We Can Make Our Teens Be Respectful But We Can’t Make Them Be Nice

My teenagers have this thing they do that drives me bonkers: They hang up the phone without saying goodbye to me. I sit there, pouring my heart out telling them how much I love them and I can’t wait to see them. I follow it with a “Bye, honey” and all I get is silence and a loud click in my ear.

teen on phone
It hurts my feelings when my teens are unkind to me. (Twenty20- @pratavetra_)

My teens lack basic manners

It seems their manners have flown out the window along with their desire to change the hoodie they’ve been wearing for the last few days.

I’ve told them it not only hurts my feelings, but it’s rude and disrespectful. I’ve told them you are supposed to say goodbye before you hang up the phone after you’ve had a conversation. I’ve told them I hope they don’t do that to anyone else. But I’m sure they have because according to them, closure to a conversation isn’t a thing anymore. Apparently, giving out greetings and goodbyes on the phone went out of fashion with using the word “lit” and wearing silly bands.

However, I remind them that in our house we do, in fact, say “hello” (not, “Hey, I need…”) when you call someone. Especially when you’re talking to the person who pays your phone bill, puts a roof over your head, and is the reason you have such a comfortable life.

Also, saying “goodbye” when you hang up after the person on the other end has told you they love you is basic human decency. Hanging up the phone in their face is not.

So, while my kids now do the correct thing when they hang up with me, they aren’t always nice about it. But hey, they are doing the respectful thing. To them that’s enough.

I can make my teens do the right thing, but I can’t make them be cheery about it

We can make our kids be respectful and do the right things, but we can’t force them to be nice. Before I was a parent I thought it was possible to make someone be nice, but alas I’ve proven myself wrong time and time again.

We can tell them to hold the door open for their brother and sister, but that doesn’t mean they won’t roll their eyes at them when they walk by.

We can refuse to buy things for them if we don’t feel they’ve earned them for whatever reason, but we can’t force them to lose the snotty-laced voice while they explain to us how’ll they’ll do better next time.

We can put them on restriction until a disrespectful attitude turns around, but we can’t force them to be cheery.

Being nice has to come from within. Our teenagers are moody, they often think the world revolves around them, and they need constant reminders to be nice. Especially to family members.

I can’t lie, I don’t feel like being nice all the time either. Especially the other day when my son dropped a piece of a burger on the floor and left it there for me to slip on. I didn’t feel like being nice when I yelled at him to clean it up and was hobbling around with a sore lower back.

He reminded me as I was micromanaging the way he was scraping the burger out of the cracks in the floor that I wasn’t being very nice. He was right.

I try to lead by example, but I am not always capable of doing the right thing. The burger incident was a good reminder for me that I can encourage my kids to be respectful by giving them consequences when they are not, but that’s no guarantee they are going to be nice.

It can be frustrating as hell, but they are human. The only thing I can do is to keep trying, even if I feel like I want to give up on them which honestly, oftenI do.

At this point, I’ll take the respectful behavior, even with a side of attitude because honestly, I’m really, really tired.

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About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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