Just the idea that we should respect our kids can rile any parent. After all, what we really want is for our kids to respect us and typically that doesn’t happen often as our kids move into the teen years. Many have told me it is counter cultural, and as one mom put it, counter instinctive.
Think for a moment what the biblical mandate is for us as parents. We are to “train” our children in the way they should go. Watching us “model” respect should breed respect.
The other thing we need to think about is what we are trying to cultivate in our homes. We should be trying to foster “trust” with our children so that as they grow they will come to see us as trustworthy and full of wisdom.
Trust is built out of respect.
Whether you are part of an intact family, a blended family, a foster family, or an adoptive family, trust needs to be the foundation and respect is the key.
Let’s think through it from a child growth perspective.
When an infant enters the world, mom tries to develop a connection with her baby through meeting the child’s needs. A cry, a laugh, or a yawn will signal to mom the need and most likely she will be there to soothe the baby. She doesn’t chastise the baby for crying, she doesn’t scold a newborn for messing his diaper, she respects the fact that she is there to be in tune with his needs. He has wants and needs that she instinctively meets regardless of how tired she is or what she would rather be doing. She selflessly is there to serve. With that, the foundation for trust is built.
As the infant becomes a child she typically sees mom as someone to please. The connection is strong if trust has been instilled in the earlier years. Mom usually gives more opportunity for choices because most choices don’t have long-term, high-stake consequences at this point. These are the years where we laugh, play, and enjoy life as a family if all goes well. Respect from most children during this phase of parenting seems to be a non-issue. Because these times tend to have few conflicts, two way respect is easy to maintain. We bond in ways that make us happy to be together and we sometimes delight in their every accomplishment.
Then something happens. These cute, fun, respectful kids, turn into tweens and teens who are in a power struggle. It is a time when they need to learn to use power correctly and we need to model it well. Unfortunately, they push our buttons and unfortunately too many times we push back. Rather than see respect as a tool in our toolbox to use with these kids, we forget and sometimes move to authoritative power. I’ll admit that “because I said so” has been known to come out of my mouth. Or we angrily issue consequences or more rules–anything to fix the problem. Often, because of the success of the childhood years, we’ve now wrapped our identity up in these kids. We’re enamored with each accomplishment. And then it seems that they turn on us in the midst of the power struggle. Now we feel the need to control because it is not only their well-being at stake but our reputation as a parent as well.
And we either reach an impasse or give into their demands.
We sometimes forget as parents that when conflict arises, rather than attacking or avoiding we need to make sure that our relational circuits are fully engaged. We need to love them and respect them as separate human beings. We need to understand that our teens are learning to think like adults when we as the real adults are not always acting like adults. In essence, we aren’t modeling respect so we aren’t getting respect.
In the case where attachment hasn’t been fully developed or those strong-willed kids emerge early, trust still needs to be established. That is when respect and consistency in correction is key.
So what does respect look like as we parent?
To the infant: I will meet your need regardless of how I feel. The emotion I show you is full of love, joy, and acceptance.
To the child: I recognize that you are learning and I will give grace in the learning. The emotion I show you is full of love, joy, and acceptance. If I behave otherwise, I will apologize.
To the tween and teen: I recognize that you are becoming an adult and you are learning to make adult-like choices. I will continue to show you love, joy, and acceptance and in the event that I get upset I will apologize and try to reconcile our differences. I will respect the fact that you are still learning and growing and won’t always see the world in the same manner that I see the world. Respect means that I will not be directive but will coach you as you learn. I will accept that we are different and allow you to make mistakes while I am here to offer a protective landing place. Respect means more freedom for the kid and as a parent I choose to not live in fear.
To the 20-something: I recognize that you are an adult, an equal who can stand on their own two feet without me looking over your shoulder. I will continue to show you love, joy, and acceptance and in the event that I get upset I will apologize and try to reconcile our differences. You have your own choices to make and life to live. Respect mean no longer giving advice unless I am asked. Respect means having boundaries when it comes to finances or other things that you might need from me so that you can continue to grow and mature. I will respectfully communicate what I desire our relationship to be and will let go of any expectations that I am holding onto for your life. My hope is that I have respected you well as you have grown and that you will trust me as one of your sources of wisdom.
None of us will be perfect as we try to model respect for our kids and times of conflict will definitely challenge us to respect our child as the “gift” that God has given us. It is counter cultural and counter intuitive. And respect is rarely modeled in today’s society.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
Dare you to think about what respect could look like in your home and model it to build trust and deeper relationships.
Double dare you to ask your tweens and teens what respect looks like to them. Apologize for any times they bring up when they didn’t feel respected by you. This is a great way to re-initiate building trust in your family.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Conflict seems to skyrocket during the tween and teen years, not only with our kids but with our spouses as well. The power struggle, the question of how should I handle it this time, and the frustration as we find ourselves raising our voices, issuing ultimatums, and living in fear of what tomorrow might hold can sometimes be overwhelming.
There are skills that we can learn and Greater Impact Ministries can help. Deflating Defensiveness is a workshop that will teach you the important skills of respect and will help you understand the components that help bridge even the most difficult relationships. We offer a safe, encouraging, fun environment that will help your skill level take a vertical leap in a short amount of time.
Join us on September 6-7 in Milford, Ohio. Women from around the country will be joining us as we learn to deflate the defensiveness that sometimes results from conflict handled poorly. Now there is hope for all your relationships–even the difficult ones.
Click here for more information. Price includes a private room overnight accommodation and three meals in a beautiful retreat setting.