Nowadays, having a disrespectful child is common, and seemingly, acceptable. When I tell someone I have two teen daughters at home, they immediately sympathize with me as if it’s a terrible disease that’s slowly killing me. Their impression is that I must be struggling dealing with all of the hormonal changes, eye-rolling, and disrespect. On the contrary, I’m happy to say that my children, who are now 13, 16, and 23 and I have built a good relationship centered on mutual respect.
As parents, we naturally expect, want, and need to feel revered. However, respect should be mutual in all relationships. Your child is going to become an adult, and you’ll want to have built a solid foundation with them. Here are some do’s and don’ts I practiced in order to build a healthy and respectful relationship with my children.
Do respect your child
The first step in building a respectful relationship with anyone, is to show respect in the way that you expect it. Value your child’s input, thoughts, and ideas. Show that you care and are interested. Allow them to question your values, which gives you opportunities for teachable moments. Have conversations with them about why respect is important for healthy relationships.
Do set clear expectations for your child
Also, your child will begin to prompt you with opportunities before the age of one. For instance, if they address you in a disrespectful manner, take the time to correct it and clearly explain what the expectation is. This requires consistency, so it’s a lot of work when they are young. A lot of times, it requires you stop what you’re doing in order to correct them. I’ve been known to (safely) pull the car over and address some things immediately.
Do make eye contact when correcting your child
Whether your child is 10 months old or 15 years of age, you should make eye contact often, especially when you are correcting them. Physically step down to their eye level and request eye contact. At some point, they may be taller than you, in which case, you can have them kneel down to your eye level so that you’re not looking up at them. True story!
Do ask if he/she understands what is being corrected
At some point, I noticed that my children thought they were being chastised for one thing, when in fact, it was for something different. So I began to ask them if they understood why we were having the conversation, or what they did that lead to it. Make sure you’re on the same page.
Many times children will say that they understand what you’re trying to convey, if they know that it will end the conversation. But don’t let that discourage you, it is important to let them know that their input is valuable and necessary for a resolution.
As a freebie, it also encourages accountability; they need to know that they’re going to be held responsible.
Do allow and encourage emotions
Allowing your child to express emotion conveys that you respect them as a human being with all of its natural rights. Acknowledge your child’s emotionswhether they are the result of your correction, or someone hurting him or her. Allow room for children to respectfully express how they feel, to take time to process their feelings, and most importantly, to learn how to properly handle them.
Do not allow your child to walk away from a conversation
If you are in the middle of a conversation with your child, do not allow him or her to walk away from you. Explain that this is a sign of disrespect, especially if they mumble while walking away.
Do not discipline your child in public
Children experience embarrassment just like we do, so putting your child in an awkward position in public may not get positive results. If your child is a toddler, you may need to take him or her aside immediately, and have a conversation about their behavior. After a certain age, you may be able to wait until you are in private, because they will still remember what the scenario.
Do not talk about your child’s negative behavior around them
Your child needs to trust that you’re not going to announce their shortcomings to everyone you know. Don’t shame them. You need to establish the boundary of respect for privacy. They should also understand that their mistakes are nothing to be proud of, but if you talk and laugh about it with your friends and/or family, then it becomes a subject of entertainment.
Do not allow your child to slam doors or throw things
Being upset doesn’t mean you can react by slamming or throwing. This should not be allowed under any circumstances, especially after you’ve concluded a conversation with your child. This is part of teaching them how to handle emotions. They may need a little time away in their room, but it doesn’t mean that they get to slam doors as they go.
Do not make promises you can’t keep
If you constantly make promises to your child and you don’t uphold them, they will lose trust and respect for you. Eventually, everything you say will become irrelevant to them.
This also works with negative action promises. I’ve always considered it ridiculous when a parent tells a child, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out,” or other outrageous senseless claims. Refrain from making promises of consequences; simply do it.
Demand respect with your behavior, never with words – Judy Dove
What are some ways that you encourage respect with your child?