Many parents would say that they yell at their kids, grab their kids, spank their kids… because they aren’t listening, they aren’t doing their chores… Insert whatever you want your kids to do that they’re not doing.
This argument is often followed by the sentence ‘If only he… I wouldn’t have to…’ The truth is that our children aren’t making us do anything, they aren’t making us respond in a certain way, they aren’t making us be disrespectful to them.
If a parent treats a child in an unkind, inpatient, abusive, overpowering manner (i.e. disrespectful manner), the child will either retreat and become a people pleaser, or the child will treat the parent the same way. However, if a parent treats a child with kindness and respect, the child will treat the parent with kindness and respect.
The answer to the question ‘which comes first, a respectful parent or a respectful child?’ is obviously ‘the parent.’ As everything in life, it all begins with us, the parents. Our children are still learning how to relate to other people. We need to help them do it by setting an example, starting by how we relate to them.
Think of this situation…
My nine-year-old daughter blatantly yells at me “NO” when I ask her to go brush her teeth. The tone and the attitude cut me deeply, I feel disrespected, and my mind goes immediately into reaction. My thoughts range from “how dare she talk to me like that?”, to “I should be stricter with her, and punish her to end this attitude.”
However, I pause, I breath and I don’t react. Instead, I respond “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.” As I remove myself from the situation for a few seconds, I try to understand what may be upsetting my daughter, because to me, that disproportionate reaction has nothing to do with brushing her teeth.
I remember than she had been trying to show me a world she had built in Minecraft all afternoon. I was busy with my three-year-old, and helping her twin with homework. I kept saying “not right now” and “I’ll come find you when I can sit down and see it.” However, that moment never came. We carried on with our crazy afternoon, took showers, prepared dinner, had dinner, and before I knew it, it was time for bed. So, I sent her to brush her teeth. Then, it hit me. I realized I had done the same to her with my actions. I told her “No” repeatedly ruring the afternoon.
After she brushed her teeth and got into her bed. I sat down with her and told her “You’re the sweetest girl I know. I had never heard you yell at me like that. Is there something bothering you? How can I help?.”
She opened up about how I had been ignoring her all afternoon, and how she really wanted to share with me this really cool world she had created in Minecraft. She had been patient all afternoon and had cooperated with me, and trusted that I was going to follow through with my promise to sit with her and let her tell me all about her exciting accomplishment. When she realized that wasn’t going to happen she snapped at me.
After this conversation, we hugged, I apologized for not having kept my word, and I promised I would sit with her the following day. Immediately after, without being prompt or asked to, she apologized for yelling at me and being rude. See? I modeled the behavior I expected from her, and she learned it.
Had I reacted to her “NO” in the heat of the moment, the situation would’ve been very different. It would’ve probably escalated, we would’ve entered a power struggle, I would’ve probably yelled at her for yelling at me, I would’ve missed the chance to connect with her, she would’ve resented me, she would’ve lost interest in sharing her important things with me, and our relationship would’ve suffered.
I am certainly not perfect. I mess up on a daily basis, but I wanted to share with you a situation in which I chose the right way to act, setting a good example for my daughter.
Respectful children are raised by respectful parents. To Learn Respect, Children Must First Be Respected
Much love, Diana-