The first place a teenager sees relationship is at home between his/her parents or with her parent's relationships. This makes it crucial that a teen sees a mutually respectful relationship between two people. Many times, in our office, we see teens who are brought to counseling for disrespectful behaviors. One of the first things we look at is how the teen is learning those behaviors and whether or not the teen is witnessing disrespectful behaviors with their parents relationships. We can't expect our kids to do different than what we are teaching them! If disrespect is not being modeled at home, it's important to find out where that attitude of disrespect is coming from, and address it immediately. It's less important to focus on the content of an argument, and more important to immediately address disrespectful behavior of the teen, and nip it in the bud. Respect from a teen is an essential.
Another hot topic for teens in relationships is manipulation. The teenage years represent an important time in brain development. The teen looks more mature, and in many ways may act more mature, but remember, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is still maturing, so teens can be impulsive and risk-taking. Along with this, it's normal for a teen to have what we call an egocentric attitude and feel infallible... Along with this can come manipulation. The teen wants what they want, when they want it. It actually can be a lot like a toddler! Recognize when your teen is trying to manipulate you, and address this behavior quickly. Not doing this will do a disservice to your teen, as they won't learn frustration tolerance and delay of gratification.
Along with respect, it's important to teach a teen appropriate ways to treat people in their lives. This can be anything from taking their shoes off when they go into another person's house, to holding the door open for an elderly person and saying "please" and "thank you". This might mean teaching them to listen when other's are speaking, without only thinking about what they want to say, or it might mean helping out around the house and having an appropriate division of responsibility where they learn how to be part of a family or a system (and their future spouse will thank you for this!!). We all hear stories about bullying lately. Teaching a teen healthy ways to treat other people will go a long way in their future relationships.
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.