Adolescents need our respect.

Sure, we would all appreciate a little more respect, perhaps especially from the teens in our lives. But adolescents are particularly sensitive tobeing treated respectfully. Middle adolescents, roughly ages 13 through 15 (grades 7 through 10), appear to be especially responsive to status and respect compared to younger children or adults. When we understand this need and treat adolescents with the respect they crave, we can build closer relationships, support positive behavior, and possibly even earn their respect in return.

What the Research Says

When we talk about respect, we mean treating adolescents as competent individuals with value, who have some autonomy and power of their own. Respect goes hand-in-hand with status—where one ranks in a social hierarchy is determined largely by how much respect one receives from others in the group.

Hormonal changes at the beginning of puberty seem to play a part in the increasing attention to social status and respect, encouraging adolescents to change their behavior depending on what earns respect and status in a given context. Middle adolescents show a significant stress response compared to younger children (even younger adolescents) when their social status feels threatened. As they get older, students feel more and more strongly about adults respecting their right to make their own decisions.

What Families and Educators Need to Know About Respect

Adolescents are intrinsically motivated to behave in ways that garner respect or increase their social status, and research shows that efforts that harness this motivation get results.

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