Respect and Parenting

‘Respect’ has so many different meanings.

This morning my husband and I were talking about respect. I told him that I wanted this post to be on respect and parenting. I told him that I have an issue with the position that parents are automatically due respect from their children (in the same way that I take issue with the idea that any clout automatically requires respect). He wholeheartedly agreed that respect is earned.

Then I asked him if we are to respect our children. He and I both agreed that its part of our job as parents to teach them respect by acting it out. They should feel respected by us too, but not always in the same way…

Respect has so many meanings!

  • To admire
  • To have ‘due regard’ for
  • To avoid harming or interfering with
  • To comply with

Which ‘Respect’ should we do and/or teach as parents? Which ones are earned, and which ones are deserved? Which ones apply to which situations? How do we navigate all of this as parents?

We don’t expect our kids to instinctively acknowledge our positions as their superiors by acting out all of our wishes and expectations (although this would be nice, we understand that this just isn’t how people are wired, and the only way that I know of to make this work is to insert fear into the situation, which is not how we want to parent.) We plan to foster healthy relationships with our children that lead to feelings of trust, resulting in a desire to ‘respect’ us by being compliant.

We don’t want them to ever act blindly because anyone ‘said so’ (In my opinion, one’s position alone shouldn’t warrant respect). We want to grow thinkers who are able to behave responsibly and ethically on their own (obviously with tons of guidance from us in the beginning, and hopefully on the occasional (sought out) counsel of us in their adult lives.) We want them to feel safe to disagree with us. We want them to feel like we have due regard for their feelings, wishes, and rights. Hopefully by respecting them, we will teach them to respect us and others.

Now, I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this point. I don’t want to be misunderstood. We give our children boundaries (tons of them…remember, I’m a control freak.) We give them consequences for not adhering to boundaries. We outline expectations, and we explain the natural consequences that will result if expectations are not met (and we follow through). We tell them ‘no’, and we certainly don’t consider our kids our friends. But, we do it all with them and their hearts and minds in mind, not because we believe that we are always right and they are always wrong.

These are the ways that we want to behave as parents, and the results that we are hoping to see, but we constantly slip up when it comes to respecting them and teaching them to respect us and others. It’s so much work already, and our oldest isn’t even four yet. Lol.

Here are some practical ways that we are teaching our kids (toddlers) respect.

  1. We let them disagree with us. Disagreement is not the same thing as disrespect! Sometimes our toddlers are disrespectful in the way that they disagree (because they’re toddlers and the LOVE to test boundaries by screaming or acting out), but we try to discipline their inappropriate behaviors and also address the disagreement. Generally, once everyone has calmed down, we land on the fact that mom and dad were right. Occasionally though, we’ve misread a situation, and listening to them reveals that they were right and we were wrong. Gasp!
  2. We let them disobey us, even if we can prevent it. We don’t like it, but sometimes we watch them do the thing that we’ve told them not to do (“don’t climb on the chair!” I could obviously physically remove them from the chair, but sometimes I don’t). When they fail or get hurt they learn that mom and dad aren’t just out to ruin their fun. Our three year old has even said, “Oh is that why you told me not to do it?!” They face consequences (like timeout) for blatantly choosing to do the opposite of what they were told, but it’s all a learning experience. They learn that our directions are intended to help them, not hurt them. This builds trust. So, by letting them disobey (disrespect) us, we are hopefully allowing them to learn about respect through first hand experience (instead of expecting them to obey without understanding why it’s important).
  3. We play with them. When we play, things concerning respect are bound to come up! Playtime allows us to model respect in real life situations and imaginary situations. Sometimes we run into their personal boundaries, and are faced with the decision to either respect their bodies or not (“Stop tickling me!” “Put me down!). Sometimes our imaginary personalities have conflicts that we have to overcome respectfully. Sometimes playing just results in normal sibling rivalries- tons of opportunity to teach respect.

So, we’re TRYING to teach our boys all of the meanings of respect. I try to avoid using the word ‘respect’ though, because it really is quite confusing. I say things like “momma wants you to obey because…”, or “we need to be nice to each other because…”, or “are you treating your brother the way that you want him to treat you?”.

I know that our intentions as parents are good. I know that all of this is bound to change over time as we gain parenting experience and get to know our boys better, but this is what we’re doing now. I think that the ways that we define respect are a direct result of our life experiences, and how/what we were taught about respect. I know that so many people disagree with my viewpoint, and that’s OK!

How do you define respect? How do you teach your kids about respect? What are your expectations re respect from your kids? Do you and I agree, or are you more of a ‘respect is deserved’ parent? Why?

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow, like, comment, and share.


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