Creative Child

Respecting Your Child Through Challenging Behavior

Respecting children is at the heart of positive parenting. By showing respect, we honor the human being, and we teach them what it means to truly respect others through providing an example to follow. When we respect children, they grow up knowing their inherent worth and feel loved, supported, and valued. 

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Maintaining that level of respect through challenging behavior can be a difficult task because most forms of traditional discipline do not have respect for the child in mind.  Our culture is quite caught up in parental control. We’re afraid of raising the kind of child that our culture so openly disdains - bratty, spoiled, and disrespectful. Author and educator Alfie Kohn says, “The dominant problem with parenting in our society isn’t permissiveness but fear of permissiveness. We’re so worried about spoiling kids that we often end up over controlling them.” He goes on to say, “The most popular false dichotomy in parenting runs as follows…’Either I punish my child or else I let her get away with whatever she did. Either I take a hard line or I draw no line at all.” And it isthis false dichotomy that tricks us into using disrespectful discipline tactics that often exacerbate the very problem it’s trying to solve.

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So, the question is how do you respect your child without being a pushover? How do you use positive, respectful discipline? Respecting your child certainly doesn’t mean she always gets her way. That would, in fact, be disrespectful if what she wants is dangerous or unhealthy! It means, rather, that we hold our boundaries with empathy, warmth, and gentle firmness. It means taking her feelings and her personhood into regard as you interact with her. Remember, respect means “a feeling of deep admiration for someone,” so even when you have to put your foot down or hold a boundary, you remember that deep admiration and hold it in your heart as you say, “no.” Why? Because this changes your tone and demeanor and helps you remain calm, positive, and warm even while you hold the boundary that is best for your child.

Showing your child respect also means showing empathy and understanding for his feelings, even when those feelings seem too big or unwarranted. By seeing things from his point of view, he will at least feel understood and valued, even if he’s being corrected or denied something he wants. 

Finally, showing respect means working with rather than against your child, and this means sometimes a compromise is in order. Strong leaders know when to be flexible and when to hold their ground. Sometimes, you need to give up a little control in some areas so that you can hold more control when it really counts because children will respect you and follow your lead more if they feel they are respected. 

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