Creative Child

7 Tips to Stop Disrespect

by Rebecca Eanes

Being on the receiving end of a disrespectful tone, eye roll, or door slam can be difficult for parents to handle positively. When our children are disrespectful, it’s very triggering for most of us. Our typical reaction is to wield our parental power to make it stop, whether through issuing a punishment or coming back with a bigger, worse attitude. “Don’t you dare talk to me that way!” “Go to your room this instant!” “You’re grounded!” Often times, though, our first reaction isn’t the best action to take.

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As you might expect (or have seen in your own experience), these reactions only serve to worsen the cycle of disrespect and punishment. Rather than engaging in this negative cycle and essentially lowering ourselves to a child’s level, we must, as always, learn to look beyond the behavior.

Understand that the outward display of disrespect is coming from inner discomfort or pain. This doesn’t make the behavior okay, and it certainly must be addressed, but in that moment, look beyond the behavior and into the eyes of the hurting child and meet them not with threats or big shows of parental power but with empathy. Your empathy will begin to soothe the child’s pain and allow the healing process to begin. It is this empathy that will open a doorway to connection whereas shutting a child in her room literally closes that doorway.

When you are met with disrespect, here are 7 tips to resolve the problem.

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In the Moment:

1. When your child is disrespectful to you, muster all the patience and empathy that you possibly can. Admittedly, this takes a lot of maturity. Self-control is absolutely key here, and it takes determination, dedication, and practice. Let go of the fear that meeting a disrespectful child with patience and empathy will somehow cause more disrespect to occur. This is one of the myths about positive parenting. We often feel that, if we don’t come down hard, we are being permissive, but this isn’t true. By remaining calm and empathetic, we are modeling how to be an adult. We are exhibiting the maturity we want them to develop.

2. Let them know you see them. Say things like, “I can see you’re upset with me.” “I understand how you’re feeling.”

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3. Go a step further. Gently and briefly address the tone or disrespect. “I can see you’re upset with me, but your tone is hurtful.” “I understand how you’re feeling, but being rude isn’t helpful right now. I’m on your side.”

4. Ask if they need space right now or if they’d like to talk about their feelings. “Do you need to take a few minutes to calm down? I want to help, but I need you to be respectful. I’m happy to talk with you about this when you’re ready.”

*If your child is hurling insults or being aggressive in any way, tell them, as calmly as you can, that you will not let yourself be treated in such a way and then disengage until things have cooled off. You might say, “What you’re saying to me hurts and is unacceptable. I’m willing to talk about this when you can be respectful. Until then, go to your room until you’re calm.” (Alternatively, you might choose to just walk away instead of sending a child to their room.)

More tips for dealing with disrespect on page 2...

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