Nothing puts fire into the belly of parents faster than a child being disrespectful. When our kids ignore us, stomp their feet, slam the door, or say “NO!”, it gets under our skin in a way that few other things can. Whether they are toddlers or teens, we want respect – and we want it NOW!
I’ve seen and heard many parents as they tower over their children and yell, “THAT’S IT! I’VE HAD ENOUGH. YOU NEED TO SHOW ME SOME RESPECT!”
It’s more than a little ironic that we demand respect in such a disrespectful way. So when our children are disrespectful, what are our options? Here are 6 suggested routes to respect:
1. Get our Relationships Right
When our children feel safe, secure, and understood, they tend to behave in respectful ways. Of course they’ll still push boundaries from time to time. That’s what children do as they develop and grow. But when relationships are right, we can have useful, constructive conversations with them about limits rather than disrespectful confrontations.
2. Model it
We have to be respectful ourselves. We probably think we are, but most of us can improve. Whether than means we ask more rather than telling, or we use our manners more, or speak more politely. The more respect we show, the more our children will learn what respect looks like and feels like. And they will copy us.
3. Stop Disrespect When it Starts
When we spot disrespect – whether towards siblings, school friends, or ourselves – we need to stop it right there, at the start. And we need to do it clearly, directly, but respectfully.
4. Encourage Perspective
When someone behaves disrespectfully, they’re often worked up and feeling as though they’ve been slighted. We can promote perspective by having them talk to others who have felt disrespected, and learning from their experiences. Ask them, “How did mum/dad/sibling/friend feel when you behaved like that?”
Invite them to take another person’s perspective to develop empathy. Then problem-solve better solutions for the future.
5. Encourage Helping
It’s hard to be disrespectful to someone you are helping. The more our children help others, the more compassionate they’ll be. Remember, however, that forcing a child to help is disrespectful. And when someone is forced to do something, they usually don’t have the change of heart we are looking for. It needs to be freely chosen, with our gentle guidance to encourage it.
6. Get them out of BED and using their OAR
We can encourage them to get out of BED and have them use their OAR – that is, get them out of Blame, Excuse, and Denial, and get them showing Ownership, Accountability, and Responsibility. If they are disrespectful, don’t take their excuses. Don’t let them blame the other person. Refuse to accept their denial. Kindly, clearly, and directly help them to own it, be accountable for it, and make responsible decisions in the future.
Respectful relationships are a two-way street. And, to be frank, our children need some respectful guidance to stay on track. They don’t raise themselves. It takes effort. But as we get our relationships right with them, they begin to trust us and become open to our influence. Then, we experience the rewards of those respectful relationships.