Son Doesn't Respect His Gay Teacher

Jan Faull, MEd, on showing respect and acceptance to homosexuals.
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Q. My teenage son recently learned that one of his teachers is gay and living in a committed relationship with another man. I've since overheard him and his friends making disparaging comments about their teacher. How can I coach him that his behavior is unacceptable? And how can I help him be more accepting of homosexuality in general?

A. At a time when teenaged boys are developing and discovering their sexuality, it's not unusual for them to jeer, snicker, and poke fun at someone who embodies all of their own phobias regarding homosexuality.

Nevertheless, it is your job to offer information about gay people, create an understanding of homosexuality, and put forth the expectation of respect for this teacher. When you hear these disparaging remarks, step up to the parenting plate and discount them with a sound bite of information or an expectation for appropriate behavior.

Teenagers don't like long lectures from parents. Brief statements that challenge their thinking often are best received.

Here are a few lines that you can use when you hear those disparaging remarks:

  • That's an unkind remark. How your teacher conducts his personal life outside of school is his business, not yours, and you are expected to show him respect.
  • I hope you never make a comment like that when your teacher -- or anyone else -- is in earshot. Not only is it disrespectful to your teacher, but you could hurt the feelings of someone else whose orientation you're not aware of.
  • Making fun of people is mean. It shows a lack of understanding. I encourage you to read about homosexuality and broaden your understanding before passing judgment.
  • In the world of business, if you made such comments, you would be reprimanded by the human resources department. It's time to learn how to tolerate differences in people for now and for the future.

If your son argues with you, it's fine to open up a discussion on the topic. You state your opinion, and then let your son state his. A heated exchange between teen and parent is welcome unless it turns disrespectful. If your son yells, swears, or calls you names, end the conversation and return to the topic when his emotions subside. Here's the line to use: "I'm willing to discuss this topic when you're calm. For now, the conversation is over for me."

After a discussion such as one on homosexuality, teens won't say, "Thanks, I really appreciate your insights." To maintain their teenaged dignity, adolescents usually go off their bedroom. That doesn't mean they haven't been influenced by the parent's point of view.

Parents of teens need courage when it comes to informing their young adults of their perspective on controversial issues. You have a powerful voice. Let your son hear it on the issue of homosexuality and other tough topics as well.



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