Don't confuse respect with fear. It wasn't respect that kept so many of us in line when we were kids, although many of our parents called it that. It was fear. Fear that if we didn't do exactly as we were told, we'd pay an uncomfortable price.

Remember hearing stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about? Or how about wipe that grin off your face this minute. And don't forget big boys don't cry, don't be a baby, or give your auntie a kiss. (special note to my mom: thank you for not doing any of this!)

We 'acted nice' because we wanted to avoid physical pain, shame, blame, anger and guilt. We quickly learned to deny, repress, and ignore any feelings that our parents deemed inappropriate to express. Can you blame us?

Kids today may appear to be disrespectful when viewed through that distorted old lens, but let's polish it up a bit. I don't want my kids' blind obedience. I don't want them doing what I say because I will hurt them if they don't. I don't want my presence to be required in order to force compliance. I don't want to threaten my children into fearful obedience.

What do I want instead? I want to raise kids who think, who know what they feel and aren't afraid to express it clearly and appropriately, who can voice their concerns and listen to others', and who know how to create win-win solutions together.

In other words, I want to raise kids who are respectful. And since children learn what they live, it's pretty difficult to shame a kid into respect, just like it's hard to teach kids nonviolence by hitting them.

Want respect? Give it. Yes, even to your kids. Especially to your kids.

I got a lesson in this from my son a few months ago. We were out for dinner with a friend who picked up the tab. At the table, I prompted my teenage son to say thank you. He did, and later, in private, he quietly said, "Hey mom, that was embarrassing for me back there. I was planning to thank her, and when you 'reminded' me it sounded like you thought I was so rude that I wouldn't have done it on my own."

Oops. He got me on that one. He was right, and not only that, he told me about it in private so as not to embarrass ME. I ate my slice of humble pie with a dollop of gratitude on top - bummed out about what I had said, and at the same time immensely proud of him for handling the situation so maturely with me.

So if you are complaining about how your kids talk to you, listen to how you talk to them. Make sure you are modeling what you expect them to do in your own behavior. Do as I say, not as I do just doesn't cut in in today's world. Our kids are too smart, too aware, and too strong for that approach. They do, however, respond very well to honesty, respect, and self-responsible communication.

If you'd like some help making sure you are congruent in your behavior and expectations, let's schedule a phone or email parenting consultation. Visit www.karenalonge.com/forclients.htm or drop me a line: karen@karenalonge.com


Anonymous said...

THANKS for participating in the Carnival of Family Life, hosted this week by Karen at Write from Karen!

The Carnival will be live on Monday, January 14, 2008, so be sure to stop by and peruse all the excellent submissions included this week!

Fairion said...

Thank you for reminding us all of what respect truly means. It is amazing how quickly we forget. And major kudos to your son.