7. Call before you drop by. If you have an adult child, always call before you go to his home, unless it’s absolutely necessary. (Do you like it when guests show up on your doorstep uninvited?) If you’re the parent of a teen, knock before you enter her room.
8. Accept their holiday absences with grace. Yes, you may be disappointed that your children — and their children — spend Thanksgiving or Christmas without you. But don’t nag or complain about it. You may win a battle over which in-law’s house they visit for Christmas, but lose your child’s respect — and a strong, enduring relationship.
9. When you catch yourself about to say, “If I were you … ” change the subject or leave the room for a moment to collect yourself. Your reward: a closer relationship with a child who appreciates that you respect his autonomy.
10. Think about the things you value in your other relationships. It’s a good bet that trust, respect, and attention top the list, along with shared good times and unconditional acceptance. There you have it: the recipe for the perfect parent-child relationship.
11. State your views, then invite reaction. “Does that seem fair to you? Can you think of a better way to deal with this? What would you do in my position?” It’s easy for a teen to be unreasonable if you take on the burden of reasonableness all by yourself. Share it and they’ll find it harder to dismiss your position. Plus, you’re more likely to land on middle ground you can both accept.
12. Be there when they want you or need you, rather than when you want to be. A lifetime of love, trust, and respect will ensue if you are reliably around whenever a reasonable and acceptable request is made of you.
13. Be honest. Many parents offer praise when they shouldn’t, as well as when they should. That just undermines trust. We’ve all heard, “When you haven’t got anything nice to say… ” But in fact, if both your praise and criticism are heartfelt and valid, your child will learn to trust you.
14. Cultivate love, but demand respect. This may sound a bit Machiavellian, but Machiavelli may well have been a good dad! Don’t try so hard to be your child’s friend that you fail to set limits, protect your own integrity, and earn respect. You can be friends long after your child is grown as long as you are the parent first.
15. Live your priorities. Kids should be among them, but not replace them. If you lose yourself in the process of indulging your kids, they will likely grow bigger egos than is healthy for them or you and belittle the value of your life.
16. Acknowledge that things have changed since you were their age. And they have. Music, clothes, technology, language, style, educational methods, the job market, even sexual mores and attitudes have evolved significantly in recent years. And the speed of change is only accelerating. You cannot keep up with it all, nor should you. But you do need to strike a balance: Don’t live in the past, but don’t try to bluff that you know exactly what’s going on among teens today either. The middle ground is to live in the present, but your grown-up present. That includes being conversant about the Internet, HDTV, cell phones, the state of the economy, the world marketplace. Your kids will respect you if you are contemporary in a mature way, and don’t base your observations of their lives on a past irrelevant to them.
17. Decode your child’s “love language.” While you may love your children dearly, they may not understand the ways you show your love — and you may not understand the ways they’re best able to receive it. Some children need lots of hugs and cuddles; others may not be as touchy-feely. Some children want you to spend time with them, while others need lots of independence. The next time you spend time with your child, pay attention to the cues he or she sends so you can better interpret the way your child needs to be loved.