Mutual respect strengthens the bond of love in a parent-child relationship. It also engenders unity, obedience, and appreciation.
Respect within a family is manifested through consideration, understanding, thoughtfulness, a willingness to listen, and loving communication. And it works both ways; if you want your children to show you respect, show them respect.
Children learn by observation and imitate what they see. If lack of respect is the problem, it probably started with the child's parents, peers, or other influences such as TV, movies, or computer games. Minimizing such negative influences is half the battle; setting clear guidelines as to what's expected and then consistently upholding that standard is the other.
Ways that you can show your children respect include:
- Treating each child as an individual
- Being sensitive to their feelings; putting yourself in their position
- Not belittling them or using sarcasm when they falter
- Not intentionally embarrassing them
- Asking and suggesting, rather than giving commands
- Paying attention when they speak and hearing them out; not being too quick to provide your perspective
- Treating them as though they were slightly more mature than they actually are
- Giving their ideas serious consideration; thinking in terms of how you can help their ideas to work
Sometimes it seems that children choose the worst possible times to misbehave, and sometimes it is not so much actual misbehavior as it is annoying behavior. When parents are under pressure, are preoccupied with other work or other thoughts, aren't feeling well, or are simply not in a good mood, that's bound to affect the way they interact with their children. Some things that are normally allowed or overlooked—a certain level of noise or rambunctiousness, for example—push the parent over the edge, resulting in harsh words, more severe punishment than the offense actually warrants, or "the look" that sends the message "You're in trouble" but leaves the child confused.
Children usually don't see the big picture, so when a parent's frustrations boil over like that, they often assume more of the blame than they actually deserve, which can lead to even more damaging conclusions—"Mommy wishes I wasn't here," "Daddy doesn't love me," "I'm no good."
Avoid such confidence-shattering misunderstandings by catching yourself short of the boiling point and putting the questionable behavior in context. "I would love to hear you sing that song again, but right now I need to concentrate on driving." "I have a headache, so I'm going to have to ask you to not do that right now." And if you don't catch yourself in time, an after-the-fact explanation and apology will set the record straight. By giving the child an opportunity to be part of the solution to your problem, you will have turned a potentially damaging situation into a positive one.