Respect my Disrespect?

One of my pet peeves is when an adult treats a child disrespectfully, yet expects the child to treat him with respect.


Submission: the acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the power of one’s superior or superiors.

Respect: a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person.

Do we want children who simply acknowledge that we are more powerful than them, and respond with respectful behaviour?

Or do we want children who know how it feels to be respected, and in response give that back to us?

Now admittedly, this means that there are going to be times when what our children show us is raw, yucky feelings, not respect. But if you’re anything like me, you would rather that than fakeness.

Respect your kids.
Too many adults DEMAND respect from kids
without showing any respect in return.
It doesn’t work.

– Lyle Perry

When parents demand that their children show respect, do they not stop to realise that the very act of demanding respect is, in itself, an act of disrespect? When someone feels disrespected, they are highly unlikely to feel respect for the one that has treated them so. They may go through the motions of showing respectful behaviour, but is that enough? Is that what we really want?

Surely, if the parent demanding respect was able to separate themselves from their emotions in the moment, and step back objectively, seeing the situation or relationship with new eyes, they would see a child either cowering in fear, or acting deceitfully, showing respect where none is felt.

Now I am not for a moment suggesting that it is okay for children to go around trashing property, or being rude and insulting to other people.

What I am suggesting is that we have the chicken and the egg mixed up.

A child who is treated with respect is more likely to show respect.
A child who is treated with kindness is more likely to show kindness.
A child who is treated with compassion is more likely to show compassion.
A child who is understood is more likely to be understanding.

So I guess, as parents, the choice is ours.

Do we want our children to live in an environment where they experience the feeling of being respected, treated with kindness, compassion and understanding?

Or do we want children who “know who is boss”, who give in, submit, show respect, regardless of how they are feeling, or what is going on for them?

If we decide on the latter, and someone comes along in our child’s life who demands respect, submission, compliance, and that person does not have our child’s best interests at heart, how do we want our child to respond? What will their instinctive reaction be, based on the environment they have grown up in?

Do we want children who are true to themselves, who give respect when respect is warranted, or who go through the motions of what we expect from them, who blindly submit to the power of another?

That other person may be a co-worker, a boss, a spouse, a friend.

It could be us.