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How Can I Get My Teenage Son to Respect Me?

How Can I Get My Teenage Son to Respect Me?

Ask Dr. Meg

Hi Dr. Meg,

Can you help me with this issue? My son is 14 and has TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. I have a daughter, also. I told both of them that when they got their phones, they would not be allowed on social media. I would get their passwords and they’d have no phones in their bedroom or bathroom.

My son started going to his friends for many sleepovers (first mistake) and I believe his friend encouraged him to get the apps.

He snuck into a house party. Then later, he installed these other apps. I never did anything about it... even though I didn’t like it. I have asked him questions about it. My daughter didn’t give me her phone code, but I trust her. She is a rule abider. So, I realize I am treating them differently.

I decided to finally look at his apps. Girls dancing, being suggestive. Many rude topics. My husband thinks it is okay for him to take his phone in the bathroom and says boys will be boys. He says it’s normal teenage behavior.

I feel like I should tell my son to get off all the apps and follow the rules, even though he has been doing this for a few months.

If you have any advice, I would appreciate it.

--Disrespected Mom

Dear Disrespected,

I have one question for you, and it is an important one. You know what you want to do when it comes to making decisions about your son, so why aren't you doing it? Many parents fail to act on their instincts because of peer pressure or because they don't want to get into arguments with their kids. But I can tell you that the parents who raise really good adults are the ones who follow their instincts, not their friends' advice, and they don't fear repercussions from their kids.

Here's what you need to do.

First, since your son has NO respect for you and does whatever he wants with his phone, you need to be very clear that you won't tolerate this any longer. If he puts apps on that you disapprove of, his phone gets taken away for at least one week. Period. If he doesn't respect you at 14, he won't at 16, and he'll be driving. Not listening to your rules could cost him his life.

Second, he is entering dangerous territory on his phone. Pornography is a huge problem among boys (and girls). You need to tell your husband that your son faces a very different culture than he did growing up. Really--pornography use among boys in the US is at epidemic levels, and we know that pornography is terrible for boys and men.

It makes them objectify and disrespect women, it can make them unable to have healthy intimate relationships later in life and it is highly addictive. I can guarantee you that if your son is looking at "suggestive" material, he's looking at porn.

Your responsibility as a mother is to help keep him away from this destruction. He can't control his viewing because he is young, but you can. Again, tell him that you will be checking his phone frequently and if you see something inappropriate the phone gets taken away.

Third - my friend you need to get a backbone. You are being run over and squashed. You are losing self-respect and allowing your son to treat you as though you are an imbecile. Stop it. You are a good mother with a wise sense of what is best for your son but you aren't acting on it because you don't believe in yourself. I promise, once you begin to do the tough part of parenting and take charge, your son will be much happier. And you will too.

The only one who can make others respect you is you. It is long overdue, so take a deep breath and begin making some changes. Make small ones at first and then move on to bigger ones. When your son sees that you mean business, he'll get on a better track. If you don't get him on a healthy track, who will?

Be strong. You can do this. I believe in you.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/PIKSEL

Meg Meeker, MD is a best-selling author and pediatrician. To find her online parenting courses or listen to her podcast Parenting Great Kids, go to To send in questions of your own, email them to