Yesterday I talked to a friend and was reminded that I really want this post to be written. Respect is a topic that I have been thinking about for almost a year now and I never felt like I could get a grip on it. It is such a big and complex topic that is so close to my heart and it’s hard to boil it down so much that it fits into a format like this.
But I just feel called now to get it out.
Daily I hear parents complaining that their children don’t respect them. It often sounds like something like this:
- I had to make sure that he/she knows that I am the boss.
- I can’t accept how he/she talks to me. He/she needs to show me more respect since I am his/her mother/father.
- I’m exhausted. I can’t juggle all these children. They don’t respect me.
- I am a teacher, so they need to respect me. I need to be in control …
Do our children need to show us respect, because we are their parents/caregivers/ teachers?
I answer this question with a gigantic NO!!!
Being their parent/teacher/caregiver is absolutely no reason enough to say that you need to be respected by a child!
Just imagine you as an adult … do you respect your parents? Any teacher around you? Every human being? No, because you have your reasons not to.
What is respect? And what most people think how it works …
The dictionary says: Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
So in other words, we want our children to admire us when we tell them to show us respect. And in most situations we want children to admire us so much, that they do what we say. They should listen to us and do what we say without any questioning. They should behave the way we want them to behave … no talking back, etc. … just functioning the way we want them to function. And if they don’t behave this way, they don’t respect us.
As a consequence we threaten them with punishment or punish them right away. And all of a sudden, they respect us and behave the way we want them to behave! YAY! Problem solved!
You probably understand that I am being very sarcastic now. Because why in the world would a child all of a sudden respect/admire you when you punish it? Children are not stupid! The only thing that was activated here is fear, so the child is acting out of fear and some parents mistakingly take this as respect.
And going back to your adult self. Would you respect/admire a person that threatens you and punishes you? A person that you are scared of? No way!
So there must be something else going on…
Let’s try to chew on this a bit more…
What happens when we don’t feel respected? Who has a problem here?
Let’s look at an example: I ask my child to please put away the toys, so that I can vacuum the playroom. His/her reaction is to ignore me. I ask again. He/she looks up from his/her ipad and says no. I ask again and explain that he/she would really help me, if he/she could stop what he/she is doing and clean up the room real quick… No, he/she is busy and doesn’t budge.
What’s going on in my mind now?
- My child doesn’t respect me.
- My kid is so egoistic.
- I am invisible.
- My needs are never met.
- I am doing everything for everybody, but nobody helps me.
- I am not good enough, otherwise he/she would listen to me.
- I suck.
- I am the victim here.
- I am the parent. I rule, so he/she has to do what I say!
So, what do we do with this? All these I… sentences! It seems like this parent takes it very personal, that the child is busy with something else and just doesn’t want to clean up the room right this minute.
I think most situations like this would end in some argument between parent and child and at the end the child is made to clean up either with punishment threats or bribing, because the parent thinks he/she is right.
But just for fun … imagine you respect your kid’s answer as it is and move on! You have your own choices to make … and there are endless … You ask your kid when he/she will be willing the clean up and wait with vacuuming or you pick up the toys and vacuum or you just don’t vacuum and let them play in the dirt and wait until they complain or … or … or …
So, for me really two questions come up:
- Do you respect yourself?
- How does respect really work?
Do you respect yourself?
I think that if you don’t respect yourself, you can’t be respected by others! Look at all these thoughts that came up above. Clearly when you take everything that personal that other people do and beat yourself up over it, there is not way that others respect you (or seem to respect you). If you don’t think you are worth it to be seen and heard, nobody will see and listen to you and respect you. Here we are at a great point to start working on us! Do we love ourselves? Do we like the way we are? Do we like the way we are living? Do we like to have power over our children or do we love them the way they are? Do we feel stuck or free? Are we really happy? …. And there are endless more things to work on.
How does respect really work?
I think the only way respect/admiration can really happen is when two people put themselves on the same level! Both humans (in this case) are absolutely worth the same. Both people’s interests are worth the same. Both people’s thoughts are worth the same. Both people’s ideas are absolutely worth the same and honored as this.
Only if this scenario is given, there can be the chance of mutual respect of each other. Respect only works as a two way street and not a one way.
So, if a parent puts himself/herself above his/her child just because he/she is a parent, he/she will not be respected by his/her child. That’s a given, in my mind. The parent who views himself/herself as something ‘better’ is not respecting the child as a full worthy human being! And in return the child will not respect that parent. Why would it? Nobody likes to be made small and unworthy!
There will never be any chance of mutual respect in an authoritarian paradigm!
Children will always fight for your self-worth. They know deep inside that they are worth as much as any human-being, that they are worth of being loved unconditionally and that they matter. Their thoughts, their feelings, their ideas matter! And they want to be heard and seen and loved just as much as an adult wants all these things!
So, let’s be respectful and show our children that we respect them and love them for who they are and for what they do!
Why do so many people live the Authoritarian lifestyle?
It seems totally counterproductive to me that so many parents choose the authoritarian parenting style when deep inside they are longing for respect and unconditional love themselves! I think the main cause is that most of us were raised this way and we just don’t know better. We are unaware of the consequences. And our damaged souls from our childhood are now (as adults) screaming to finally be in charge and not being the ones that were/are pushed around … and so the circle continues…
The solution I see for myself
I was one of these people too that were so happy to finally be an adult and be free to live my own life and make my own decisions … And since I didn’t know any better, I fell into this role of an authoritarian parent, too. I did breastfeed my boys on demand, but there were still things that I gave into, because people told me that that’s the way to do it, like trying a kind of sleep training to let the baby sleep in his own crib at 6 months or trying time-outs at age 1. But these things did not work and I didn’t feel good when I tried.
It did not feel right and totally unnatural. My first son went through these phases with me. He still is the one who rather ‘listens’ when I ask him to do something. But when my second son was born and I had to learn that my parenting style was not right for us. He has a loud voice and has made it clear what he needs from the moment he was born.
Two or three years ago I started to work on myself and started the path of self development and I found out what my needs are. It took a while to actually feel myself again. And also to break through many barriers and these limiting beliefs that were instilled into me since I was a child but were not serving me any more. At the end the only option for me is to live in a partnership paradigm with my kids and my husband. We all live together and respect each other the way we are. Nobody is worth less or more!
My children roam free in our house. They have access to everything in the kitchen. They do not ask if they want something to eat. They just get it!
I talk to them when I think things go a certain way that I don’t like and of course the other way around too. They tell me when they disagree with something I do. Everything can be solved with communication and giving everybody lots of space to be themselves.
Tips to check in:
When your child says something to you that you think is disrespectful…
- Would you have the same hurt feeling if somebody else said this to you?
- See whatever he/she says just as words and separate from the feeling that you feel. Is it still so bad?
- Be aware of what feelings are coming up for you! These are your feelings and your problem! Your child probably only pushed a button … and you get the opportunity to work on something!
- Maybe your child is trying to communicate something, but does not have the right words for it. See your child’s need behind those words. And react to those instead of the word and make sure the needs get met.
How can you react in a respectful way? Always remember that you are your child’s biggest role-model!
- You live your beliefs and they will follow.
I think one of the saddest things is when children are told to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ all the time. It’s not like they feel thankful, nor sorry if you force them to say it! They watch us though and see when we are thankful and we say ‘Thank you’ in an honest way and they also understand what being sorry really means when we say it. It takes a while, but they need the experience to understand!
Don’t get me wrong, I know this feeling when you hand your child the 50th thing in the day and you really want your validation that they see you and that they are thankful! But again, that’s your problem not theirs! They will start saying ‘thank you’ when they understand that it’s a nice thing to say and that people feel loved…but in the meantime they are thankful, just don’t communicate it yet.
Along with this goes when parents tell their children that they are full and don’t need more food! I mean, how crazy is that?! Wouldn’t the child know best? Trust your child, because if you tell your child often enough that it’s full or hungry although it isn’t, your child will loose control over its own bodily feelings … It’s an easy way of showing respect to your child!
And one more in this line of thoughts would be body autonomy which is even considered a human right! I think it’s so important to honor your child’s feelings about being touched! Don’t make him/her kiss or hug or even high 5 people if she/he doesn’t want to! They need to feel like they are in charge over their own body. They need to see that we respect their feelings this way. This will make them confident children and adults.
As I wrote in the beginning I could go on and on about this topic and I am sure I could change and add to this post every couple of months, but for now I want to bring this to an end and hope that this makes sense to some people and they reconsider their way of treating their children and treat them with respect from now on.
With much love and respect,