How Do You Teach Kids Respect?
How do you speak to your own parents? Do you hang up on them? Do you raise your voice? Interrupt?
It can be really uncomfortable but necessary to look in the mirror and ask, “How do you treat your own parents? Do you respect your elders?”
Today I’m answering a question from Samantha who writes:
I totally believe in peaceful and respectful parenting but I feel as though I’m letting them disrespect me.
It says in the Bible “obey thy father and thy mother” and here I am letting them disobey me. I worry that I’m raising kids who are disrespectful.
Thank you so much for any insights on how to reconcile this.
I totally understand this question. It can even feel like peaceful parenting just doesn’t work. It can feel like you’re raising kids who don’t know how to be respectful because you’re not demanding the obedience and respect that mainstream culture tells us to. We so often hear “Listen to your mummy,” “He’s a great listener,” or “She doesn’t listen!” The underlying meaning here is really about following orders.
The Fifth Commandment
Our culture values obedience. It’s even in the Bible, right?
Well, maybe so.
I personally read Hebrew. The meaning and interpretation of the original text that I grew up with was not “obey” your mother and father, but to “respect” your mother and father. Furthermore, to respect your mother and father meant to be considerate of them, to take care of them, to make sure that they could live with dignity, with a roof over their heads, clothing, and food. Being respectful in this way was about having compassion, civility, and being polite. Not about obedience, fulfilling every wish and whim, nor about living your life according to their demand.
We could debate biblical meanings for days. A point I want to make though, is that I think peaceful parenting can actually create a truer, deeper, meaningful sense of respect for another. The mainstream parenting approach suggests that children are learning respect when we teach them to obey us, and to respect us. In the peaceful parenting approach however, the onus of respect is on us.
Respect thy father and thy mother – in other words you are commanded to respect – not to demand respect from someone else. The verse is asking us all to show respect.
Create an Atmosphere of Respect without Demanding it
Creating an atmosphere of respect without demanding it requires a little perspective shifting. We need to put the onus of teaching respectful attitudes and behaviors on ourselves – adults who actually understand this. After all, even though all people deserve respect all the time, it’s really hard to respect someone who yells at you, punishes you, controls, or manipulates you. If you want to learn how to manage the worst tantrums while treating your littles with respect (without yelling, bribing, or punishing!) Sign up for my FREE Peaceful Tantrums Webinar. Here are some other ways to be someone who commands respect rather than demands it.
Rather than demanding respect, let’s become people who command respect. Rather than demanding respect, let's become people who command respect.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This
- Respect YOUR elders- The commandment to be respectful is on us, in the biblical sense but also in the psychological sense. We are the ones who must model being respectful to older generations. Every interaction we have with others is an opportunity to teach kids respect. Think back to your last conversation with your parents, or the lady in the supermarket. These are the things that will comically, come back to us.
- Respect your YOUNGERS – Everybody deserves respect. It certainly doesn’t mean we do everything our children ask of us though. The way that we talk to them will necessarily by definition be mirrored back to us. If we listen to them without interrupting, if we speak in kind gentle tones, they will mimic this. This is how they develop and learn.
- Respect your SELF – This can be a tricky one, but we teach people how to treat us, by how we treat ourselves. Grabbing meals on the go? Eating toddler leftovers? Not brushing your own teeth? The energy we put out into the world is what reflects back to us. Hold boundaries around respecting yourself. Is it giving yourself more time? Finishing a project you’ve started? Express when you feel disrespected too! (e.g. “Please can you say that in a more polite way?”” I don’t like being spoken to that way. Can you share your feelings instead?”) You can command respect with your presence and energy field rather than being someone who yells and demands respect.
Do you ever worry about raising children who are disrespectful? How are you modelling respect now, or how else could you be modelling respect? Let me know in the comments.