Do Your Kids Respect You? 9 Ways to Change Their Attitude by Janet Lehman, MSW

We often forget that children aren’t born with a built-in sense of respect  for others. While each child has a different personality, all children need to  be  taught to be respectful. From birth, kids learn to manipulate their world to  get their needs met—this is natural. But it’s our job as parents to teach them   respectful ways of doing this.

It’s  important to remember that your child is not your friend—he’s your child. Your  job is to teach him to be able to function in the world. This means teaching him  to behave respectfully to others, not just you.


People wonder why kids have gotten so much more disrespectful these  days—we  see children and teens arguing with adults (or ignoring them outright),  using  foul language, copping an attitude, and not using manners or respecting  those  in authority. Sadly, this has become the norm for many children and  teens. In  my opinion, it really is a different world right now  than the one we grew up  in. Movies, music, video games and television all seem  to glorify a  disrespectful, angry, rude way of dealing with others. This means  that in some  ways we have to work harder as parents to teach our kids to be  respectful.  Added to this is the fact that parents are also busier than ever  before, which  makes it much harder to respond immediately to our kids. Let’s  face it, it’s  easier to let things slide when you’re worn out and stressed from  working so  hard.

Related:  Is your child talking back, being rude, or ignoring you? How to change their  behavior.

Another phenomenon that has increased over time: Many parents have a hard  time looking at their kids in a realistic light.  In some ways, our own parents  were less defensive and more open to the fact  that their kids were not “perfect.” I can’t overstate how important it is to be willing to look at your  children  realistically, noting both their strengths and their areas of  weakness. This  allows you to see inappropriate behavior as it happens and  address it—and not  make excuses or ignore it.

So how can you change the culture in your own house if disrespectful   behavior is starting—or is already a way of life? Here are 9 things you can  do  as a parent today to start getting respect back from your kids.

1. Remember, your child is not your friend. It’s not about  your  child liking you or even thanking you for what you do. It’s important to   remember that your child is not your friend—he’s your child. Your job is to  coach him to be able to function in the world. This means teaching him to behave  respectfully to others, not just you. When you think your child might be  crossing the line, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself,  “Would I let  the neighbor say these things to me? Would I let a stranger?” If  the answer is  no, don’t let your child do it, either. Some day when your child  becomes an  adult, your relationship may become more of a friendship, but for  now, it’s  your job to be his parent: his teacher, coach and limit setter—not  the buddy  who lets him get away with things.

Related:  Does your child act like he’s in control of your house? Take back  parental authority.

2. Catch  disrespect early and plan ahead if you can. It’s  good to catch disrespectful behavior early if possible. If your child is rude or  disrespectful, don’t turn a blind eye. Intervene and say,  “We don’t talk  to each other that way in this family.”  Giving consequences when your kids  are younger is going to pay off in the long run. It’s really important as a  parent  if you see your child being disrespectful to admit it and then try to  nip it  in the bud. Also, if your child is about to enter the  teen years (or another potentially difficult phase) think about the  future. Some  parents I know are already planning how they will address behavior  as their ADD daughter (who is now 11) becomes a teenager. They’re learning  skills to prepare for their  interactions with her at a later time. This can  only help them as they move forward together as a family.

3. Get in  alignment with your mate. It’s so important for  you and your mate to be on the same page when it comes to your child’s   behavior. Make sure one of you isn’t allowing the disrespectful behavior while   the other is trying to intercede. Sit down together and talk about what your   bottom lines are, and then come up with a plan of action—and a list of   consequences you might give—if your child breaks the rules.

4.Teach your child  basic social interaction skills. It may  sound  old fashioned, but it’s very important to teach your child basic manners  like  saying “please” and “thank you.” When your child deals with her teachers  in  school or gets her first job and has these skills to fall back on, it will  really  go a long way. Understand that using manners—just a simple “excuse me” or “thank you”—is also a form of empathy. It teaches your kids to  respect  others and acknowledge their impact on other people. When you think  about it,  disrespectful behavior is the opposite, negative side of being empathetic and  having good manners.

Related:  How to create a “culture of accountability” in your family—and teach  your kids to be responsible and respectful. 

5. Be respectful  when you correct your child. When your   child is being disrespectful, you as a parent need to correct them in a   respectful manner. Yelling and getting upset and  having your own attitude in  response to theirs is not helpful and often only  escalates behavior. The truth  is, if you allow their disrespectful behavior to affect you,  it’s difficult to  be an effective teacher in that moment. You can pull your child aside and give  them a clear message,  for example. You don’t need to shout at them or embarrass  them. One of our friends was excellent at this particular parenting skill. He  would pull his kids  aside, say something quietly (I usually had no idea what it  was), and it usually changed their behavior immediately.  Use these  incidents as teachable moments by pulling  your kids aside calmly, making your  expectations firm and clear, and following through with consequences if  necessary.

6. Try to set  realistic expectations for your kids around their  behavior. This may actually mean that you need to lower your   expectations. Don’t plan a huge road trip with your kids, for example, if  they don’t like to ride in the car. If your child has trouble in large  groups and  you plan an event for 30 people, you’re likely to set everyone up  for  disappointment and probably an argument!

If you are setting realistic expectations and you still think there might  be  some acting-out behaviors that crop up, set limits beforehand. For  example, if  you’re going to go out to dinner, be clear with your kids about  what you expect  of them. This will not only help the behavior, but in some ways  will help them  feel safer. They will understand what is expected of them and  will know what  the consequences will be if they don’t meet those expectations.  If they meet  your goals, certainly give them credit, but also if they don’t,  follow through  on whatever consequences you’ve set up for them.

7. Clarify the limits  when things are calm. When you’re  in  a situation where your child is disrespectful, that’s not the ideal time to  do  a lot of talking about limits or consequences.  At  a later time you can  talk with your child about his behavior and what your  expectations are.

Related:  How to choose consequences that  will work for your child.

8. Talk about what  happened afterward. If your child  is disrespectful or rude, talk about  what happened (later, when things are  calm) and how it could have been dealt with differently. That’s a  chance  for you, as a parent, to listen to your child and hear what was going on   with her when that behavior happened. Try to stay objective. You can say,  “Pretend a video camera recorded the whole thing. What would I see?” This is   also a perfect time to have your child describe what she could have done   differently.

9.  Don’t take it personally. One of the biggest mistakes  parents can  make is to take their child’s behavior personally. The truth is,  you should  never fall into that trap because the teenager next door is doing  the same  thing to his parents, and your cousin’s daughter is doing   the same thing to her parents. Your role is to just deal with your   child’s behavior as objectively as possible. When parents don’t have effective   ways to deal with these kinds of things, they may feel out of control and get   scared—and often overreact or under react to the situation. When they   overreact, they become too rigid, and when they under react, they ignore the   behavior or tell themselves it’s “just a phase.” Either way, it won’t help your   child learn to manage his thoughts or emotions more effectively, and be more   respectful.

Related:  How to be a consistent parent.

Understand that if you haven’t been  able to intervene early with your kids,  you can start at any time. Even if your  child is constantly exhibiting  disrespectful behavior, you can begin stepping  in and setting those clear  limits. And kids really do want limits, even if they protest loudly—and  they will. The  message that they get when you step in and set limits is that  they’re cared  about, they’re loved and that you really want them to be  successful and able to  function well in the world. Our kids won’t thank us now,  but that’s okay—it’s  not about getting them to thank us, it’s about doing the  right thing.



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