How to Gain and Keep Respect from Your Child
“Respect is for those who deserve it, not for those who demand it.” Any parent knows that respect is important, but it can sometimes be difficult to get from your kids. When faced with this problem, it’s tempting to begin pointing fingers– the media, his/her friends, your child him/herself– but the truth is that the parent is the most powerful influence on a child when it comes to showing respect.
Here are some points to keep in mind when trying to establish and maintain respect from your child.
Respect is more than just a verb. It’s not just about what your child does or doesn’t do. Likewise, respect is more than just another word for obedience. Respect is an ongoing, underlying quality of any healthy relationship. It is neither defined nor exercised on the basis of circumstance. Don’t allow your child to walk all over you one minute and demand that they show more respect the next. Don’t reserve the right to demand respect only when you have an audience or when it’s convenient for you. Respect your child as often as you love your child– which is always– and expect the same in return.
Be respectful to others, especially in the presence of your child. Someone cuts you off in the grocery store parking lot? Don’t fire off a nasty remark about him/her, no matter how badly you may want to. Tired of your spouse not pulling his/her weight when it comes to household tasks? Don’t resort to name-calling (e.g. “lazy”) or a disrespectful tone when addressing the issue. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” When it comes to respect, the best way to teach is by example.
Your child is not your friend. With good intentions, many parents cultivate a relationship with their children that is more akin to friendship than a parent-child relationship. They want to be close to their child, to be a “fun” parent, to keep lines of communication wide open as their child’s go-to confidante. The truth is this: your child will have lots of friends in life that will come and go, but he/she will have only one mother/father, and that person is you. You are first and foremost a parent, not a friend. Your role in teaching your child about respect is unique, powerful, and essential. Being too “friendly” with your son/daughter sends the message that you are peers or equals, which simply is not true. You are much more than that. You are a parent.
Praise your child for showing respect. If you only call attention to the notion of respect when it is not being given, your child may begin to associate negatively with the term. Let your child know that you appreciate it when you notice him/her respecting a boundary that you have set, or valuing advice that you have given. This will set the tone for a positive relationship, and may even help your son/daughter to notice the ways in which you respect him/her in return.
“Don’t demand respect. Command respect.” Building a relationship with your child on the foundation of respect will help them to grow into adults who value respect– given and received. Take the responsibility of establishing respect with your child seriously, and you will give them a gift that will benefit not only them, but the people around them throughout their lives.