Getting Your Black Teen To Respect Their Teachers

stressed_out_momBy Gregory Harden

There was a time when teachers were the most respected people in the Black community. Not anymore. Although teachers help students by trying to educate them, far too many Black students show teachers no respect whatsoever. Students disobey teachers. Students curse at teachers. Some students have even assaulted teachers. Young people treat teachers as if teachers are the enemy.

Back in the day, parents wouldn’t have stood for their children disrespecting teachers. Now, it’s no big deal, especially since parents disrespect teachers in front of the children. No wonder children have little respect for teachers.

If students don’t respect teachers, learning doesn’t occur. So, if your teen is disrespecting their teachers, you must step up and put a stop to this.

Here’s what you can do to get your teen to respect teachers.

Talk to the Teacher(s)

Meet with the teachers whom your teen has been disrespecting. Find out exactly how your teen’s been disrespecting those teachers. Encourage the teachers to be specific. Ask the teachers what your teen can do to show more respect in the classroom. Again, encourage teachers to be specific. This lets you know what behaviors your teen needs to change. Ask the teachers how you can work together to change your teen’s behavior. Once you’ve determined how you want your teen to behave, communicate this to the teachers so they know what to look for.

Determine What Respect Will Look Like

Respect is broad and involves many behaviors. In fact, if you created a list of respectful behaviors, you could probably fill an entire sheet of paper, back and front. Decide what you want your teen to do more of, rather than what to do less of. So, once you know exactly how your teen’s been disrespecting their teachers, determine what specific behaviors you want your teen to show toward their teachers. Then communicate this to your teen.

Start with an Easy Task

Pick one or two specific behaviors that are easy to accomplish. For instance, you could have your teen say, ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘Yes, ma’am’. That’s easy to accomplish and easy to monitor. It’s also simple for your teen to understand. The more they can understand what’s expected of them and the more specific you can be, the more likely your teen is show the behavior you expect. And, a quick win builds everyone’s confidence; yours, your teen’s, and the teachers.

Stay Focused

Your teen probably has many problem behaviors that need to be changed. Unfortunately, you can’t change all of their negative behaviors at once. But, you can change one behavior at a time. This can only happen if you focus on one behavior at a time. If you want your teen to be respectful to teachers, you must focus intently on this one goal. Once your teen’s consistently respectful, then you can work on other behavior problems.

black woman thinking

Talk to Your Teen

Set a rule that your teen must respect their teachers at all times. Let them know that under no circumstances can your teen disrespect their teachers. Let your teen know that they don’t have to like their teachers, but they must respect them. Also, let your teen know that they must show respect even if they’re angry with their teachers. Then, explain what respect means and discuss how to be respectful. Create a list with your teen of ways they can show respect to teachers. Ask your teen what causes them to disrespect their teachers. Let your teen know that you will monitor their behavior daily. Also, let your teen know that you will not tolerate disrespect of teachers and that there will be severe consequences for disrespect.

Measure Progress with a Behavior Sheet

Create a daily behavior sheet that your teen gives to teachers every day for them to complete and sign. The behavior sheet should ask whether your teen completed class assignments, turned in homework, and have home assignments. It should also ask questions about their behavior during class. Ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Make sure the sheet you use asks if your teen was respectful. Put spaces for teachers to add comments and to sign their name (be sure to get samples of teachers’ signatures for comparison).

You must make sure the behavior sheet is filled out and that you get it every day. Without the sheet, you’ll be unable to monitor whether your teen’s respectful or not. Therefore, you have to stress to your teen that the behavior sheet is their responsibility. Emphasize that there will be consequences if the sheet isn’t filled out or your teen doesn’t give the sheet to you. Accept no excuses for why the sheet wasn’t filled out by a particular teacher or why your teen couldn’t give you the sheet. Simply enforce consequences without discussion or argument. This will increase the chances of getting the sheet completely filled out.

Enforce Consequences for Disrespect

Do this every time without fail. The behavior sheet will let you know if your teen is disrespecting teachers on a particular day. If your teen was disrespectful, enforce the consequence. In fact, you should have consequences in mind long before you have to enforce them. Also, you should have informed your teen long in advance what the consequences will be for disrespect.

Acknowledge Respectful Behavior

Just as you must give consequences for disrespect, you must recognize times when your teen is respectful. In fact, try to give 2-3 times more recognition for respect than you give consequences for disrespect. Teenagers’ major complaint is that parents are quick to notice misbehavior, but slow to notice responsible behavior. Don’t be like that. Always recognize and praise your teen for acting responsibly. But, never reward your teen with money or material things because rewards are like drugs, eventually you need more just to get the same effect.

Your teen will not learn if they don’t respect their teachers. That’s why it’s so important that your teen respects their teachers. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your teen shows their teachers the proper respect. By taking the steps above, you can get your teen to be more respectful in school.

Greg Harden is a licensed social worker with over 15 years experience working with troubled youth and is the founder of Black Parents In Charge. Check out my blog to learn how to deal with your teen’s behavior problems in school.

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