We all want respect, especially from our kids. But what exactly does that mean?
In our own families, respect is all about attention. When a child pays close attention to mom and dad’s authority and their rules, they are showing respect. When they listen while mom and dad are talking, they are showing respect.
We can also show respect for things by paying close attention to how we care for them. Hanging up our jacket or putting things away after we use them is showing respect for our belongings.
On the flip side, disrespect is not giving someone or something the proper attention it deserves. Talking when someone else is talking is disrespectful because you are not giving the speaker the attention he deserves. Putting your shoes on the couch is disrespectful because you are not paying careful attention to the care of the couch.
A teen rolling her eyes because she doesn’t want to hear what her mom has to say is disrespectful but so is the parent who ignores her child because she’s sucked into a TV show or Facebook.
Kids learn what they live. An old adage says more is caught than taught. We want our children to respect us but do we model respect for them?
When parents are not being careful, they can talk to their kids harshly in ways they would never speak to an adult and probably in ways they would not even speak to someone else’s child. Parents can be so rude to their children, not paying any attention to how their biting words and sharp tone and bitter scowl wounds the little soul in their small child.
In those moments, parents are so self-consumed, they are not really “seeing” their child. You may quickly forget a brief moment of rage but the words you speak in that fleeting occasion and the harsh image of your red and angry face may be burned in your child’s memory. So what was gone for you in an instant may last a lifetime in your child.
Disrespecting our kids also looks like not spending enough quality time with them — time when we shut off everything else in our world and give them our full attention. Listening to kids and really focusing on them allows us to see them so much more clearly and communicates respect to them.
Ultimately, we have to remember that our children are not an extension of us. They are their own unique people. They are not our property. They are fully formed humans who deserve our respect (our attention) just as we deserve theirs.
So the next time your toddler is interrupting your agenda, stomping his foot and crying loudly, stop and turn to him. Get down on his level and really see him. See what is upsetting him and help him find a solution in a healthy way.
As we parent on purpose and deliberately choose to model respect for our kids, we may begin to receive even more of the respect that we want and deserve from them.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.