Gaining the respect of young people

While the phrase “respect your elders” has been used for centuries, true respect must be earned. How can adults earn the respect of young people?

Today’s youth do not want to arbitrarily grant someone respect because of the number of years they have lived. I recently read a blog post by a teenager who was fed up with the phrase “respect your elders”. The author made a great point when stating that even fools grow old. Many young people are hesitant to show respect to adults if they have been disrespected by other adults. Since mutual respect is a vital building block for any relationship, adults need to earn the respect of their mentees and young people they work with.

If you have a relationship with a young person who is not being respectful, Michigan State University Extension recommends taking a serious look at yourself. Young people often mirror our behavior. Adults commonly treat young people as though they are less valuable than their adult counterparts. Teens are often told what to do or they are not included in important conversations. Their opinions can fall on deaf ears. Adults who would never yell at another adult do not extend that same respect to children. If you are guilty of any of these behaviors, also known as adultism, you will want to consider whether this behavior is hindering your relationships with young people.

Earning the respect of a young person is not very different than earning the respect of an adult. People tend to respect those who acknowledge their value. Here are a few tips for gaining the respect of your mentee or other young people.

  1. Listen more than you talk. Young people have ideas and experiences to share.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Ask questions. Asking questions shows your interest in what the young person thinks and believes.
  4. Don’t be bossy. Ask a young person to do something rather than telling or demanding. You are both equally important.
  5. Unless there is a safety issue, there is no reason to raise your voice or assume you are right.
  6. Accept and acknowledge differences in opinion. Do not negate a young person’s opinion by assuming they will think differently when they are older or that they are naïve.
  7. Allow young people to have an equal voice when making decisions.

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