It seems that many parents of preteen and adolescent children complain of disrespect. Yet, in many cases this behavior develops, then, in certain families, quickly fades away.
The degree to which children persist in displaying disrespectful behaviors and attitudes rests primarily in how we as parents respond.
How often have you heard a parent say, “You’re not going to talk to me like that.” Then, less than five seconds later, the child or adolescent speaks with disrespect. The parent then again repeats the demand. The child becomes even more disrespectful. It’s as if the parent is trying to control the child’s thoughts and words, when in reality they do not have control over this behavior. In other words, it is impossible to force your children to be respectful.
What is possible, however, is to teach them that respectful behavior will serve them… and that disrespectful behavior will not serve them.
How do you do this?
First, your attitude and philosophy is an essential ingredient, if you hope to change or modify your child’s actions and words. If your child speaks to you with disrespect, and you expend the energy to try to get them to change their attitude, you are, in essence, teaching them that the world will really care about their attitude.
Yet, I’ve got news for you: The world doesn’t care about their attitude. If they are disrespectful to their boss, they will lose their job. If they treat their customers with disrespect, the customers will not come back. If they are disrespectful and rude to their friends, they will lose quality friends.
It is essential that you model for your children what life will ultimately teach them.
Disrespectful Behavior Is Not Worthy Of Your Attention
- Will the rest of their world invest in such disrespect? NO!
- Will good friends invest their energy in disrespectful peers? NO!
- Will an employer invest in disrespect? NO!
- Will their college professors invest in a disrespectful student? NO!
You want your kids to learn early in life… such disrespect is not worthy of my energy and attention. That’s the first, most fundamental lesson to learn.
“Is that all there is?” No, there is more to it…, and here are the basics.
Teaching Respect Requires More From Parents Than Children
- It is essential to have the attitude and perspective that you cannot force compliance, you cannot force respect, and you cannot force agreeable behavior. Thus, in this moment of disrespect, you must be able to accept that this is happening, even though you don’t approve.
- What you can do is teach your child that disrespectful behavior will not get them what they want (i.e., a person’s interest and attention). In other words, you will ignore every word spoken in a disrespectful fashion. The only way that you will engage your child is when they speak respectfully to you. Don’t ever give in to the temptation of correcting their disrespect. The more you do so, the more disrespectful they will become.
- Immediately engage your child for respectful, calm, and appropriate interactions. Smile, look at them, and compliment them from time to time on their mature behavior.
- Make certain that disrespect behavior is never rewarded with children getting what they want. This may mean they miss a football practice, they miss a movie with their friends, or they don’t get to take out the car. Do not give in just because your teenager relentlessly pursues you to change your mind. Make certain that you stay the course.
Depending on the years of history behind you and your child, your child may have learned that whining, complaining, and being sassy with you has been rewarded by your willingness to try to correct them or get them to change their behavior. The longer this has been happening, the longer it will take for your child to learn that disrespect will no longer serve them. The older the child, the longer the learning curves. Keep in mind, however, that all children will eventually learn, provided that you hold the course.
In a very typical scenario, I was speaking with parents who have an 11 year old girl, we’ll call her Katie, who was standing at the top of the stairs demanding to know where her yellow sweatshirt was located. No one had touched this but Katie. Her mom calmly stated that the sweatshirt was last seen in the laundry pile.
Katie began screaming at the top of her lungs, “I can’t believe you didn’t wash my good sweatshirt. What the ____ is wrong with you?”
Mom responds, “Don’t talk to me that way Katie!”
Katie then says, “You don’t care about me. You don’t care what I look like. I can’t believe you are my mother. I hate you.”
This really tweaks mom, who then starts to yell at Katie at 7:35 am, “You are so ungrateful. I can’t believe you would speak to me that way. You are grounded tonight …no TV or phone.”
Katie then escalates even more, by responding, “What do I care? I don’t care what you do to me? You are nothing but a Nazi anyway…” and things got worse from there.
Why do I offer this example? So you can observe from the outside how the “disrespect” of Katie continued to get a generally respectful response from her mom. When Katie’s mom got angry, her response became ugly…but the disrespect on Katie’s part continue to pull the attention and energy of her mom.
What do you suppose would happen if Katie tried the demanding, disrespectful voice and discovered that no one responded to that… ever?
What would she learn when nothing ever happened for her when she used ugly words…it was like she didn’t exist?
Your fear is not reality here…meaning that you may be reading this and fear that you are condoning such disrespect. You are not. You are simply allowing what has already occurred…and giving it no energy. This is the fundamental secret to success with all this verbal garbage that kids throw out.
Now, you can add some other pieces ….but that’s the essential first step to get started. Try it for a few weeks…and watch happens. I think you will be surprised.
Here’s one final idea. After you have used this a while, some of you will be overwhelmingly pleased. Others may notice partial, but not complete success, but you begin to get a sense of how powerful your parental tools can be.
However, if you want to learn more, consider purchasing the Essential Parenting Home Study Course. This includes discussions about how to use structure and consequences, as well as effective ways to give your kids choices that allow them to learn. Click here to learn more about the Home Study Course.
Disrespect… Bad attitude… Demanding… Talking Back… is not worthy of your energy. To get some other ideas on dealing with a disrespectful teen, read Dr Cale’s response to this mother of a disrespectful teenager: Read About Changing Disrespectful Teen here!
THIS IS THE FIRST STEP…but often not the complete solution. However, you will notice that this simple change will help with many young children, and even confuses the older child. To get more specific strategies to get rid of disrespect, you may want to get my special report on “The Disrespectful and Angry Child.” It will be ready soon!