How to respond when your child openly disrespects you

December 13, 2016 by zenparent

“Hi beta, how was school.”

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“All my classmates were teasing me about the Winnie the Pooh dabba.”
“What’s wrong with the Winnie the Pooh dabba?”

“They were saying I am still a baby. And it’s all your fault!”

“That’s not a nice thing to say. How would I know your classmates will tease you when I bought it? You love Winnie the Pooh.”

“I don’t care! You always do this to me! I hate you!”

I can think of three ways in which this conversation could progress.

Scenario one: You send your child to her bedroom and set her lines to write – “I will not be rude to my mother.”

Scenario two: You turn away and give her the silent treatment. She stomps into her room, still fuming and doesn’t talk to you for the next few hours.

Scenario three: You yell your head off and make her cry.

Well, which of these parents do you want to be? All three, in different circumstances? Or none? I’d say none. At least, none until you know what exactly has caused her to react the way she did. Disrespect is something we don’t tolerate even in adults, so it’s much more difficult to allow kids to boss us around. And we shouldn’t. So how do we respond?

In an article for Imperfect Families, Nicole Schwarz, a parent coach, makes two valid points –

  1. “We cannot teach them to be respectful in the heat of the moment.”
  2. “We cannot teach our kids to be respectful by treating them with disrespect.”

Both true. All the disciplining might be for nothing if it only makes our kids more rebellious, which is exactly what will happen if we don’t deal with the root of the problem. So Schwarz puts down a number of things to do exactly that:

1. Remain Calm:

It’s instinctive to blow your head off the minute someone attacks you. It could be because you’re mad at whoever yelled at you or defensive for whatever made her yell in the first place. Take five deep breaths and don’t let this happen. Otherwise, the decision you make might not be fair or deserved.

2. Switch Shoes With Your Child:

Step out of the brain of a parent for a moment and think of the situation from you kid’s perspective. How would she have felt in school when the rest of her classmates teased her for owning a kiddy lunchbox? Most children are precocious, they’ll do whatever they can to grow up quickly or act as they feel adults do.

3. Speak With Empathy:

Once you’ve looked at the situation from her standpoint, you’ll definitely have something kind to say. Tell her you’re sorry your classmates teased her as they did; it’s really not fair. And that she can buy a new dabba if she really doesn’t want to take this one again. Empathising doesn’t really mean agreeing with her, just showing that you care.

4. Look At The Clock:

Have you noticed a correlation between your child’s crankiness and hunger? Or thirst? Tiredness? Sleepiness? Perhaps coming home from school? If you have, and it’s that time of day, cut her a little slack and do whatever you need to remedy the situation immediately. Feed her, make her some juice, get her to take a nap or read a book together to cheer her up. And don’t retaliate. Let the rudeness pass, with perhaps just a comment or two after she’s refreshed that she should slow down before she reacts the next time.

5. Cuddle Her:

It’s certainly not something you want to do when your child has just yelled at you. But part of showing her that you care would involve sitting her down on your lap and asking her what’s wrong. It could bring tears, silence or a confession. Whichever it does, it’s worth a shot because sometimes all a child needs is a little love.

If you think her disrespect has crossed a line and deserves disciplinary action, mete it out after both of you are calm. Without the heat of the moment, your actions become deliberate and well thought out (hopefully). But don’t be rough with it. And don’t let the punishment supercede the crime; give her just enough so she thinks twice before she reacts that way again.

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