It seems that we see more children responding to parents and teachers with disrespect. This is remarkably unfortunate, as these patterns tend to solidify and create long-term misery for many young adults. For some, this fades away with a developmental shift. For many, however, if the disrespectful pattern is not handled well, they move through adolescence into adulthood with a snarly, harsh disrespectful attitude. Not good!
Disrespect is Not a Requirement
I rarely meet parents who stand behind a disrespectful child or adolescent, although it does happen. More frequently, I find parents frustrated with the growing tendency of children to speak with harsh, critical and disrespectful tones. Many of these parents have tried to change this pattern, without success.
The good news is that disrespect is not a required developmental phase. Yes, moments of disrespect are expected, but how we handle those moments will determine if the disrespect fades quickly or remains alive in our home.
The Simple Formula for Respect
1. Only listen, talk & respond to respect
In other words, if there is a snarly attitude, walk away. If your child is demanding you do to something, ignore them. If they ask, but do so in a harsh way, don’t answer.
DO NOT keep asking them to speak with respect, or you will forever be asking them to speak with respect.
Instead, only answer when there is respect in their words and tone. Ignore, walk away and disengage from all the rest.
Remember: Only respond to respect…to get respect. This is the first, and most essential, piece.
2. Play fair: Inform the kids of a change
If you decide now is the time that you want respect in your home, let your children know a change is coming. Announce this change only once. Let them know:
“From this point forward, expect Mom and Dad to be a bit different. We will only answer you or respond if your words and attitude are respectful. Otherwise, we will walk away or simple ignore you. We will be waiting for respect, and with that…will come an answer. You can keep speaking in a disrespectful manner, but nothing you want will come your way. Please understand that. Also, it has to be real, not a fake voice or sassy version. Only real respect will get a real response. After today, we won’t remind you of this. You will have to figure it out. Any questions?”
3. Be an impeccable model of respect (or forget the simple plan for respect).
Too often I get emails or meet with parents who want a respectful home, yet they often get frustrated and end up speaking with an attitude to their children. This simply can’t work. If we give ourselves permission to be disrespectful when feeling stressed or frustrated, why wouldn’t our children learn to do the same?
We must take this piece seriously, and become impeccable in our communications with our children and our spouses. It’s really not that difficult if we are committed to respect. We must realize that we need to lead on this all of the time, not just occasionally.
4. Manage your expectations: It’s not instantaneous; learning takes time.
If you have been responding and answering children who are demanding, snarky or disrespectful, then this will take awhile. The older the child, the longer the learning curve. The more oppositional or defiant the child, the longer it takes.
But they will get it. Just stick to the simple plan; be patient and allow for learning. Respect is inevitable.