"My child is often disrespectful to me. She talks back in a sassy manner, yells at me, and sometimes calls me names. The more I punish her, the worse it gets."
Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation
Children learn from the examples they see. Too many parents expect their children to be respectful when they are not respectful to their children. Punishment is not respectful.
1. In a calm, respectful voice, tell your child, "If I have ever spoken to you that way, I apologize. I don't want to hurt you or be hurt by you. Can we start over?"
2. "You are obviously very upset right now. I know it upsets me when you talk that way. Let's both take some time out to calm down. We can talk later when we feel better."
3. Another possibility is to say what you will do. "When you talk disrespectfully to me, I will leave the room. I love you and want to listen to you when you are ready to talk respectfully. I love myself enough to walk away from verbal abuse." Calmly leave the room without saying a word. If your child follows, go for a walk or get into the shower. After a cooling-off period, ask, "Are you ready to talk with me now?" If you are not too upset, try hugging your child. Sometimes children are not ready to accept a hug at this time. Other times a hug changes the atmosphere for both of you to one of love and respect.
Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems
1. Be willing to take a look at how you might be teaching the very thing you abhor in your child by being disrespectful to her. Many parents have been shocked when they overheard their children talking to their dolls because their children were very good at mimicking how they were talked to.
2. If this is a recurring problem, put it on the family meeting agenda for discussion. Sometimes a discussion is enough to help the individuals involved cooperate to stop the problem.
Life Skills Children Can Learn
Children can learn that it is not okay for them to be disrespectful to others or to tolerate others being disrespectful to them.
This is a good time to act instead of react. It is very tempting to get revenge by punishing when your children hurt your feelings. This models disrespect while trying to teach respect.
From a note sent by a grateful parent: "I'm all choked up right now because my fifteen-year-old daughter just came in and said, 'Mom, are you planning to do some washing today so that I can include my jeans, or should I put a load in before school?' It was such a respectful departure from 'Mom, have my jeans washed when I get home from school!'
Thank God for family meetings and calm dialogue instead of yelling, reacting, and the angry feelings we have known."