Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Lately, I've been in a ton of conversations with moms, dads, grandparents, and teachers about what they are seeing as an explosion of what they're calling 'disrespect - surly, angry, uncommunicative, unresponsive kids'. (You can sign up to chat with me here).
They've reasoned, yelled, punished, cajoled — but it didn't seem to make a difference - nothing seems to work. And they've run out of ideas as to what to do.
Here's the thing (and there's always a thing): We have to figure out the causes of the behavior in order to know what to do to change them.
Some disrespectful behavior is due to overwhelm, tiredness, hunger, or poor problem-solving skills.
Some disrespectful behavior is a normal part of adolescence. It's your child taking a stand and declaring his/her independence. They can't figure out how to do that any other way.
Some disrespectful behavior is a direct mirror of how they are being treated. This is one of the hardest realizations to deal with - that their behavior is just mirroring yours.
And sometimes the arguing, outbursts, ignoring you, refusing requests, name-calling is your cue to change your modus operandi. You are not in control and there are no firm limits. Kids need and want (even if they don't realize it) you to be their parent, not their friend.
So, what do you do when your kids are disrespectful?
1. UNDERSTAND THAT IT WILL HAPPEN.
All kids are disrespectful at one time or another so be prepared. It may come as a shock the first time your kids say "I hate you" or you may have been dealing with it for a while. Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it (or something like that). It doesn't make you a bad parent. It doesn't make them a bad kid.
2. IT'S NOT PERSONAL.
I can't stress this enough. It's not personal. This isn't even about you - it's about them. It's about how they are navigating (or not navigating) their jumbled-up feelings; it's about their immaturity, their lack of self-control, their inability to express themselves in an appropriate way. They need guidance. Which leads to. #3...
Literally, stop, take a deep breath, count to ten, whatever. Give yourself time to be able to respond rather than react. You can't reason with someone who's being unreasonable...so avoid arguing at all costs. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in a power struggle. When that happens - YOU LOSE! Figure out how you're going handle the situation when it inevitably happens again- limits, expectations, consequences - a plan of action. What you will do to walk away and continue the discussion when things have calmed down. Model how to handle a situation that is not going your way.
I'm not saying to let your kid walk all over you or that you should accept disrespectful behavior. I am saying that you should avoid acting in kind. "Do as I say, not as I do" is not only hypocritical, it just doesn't work. Children will mirror your behavior. Find ways to bridge the gap. If something’s wrong between you, find a way to work it through positively. Every difficulty is an opportunity to bring you closer. It can also serve as a wedge to push you further apart.
4. STAY CONSISTENT
It's so easy to fall into old patterns or give in to the exhaustion of the day. But results will only happen with consistency. And it takes time. But your efforts will be worth the price.
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is an expert in helping kids to develop the confidence and self-esteem skills that they need to thrive now, and grow into happy, confident, successful adults. Her more than 40 years in education, along with her training as a coach and practical experience gained from raising her own 4 children, give her an understanding of the needs of each child, as well as the needs of a parent. This makes her uniquely qualified to help children, support parents, and nurture tomorrow’s leaders. Her programs provide hands-on experiences for children allowing them to explore and grow while building skills and having fun.