How should a teenager respond when his mum and dad seem to have the attitude that he’s always trying to get away with something? I’ve had it with my parents! I’m not a bad kid, but they don’t respect me at all. I can’t do anything or go anywhere without being subjected to a major inquisition. How can I stand up for my rights and freedoms without running away from home?

Though it may not be what you’d like to hear, you need to realise that your rights are limited as long as you’re living with your parents. The freedoms you currently enjoy are granted by your mum and dad. Hopefully, they will expand as you continue to grow, mature, and behave responsibly. Meanwhile, your parents know you well, so if they feel a need to ask you lots of questions every time you want to go out, they probably have their reasons for it. Most parents act this way out of deep and genuine concern for their teenage son or daughter.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to eliminate the tension and improve your relationship with your parents. The first step is to get together and define your terms. What does “respect” mean to you? What does it mean to your mother and father? If you can find a time to sit down and discuss this question rationally – preferably when the air is clear and everyone is in a fairly good mood – you will have already begun the process of establishing healthier communication and a more positive parent-child relationship.

Keep in mind that respecting a person is not necessarily the same thing as agreeing with him or trusting him automatically. It certainly doesn’t mean overlooking faults, ignoring past mistakes, or turning a blind eye to the potential risks of his present behaviour. In other words, your parents don’t always have to give you your own way in order to respect you. Their respect for you, like their love, is something separate from the decisions they make for you and the rules they lay down for your benefit. It’s all about how you treat them and how they treat you while you’re in the midst of a disagreement. According to Webster’s Dictionary, respect is “a courteous consideration of another person.”

Many teens fall into the trap of thinking that if their parents don’t agree with them or do what they want, they’re not respecting them. This is not true. Unfortunately, parents can sometimes fall into the same trap. The reality is that your mum and dad can be respectful toward you even while questioning you, grounding you, or depriving you of some privilege – provided their actions are warranted. At the same time, you can express disagreement with their decisions if you do so calmly and respectfully.

As you try to see things from your parents’ point of view, you may gain a deeper understanding of how much they care about you. It’s very possible that their nagging, questioning, and controlling are basically expressions of their desire to protect you, teach you right from wrong, and make sure that everything turns out right for you. Remember, too, that parents are only human. You may not like some of their ideas, and their methods of guiding you into the right path may seem ineffective and unreasonable to you, but it’s highly likely that they have your best interests at heart.

Bottom line: respect can’t be demanded. It has to be earned, and we often earn it by giving it to others. For the time being, you may need to deal with the frustration of having your freedoms curtailed a little bit. You may have to come to terms with being distrusted even when you don’t think you deserve it. Instead of striking back, try to sit down with your mum and dad and sort out your emotions prayerfully.

Perhaps you could also ask your parents about the possibility of seeking help together. To find a christian counsellor in your area see Christian Counsellors Association Australia

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Originally published at

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