Monday, November 10, 2008


Kendall and Kyle, last Christmas

Our kids (mine and Mr.4444) are 13 and 16. We're not out of the parenting woods yet, certainly, but we often hear praise for how great our kids are; hard working, respectful, compassionate, honest, not afraid to talk to adults, etc. The fact that they are such healthy, well-adjusted kids has been no accident. Mr.4444 would give me all the credit, but it has truly been a team effort. I thought I would share some of our secrets, which we gleaned from other parents we've admired over the years. Today, the topic is Respect.

Practice what you preach. To get respect, you have to give it. If you say you're going to do something with your kids; do it. If you make a mistake, admit it. Don't be afraid to appear "weak," through apologizing. It will actually have a positive effect; they will feel respected and will want to reciprocate. Give your kids the same respect you would give those outside your home, and they will feel valued.

Expect respect. I'll never forget the time I heard my friend Molly talking with her sons (four years older than Kyle, so I was taking notes). One of the boys said something I considered to be slightly disrespectful, but Molly stopped dead in her tracks, looked him in the eye, and firmly said, "I think you forgot who you were talking to just now." He checked his attitude and apologized. She had reinforced that you need to set boundaries for kids, enforce them and you don't need to yell at them to correct them effectively.

Set and Enforce Boundaries: Another point about teaching respect is that you cannot have loose boundaries between you and your kids (being their "buddies" or treating them "like an equal") most of the time, and then expecting them to treat you as an authority figure when it suits you. This might come as a surprise to some, but although they are equal as human beings, they are not equal when it comes to parenting; you are the boss. They are kids, and they should not get the idea that they can do the same things adults can do or have the same privileges. It's your responsibility to teach them that there are boundaries to be respected in society and in your home. They have enough friends; they only have one or two parents. Be the parent.

Expect Eye Contact: Always have eye contact when you say anything important to each other. When it comes to respecting others, I have always had firm expectations about apologies; when you tell someone you are sorry, you look them in the eye, and you say what it is you are sorry for. This teaches accountability. There is none of that "My bad" in this house. I also expect my kids to look people in the eye when they say "Thank you." Simple, little things like this make a difference. I taught them this when they were young, and they do it out of habit now, and they do it with sincerity.

Now, I admit that my kids have wonderful temperaments and have no disabilities, and I have never been divorced, so my job has been easier than some parents, and my heart goes out to you who are struggling with those issues. That said, I think these tips apply to any family. Correct me if I'm wrong...

P.S. Should I do this type of post again? If so, which topic should I speak to? Some possible ideas include: sibling rivalry, teaching responsibility, discipline, schoolwork, self-esteem, instilling faith in your child, having fun, parenting five or more kids. Wait a minute--that one's for Zoesdad and Weaselmomma. Maybe we should start a Parenting Theme day of the week? We could all share what we know and learn what we don't. Something to think about....

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