A lot of parents complain that they can’t get their kids to respect them, with the consequence that they don’t do as they are told and are rude and insolent.
So, how can parents get their children to respect them?
It actually all starts with how much the parents respect their children, and how they make this show in the ways in which they interact with them. While children can learn from being explicitly told what to do and what not to do, they learn much more by example. Our children respect us most when we show with our behaviour that we respect others—including them.
Boundaries are important in any relationship. Very small children don’t understand the concept and need for boundaries, but as kids grow up they need to learn how to respect the boundaries of others. This includes respecting others’ right to privacy, to physical autonomy, and to making decisions that affect themselves. Adults may sometimes need to enforce their own boundaries, but the best way to establish healthy behaviour around boundaries in the home is for the adults to lead by example. Older children, and teenagers in particular, need a certain amount of privacy. Sometimes they just need to be left alone so that they can process all that is going on in their rapidly changing lives. By showing them that we respect their need for boundaries, we make it easier to make our own demands in this area too.
Etiquette and good manners might seem like old-fashioned concepts, but they are important. It’s easier for everyone to be kind and considerate when they feel confident that they will be thanked and appreciated for what they do. Again, parents can lead the way by always saying “please” and “thank you” when someone does something for them—and they should insist that children do likewise.
If issues of disrespect seem to cluster around gender-related matters, it is important to get to the bottom of it. Parents who might be going through a tough patch in their relationship might inadvertently give the message to their kids that women or men are “just like that” and can’t be reasoned with. Parents who find that their children are using negative gender stereotyping to disrespect them need to address not just the immediate presenting issue but also the unhealthy dynamic that has been allowed to develop in the home. We all have a duty to challenge this sort of behaviour when we encounter it, and the best place to start is in our own families.
While negative reinforcement (punishments or time-outs, for example) do have a place in parenting, in general positive reinforcement is a much more useful tool. This means noticing and acknowledging children when they behave well. Children all seek attention, but, unfortunately, many of them get more attention when they are being naughty or disrespectful than when they are being kind and polite. By commenting on our children’s good manners and thanking them when they are helpful and respectful, we can create a virtuous circle; they will want to engage more often in the behaviour that elicits praise because it garners them positive attention.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.
You may also want to consider reading about child therapy, which can help resolve any conflict you may be having with your child/children.