Children, Respect, and the Golden Rule of Parenting

Oh, I bet you thought this article was going to be about how you get your children to respect you.  I apologize… it is actually about asking you, dear mom or dad, if you respect your children?  Sounds a little like JFK doesn’t it?  “Ask not what how your child can respect you.  Ask how you can respect your child!” Webster’s dictionary defines respect as:   “to take notice of, to regard with special attention, to regard as worthy of special consideration; hence, to care for; to heed.”  Based on this, most parents would likely state “of course I respect my kids” but “why is it so important anyway?”  I’m glad you asked!! 

It is part of the golden rule.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  So if you want your kids to respect you (which is why is suspect you started reading this article) you have to respect them first!  It’s that simple!  Or is it? 

Parents are very busy, often indispensable, multitasking individuals who do plenty of important things in addition to their most important job of raising children.  Parents are also human.  And to be human means to err.  We can’t always remember each and every vital parenting rule so let’s forgive ourselves of our less sterling moments and take this time to remind ourselves of a few ways in which we can show respect to our punkins, tigers, angels, and buds.  In addition to maximizing the “golden rule”, respecting your kids shows them that you take them seriously as a fellow human being.  And let’s be honest.  We all want to be taken seriously and respected.  Why should kids be any different?  Most importantly, when you let your kids know that you take them seriously, they are more likely to see you as an “approachable” parent because they trust how you will interact with them.  This is huge parenting tool.  We always want our kids to know that they can come to us with any issue, good or bad.

Okay, so what do you need in order to show your kids you respect them?  Here are five ideas to begin with. 

  1.  Pay attention to your body language especially when your child has something particularly important to discuss.  Put your blackberry, book, or newspaper down.  Turn away from whatever else you are doing so you can face your child.  Lean in toward them and look them in them eye.  That brings us to our second strategy. 
  2. Be aware of all of your facial expressions and emotions.  Try to control whatever you are feeling inside until your child is finished speaking.  Do your best not to show negative emotions with a grimace, frown, or disappointed head nodding. Don’t laugh at your child when they might have been embarrassed.  Do express concern and most importantly, love.  Though this seems like common sense, you’d be surprised what your facial expressions do without your awareness.  Many people can’t believe what they see on their own faces until they see themselves on video.
  3. Your tone of voice should be even and loving.  This isn’t always possible when we parents get royally perturbed but the more you practice, the better you will get.  Try your best to keep your emotions in check.  A child’s brain that hears constant yelling will learn that as a way of communication and we know we don’t want our kids to be disrespectful by yelling.  You will have to role model it to them.  That takes us to number four!
  4. Show your children respect by being a superb role model.  Remember that your kids watch you every time you interact with the grocery store cashier, restaurant server, telemarketer who calls at dinnertime, a police officer who stops you for a traffic violation, and yes, your mother in law too.  If you treat these people disrespectfully, you are telling your child it is okay for them to be disrespectful.
  5. Lastly, give your child sincere praise when you see that they have been respectful to you or to someone else.  As parents, we are quick to scold and often forget the best motivator of all.  Positive feedback goes a very long way with kids.

Try these techniques out in the coming week and please share your experiences with us in our comments section.