“How can I teach my kids respect?”
I often hear this question from my fellow mothers. This question was one of them that got the most interest in the mother group that I am a member of. This suggested me that most parents struggle with this and feels that their children don’t show as much respect towards them or others as they would expect from them.
I feel very lucky because before I became a mother, I got many years of experience working with kids. Of course, I wouldn’t say that I don’t have to learn and improve in this field. Moreover, raising our own child is different from educate others’ kids. But I experienced my own personal transformation towards this issue during these years. I had opportunity to practise teaching kids respect before my own kid.
I and my husbands were brought up in such families where respect was forced by parents. It was emphasized that we had to respect our parents because they were older than us and they were doing everything for us giving up many things to provide us with the possibility to study.
When I was studying to attain my first teaching degree, I remember, it was highlighted during the course that we needed to get the authority over the students. Also, it was essential that, already in the first lesson, you had to present that you had a huge power to manage discipline and control them. It was said that they had to fear from you a little bit otherwise they wouldn’t respect you.
However, I have learnt that respect is something that you must deserve it and children need to be taught to be respectful by showing a model for them.
What can we, as parents, do to raise a respectful child?
Maybe it is needless to emphasize that children aren’t born knowing how to respect others. We, adults, need to teach them to be respectful.
When a child is a little baby, it is natural that she can communicate by crying and her mother satisfies her needs when she is hungry, wet, or just needs a hug. But as they are older, it’s our job to teach them respectful ways of getting their needs by showing a model.
Why Do We Communicate With Our Children So Differently As We Do With Adults?
If you are in restaurant and got a wrong dish, you might not tell the waiter: “You brought me the wrong dish. Why didn’t you listen to me? Go and bring me the right one immediately.”
I think most people wouldn’t use these rude and disrespectful, directive tone in this situation. But what about with their children? Do they talk to their children that way?
“Why aren’t you listen to me? I told you not to do this.”
Yes, some of them allow themselves to speak to their children that way. Why do we treat others in a different way? Whey do we respect them more?
How To Teach Respect:
1. Stay calm and don’t overreact when you think your child is disrespectful
We sometimes think that yelling works with children who don’t listen. But this is wrong. We often shout to them from another room. They don’t listen to us if we are not in front of them, making eye contact with them and making sure they are paying attention to what we said. We are disrespectful to them.
We shout to them because they don’t meet our expectations. We are rude towards them because we are frustrated. With this behaviour we show when we are angry, we can be rude and disrespectful. We convey them the wrong message.
So, if we want to teach respect, first we need to stay calm and stay in control. We need to decide if this is a real “disrespect” situation, a misunderstanding or the kid doesn’t know the right answer in such a situation.
2. Teach Problem Solving Alternatives
First, we need to identify the cause for disrespect. If we think they are truly disrespectful, we can concentrate the circumstance asking them why they act that way instead of saying “You are being rude!”
When your child calls you a “bad mom” because you don’t allow her to do something, and you tell her “How dare you! I am your mother; you can’t talk to me that way.” You might think your child doesn’t respect you and you are nervous.
But the kids usually say that because they are angry, they think you hurt them and want to hurt you back. They (and adults) can’t think straight when they are angry.
We can ask them “Why did you say that? Was it because you were angry with me?” With our acknowledgment we can see her anger start to disappear.
Then we can explain to them we understand they are upset but that doesn’t mean we are a bad mom. We can ask “If other kids are angry at you for something you have done, does it mean you are a bad girl?”
By narrating our child’s emotions, we can help them see where anger came from and can teach them words to describe her emotions and solve the problems. Also, we can present them that in conflicts we can stay calm.
3. Model How to Be Respectful
Respect your kid first, treat her as a person in the same way you treat adults. Respect her preferences and choices. Some parents want to have complete control over their child’s behaviour and preferences. They want their kids to be a mini-me of them, but they aren’t. If her choice is not a danger to safety or health, doesn’t hurt others and we can afford them, we need to honour it.
Children also have right to think independently and like different things. When their thoughts and choices are accepted, they feel heard and respected. They can learn that they should respect other people’s different opinion.
4. Use Positive Discipline Instead of Punishment
Discipline doesn’t mean punishment and positive discipline is more effective and longer-lasting than punishment.
Everybody makes mistakes. If you make a mistake at your work and your boss reacts to it in a humiliating way, you wouldn’t have more respect for him.
The situation is the same with children. If we use harsh punishment with them, they won’t respect us, and we show them how to be cruel to those who make mistakes.
If you use positive discipline, that doesn’t mean you are permissive. Using positive discipline means setting firm boundaries and insisting on them. That is essential to successful discipline.
5. Earn, Not Demand Respect
When I heard that I need to be respectful and grateful with my parents because they did so many things for me, I always thought “but they wanted me, why do I have to be grateful for that”.
It is natural that parents expect kids to respect them. They spend so much effort, time, and money to bring up their children. But little ones don’t understand this. And to be honest they didn’t ask us to do all this. We decided to take on them.
But respect cannot be expected, it can only be earned. We can earn it by showing a good role model. We need to be respectful to everyone, including our children.
6. Apologize For Mistakes
It is natural that we occasionally have outbursts, and we can’t control our anger. We are too tired balancing between our adult things and parenting. But after that we need to calm down and explain to them why we were so upset before. Then we need to say sorry for shouting but teaching her having emotions are normal.
A mature, respectful adult takes responsibility and apologizes when he or she makes mistakes.
Many parents think that apologizing to their kids undermines their authority as a parent. But that’s not true, contrarily, you reinforce the authority and reliability. You can build trust with you kid.
7. Don’t Take Your Child’s Behaviour Personally
Parents often takes their child’s behaviour personally. All children have conflicts with their parents. You need to deal with your child’s behaviour as objectively as possible.
When parents can’t manage these conflicts effectively, they feel out of control, and they often overreact or underreact to this situation. When they overreact, they can be too rigid. And when underreact, they ignore it. None of them are correct. We need to help our child learn to manage her thoughts or emotions.
Parenting is not easy. I think all of us have unresolved issues with our own parents that throw difficulties in the way of being the best parents we can be.
Teaching respect is like other parenting tasks. The first and most important thing is showing an appropriate model to our kids. To this we need to work on ourselves all the time. We always must self-reflect and analyse our own emotions and behaviour to be able to change ourselves and correct our own mistakes.
When my daughter makes a mess, I could choose the “easy” route to save myself a lot of time and frustration shouting at her not to make a mess all the time. But I remind myself how I hated it when I was shouted at, and she wouldn’t respect me for shouting. I experienced this with my students. It never works. We can get temporary obedience out of them (not always), but not respect.
Of course, it is not easy to do the things I listed above. Not for me either.
We need to acknowledge the mistakes in the patterns we got from our parents and the environment in our childhood and heal our own wounds. This work is a conscious and time-consuming work, but we live in a time when we can get a lot of help, tools for this.
If you think you want to change, you want to improve yourself, you are in right path.