As parents, we are often reminded that our children are direct reflections of our own lives. Whether we have a singular fear or set of fears, the likelihood of our children adapting such fears into their own lives is greatly increased. Moreover, if we have a successful habit, the likelihood our children will employ this habitual act into their own lives increases as well. Children thrive upon our dos and don’ts of life. They consciously and unconsciously inherit a vast array of our mannerisms, habits, phobias, traits, and personalities. Children are sponges soaking up the very essence of our lives.
As a therapist, I have worked with many parents who felt disrespected by their children. Sadly, it is not rare for the same parental figures to be struggling with respect within their marital relationship. When parents indicate that their children are “being disrespectful,” or that they are “showing little respect;” I begin by asking the parents to define the meaning of respect. Why? Everyone has an unique definition of respect, but not all respect is equivalent in its meaning.
WHAT IS RESPECT?
Respect is an expression of admiration, approval, acceptance, and loyalty. Someone who respects another, show’s an unwavering emotional connection consciously and unconsciously through their actions, words, deeds, and reactions.
Of equal importance, children should show personal respect unto themselves. A child who disrespects their own being, is at greater odds of disrespecting others, because ultimately they have no relationship with respect.
Respect begins within the home. Parents who demand respect, rarely are demanding respect itself, as much as they are demanding obedience. “It is important to distinguish between respect and obedience. A child may obey you simply because he is afraid of you. However, when a child understands that your rules and disciplinary actions are ultimately for his own good, he will obey you because he respects you.” (Bueno, 2012, Online) Respect cannot be demanded. Ultimately, respectful parenting equates to respectful children. If you respect your children, then your children will respect you and others.
All too often, parents who are begging for respect in the home, are battling negative behaviors. Children who are acting out or showing little respect, are frequently wanting to be heard. “A child must feel that what he does matters. If the good things he does do not seem to matter to his parents, then he is forced to see whether what he does bad matters to them.” (Braman, 1997, p. 15) Children are not unlike you or I, we want to be heard, we want to be valued.Why is the life of a child of any less value? For after all, are they not maturing adults?
RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION
Respect begins by the language we choose to use in our home. Children learn respect from those who are their primary caregivers (parents and teachers). If I, show little respect for my wife, but am diligent to show great respect to my children. The lesson learned is, show great respect to those you bore, but do not respect those who are your lifelong mate. It is vitally important that respect is shown throughout the home. Likewise, respect should be shown unto to others, including the strangers within your community.
We cannot demand respect if we disrespect. Keep in mind that respect can only be achieved when we offer respect for all life. Whether it be human or not, it is about offering an unconditional approach and acceptance of life.
Discipline does not have to be entrenched with negativity. Discipline can be achieved with a respectful atmosphere and in a respectful environment. “When we must communicate our displeasure to a child or group of children, we can do so without launching a verbal attack.” (Block, 1993, p. 44) Children should receive discipline, but through a positive and respectful approach. We do not have speak down to our children, nor do we have to belittle children to draw their attention to a “bad behavior.” Keep in mind, children should be shown the same respect that you desire.
How do I teach my children to be respectful? Begin by respecting your children, your spouse, and others. Offer your children praise when they succeed or fail. Be authentic with the praise your offer your children. Children need to be reassured of their goodness, worth, and value.
Respect is most effective when offered through an unconditional spirit of love. If I offer my children an unconditional spirit of love, my children will accept me whether I fail or succeed, as a parent or as a person. Likewise, I too should show the same spirit of love whether or not my children succeed or fail in life. For after all, our personal being is greater than the accomplishments we strive to achieve, or the failures we strive to overcome.
Respect is about showing compassion, dignity, and equality. “Now more than ever, people are aware of the importance of teaching children to respect people of various sizes, abilities, ethnicities and ages. When children respect themselves and others, they feel good about who they are. When children learn to value people who are different from themselves, they are better prepared to live peacefully in a diverse world.” (Erwin and Soodak, 2012, Online)
Braman, O. R. (1997) The oppositional child. Indiana: Kidsrights
Bloch, D. (1993) Positive self-talk for children, Teaching self-esteem through affirmations, A guide for parents, teachers, and counselors. New York: Bantam Books
Bueno, L. (2012) Teaching children about respect. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from http://www.education.com/magazine/article/teaching-children-respect/
Eriwn, E., Soodak, L. (2012) Respecting differences: Everyday ways to teach children about respect. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from http://www.pbs.org/parents/inclusivecommunities/differences.html
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA