There are many cases where children are reprimanded or scolded for lacking respect for their elders. We’ve all probably been there. “Don’t talk to your mother like that!” or “Have some respect for your father!” are common phrases used to put children in their place.
But probably not many adults have been chewed out, “Don’t talk to your child like that!”
And probably a lot of adults should be chewed out for how they disrespect their children. Or at least taught better.
Family psychologist John Petersen explains that one of the most common concerns parents bring to his office is whether or not their children are being disrespectful. He goes on to explain that in an effort to force our kids to be respectful, we are placing more value on power than on people.
True respect for others should be intrinsic, not coerced. Our society needs to take a look at the value we place on extrinsic motivations, and make some serious adjustments, particularly in regard to parenting techniques.
John Gottman, author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” instructs that to be an effective parent one of the most important things we need to do is to validate our children’s emotions. This doesn’t mean giving in. It doesn’t mean allowing disrespect. But it also doesn’t have to involve a whole lot of lecturing, time-outs, or spankings.
It happens to involve a lot of respect, understanding, and patience.
In his parenting philosophy book Gottman teaches the following skills:
- Be aware of a child’s emotions
- Recognize emotional expression as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
- Listen empathetically and validate a child’s feelings
- Label emotions in words a child can understand
- Help a child discover appropriate ways to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting situation
These skills require a lot of practice, but the results will be rewarding. Bottom line parents (and adults in general): If you want respect, GIVE it. Don’t demand it. Don’t manipulate. Don’t threaten. Just be respectful, like you want to be respected.
In a world where children are often neglected, ignored, or treated like a nuisance, it’s crucial that we aim to have some deeper and more genuine respect for an important population that will one day grow up to be just like the rest of us. We’re shaping the future. And in the words of the great Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
So let’s shape the future with a little less lecturing and a little more love.
*For additional information on emotion coaching, check out John Gottman’s book, “Raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child.”