Kids will be kids and learning to be respectful comes with maturity as they grow and develop. Our kids have to have a strong example if we want them to learn effectively.
Our Attitude Sets the Tone:
Building a culture of respect requires us as parents to treat the people we come in contact with respect in front of them. Kids are like sponges. They soak up more than we actually intend to teach.
If I get a spam call from someone that wants to extend a warranty on a car I don’t have for the 5th time this week, and my kids hear me get loud, short, or disrespectful on the phone, I just missed an opportunity. When my kids hear me say, “Thanks for the call. I am not interested. Have a good day,” then I have taught them something about respect.
When I scream and yell at my wife because my buttons get pushed, my kids see that I am endorsing disrespectful behaviors when I don’t get my way. On the other hand, when I am able to work out things with my wife with understanding, empathy, and mutual problem solving, my kids see that conflict can be handled with respect and dignity. But dang, this can be hard to do. Many parents choose not to argue directly in front of the kids, but sounds travel even when you are behind closed doors.
If my wife and I do screw this up, which happens from time to time, then we have a unique opportunity to repair the relationship with each other through respectful apologies. We have used these opportunities to sit down with our kids and humbly admit to them that we lost our tempers. This does two things. It gives them the confidence that we love and respect each other. It also shows them that we are willing to take personal responsibility for our own attitudes and behavior.
Extending Respect has a Ripple Effect:
When our kids feel respected by us, they tend to act more respectfully towards us. I know this can be easier said than done. When my kids are being disrespectful to each other or to me, I want the behavior to stop immediately. If I am not mindful of my attitude, I tend to lose my temper and blow it with my children.
If we fail to demonstrate respect for our kids, how can we expect them to learn it? When we feel annoyed or hurt, the last thing we want to do is be respectful. This is human nature. Instead, we get defensive. When we lash out at our kids, our disrespect for them causes emotional pain. They tend to disrespect right back. Go figure! On the other hand, when we extend respect to our children, they are more likely to reciprocate.
When a culture of respect is established between parents and children, the kids are typically more respectful with siblings, peers, and other adults as well.
Comfort Before Correcting:
Remember that your attitude sets the tone. If you and your child are calm, respectful communication can happen. This is a model of the process that I have found that works best in this discussion. I use this with my all 3 of my kids, the youngest being 5 years old. I have also used this strategy effectively with adolescents.
Step 1: Identify the Emotion of your kid.
Hey kiddo, I can tell that you are upset. How are you feeling?
Step 2: Identify What Happened.
I am sorry you are feeling that way. Help me understand what happened that made you feel _________.
Step 3: Validate and Empathize with Their Feelings.
Oh, I see why you felt so upset. That sounds like a really difficult situation.
Step 4: Identify the Behavior.
How did you handle that situation? Did this help the situation get better or make it worse? How did this impact other people that were involved?
Step 5: Problem Solving
You will need to apologize to ___________ for hurting their feelings. Also, we need to plan for how to handle this situation better next time.
Note: If a consequence is needed, this is the time for it (e.g. I need for you to clean up the mess that you made when you got upset. Thank you for talking with me about this.)
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