin from his disease and another one of his so called friends tells him, “how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot— a human being, who is only a worm!” Not the things you want to receive on a Hallmark card while you are sick and grieving.

As they continue to bring more misery to Job, it is a stark reminder to us not to do similar things to people in distress. The reasons for human suffering often remain a secret to us. There is much that we are unaware of when it comes to understanding other people’s problems. It reminds us to be compassionate and humble with trying to help others going through difficult times.

Job cursed the day of his birth. Then he began to ask God a series of questions.

“Why did I not die at birth?”

“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?”

“Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?”

Why are you allowing these bad things to happen to me?

After a long period of silence, God answers Job.

He doesn’t answer Job’s questions however. Rather he responds by asking him many questions. This is a reminder to all of us that while God loves us dearly, he doesn’t always answer our most agonizing questions. Rather he may ask us some questions prompting us to trust him more.

God responds to Job’s questions. “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

God’s questions start with words like “Who? Where? When? Have you? Can you? Do you know?” He asks Job if he knows how creation and its creatures are governed. He asks Job particularly about power in relation to himself and other creatures he has made.  He ask Job who controls the weather. He asks him to explain the mysteries of our universe. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?”

God does not ask questions because He doesn’t know the answers. He asks Job and us penetrating questions because He wants us to think about our place in the universe and how much power we really have. He invites us to ponder his wisdom, his greatness, and his power.

Adam and Eve’s original sin involved them wanting to be like God. As their descendants we still struggle with the same God complex. We want to rule. We want the world to be about us. We think we can rule and manage the world better than God.

God has to remind us often, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways”. Many of our afflictions and losses are hidden in the knowledge and purposes of God alone. God is God and we are not. We are not the main point. We are dependent on God. God is not dependent on us.

Job responds to God’s questions. “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’  Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Thankfully, God is a good God who has our best interests in mind.  We are reminded from the story of Job to continue to trust and obey God in the midst of life’s perplexities and uncertainties. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world. The Apostle Paul tells us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

The truth is we may go through tough times in which God doesn’t answer many of our questions. Especially the question of “Why?” In these times we need to trust him. We can trust his character and his promise that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God restored what was lost to Job. As Job’s fortunes turned around, we have the same promise. We have the promise that God has a future and a plan for us. He has an eternal plan that goes beyond our current momentary problems. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Finding your hiding place

“You are a hiding place for me.” (Psalm 32:7)

That may sound cowardly but those words were penned by King David. A warrior who demonstrated courage when others shrank back. David was no coward. David defeated Goliath, a great warrior over 9 ft tall when no one else in the Israelite army would go out to fight him. David slayed Goliath and then cut off his head for all to see.

David was a great warrior and also a great leader and king. He was a man’s man. Yet, he felt the need to hide. He felt the need to retreat from the trouble he experienced in life.

But he didn’t just retreat to any place. He retreated to God. He found his solace by hiding and finding protection in the arms of God.

David wrote that when his heart was faint, when he was feeling needy and exposed, that he found God to be a “refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (Psalm 61:3) God was his hiding place, his strong tower, and his refuge.

I think the life of David reminds us that we too, no matter how strong or powerful we think we are, need to take time to find our hiding place to God. We need to retreat. We need to find our refuge in God. If you heart is faint, you need to take time to find your refuge in God.

That means we have to withdraw from the crowds and busyness of life. We need to take quiet moments with just God and seek him. Cry out to him. Ask for his help. When we do, we can hear the voice of God whisper to us as he did David, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)