Teaching Kids Respect!
Having written a book entitled, “How To Get Kids To Do What You Want,” and, along with my wife, Georgia, raised two great kids, it’s no wonder that I get a lot of questions on how to raise respectful, confident, cooperative kids. I’m happy to share what I know, and always start by asking the parents in my audience if they agree with the fact that every time we are interacting with our kids we are teaching them something. So far, everyone has agreed with this premise.
I also suggest that we aren’t actually raising kids, and this gets some understandably puzzled looks. What I mean by this statement is that we are no more raising kids than a chicken farmer is raising chicks, or a cattle farmer is rising calves… we’re raising people or adults.
Therefore, if every time we are interacting with our kids we are teaching them something, and we are raising adults, the question we should be asking ourselves when we are interacting with our kids is, “What is the quality or characteristic that I want to model/teach that I want my child to have when they become an adult?”
When I ask parents this question, they come up with excellent answers, such as, kind, respectful, confident, cooperative, resourceful, empathetic…all great qualities to be sure. In fact, what is fascinating about their answers to this question is not what they say, but what they don’t say. In all of the times I have asked parents the question, “what are the qualities you want your children to have when they become an adult?” not one parent has ever said the word, “obedient!”
Frankly, this is the difference between raising dogs and kids.
We teach a young dog to be obedient because we want it to grow up to be an obedient adult dog. However, we don’t want our kids growing up to be adults that just do anything anyone tells them to do. In fact, if someone tells them to do something that is against their morals or values, we want them to have the confidence to say, “I’m sorry, that’s just not who I am.”
Therefore, if every time we interact with our kids we are teaching them something, and what we are teaching is who we want them to be as adults, then we can’t teach respect by being disrespectful. We can’t teach cooperation by being uncooperative. We can’t instill confidence in them by engaging them in a way that implies we have no confidence in them.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that we should just constantly praise our kids no matter what they do.
Our children need our wisdom and guidance as much as they need our love and approval. I’m just saying that the best way to achieve our goal of raising loving, confident, cooperative, respectful kids is to interact with them in loving, cooperative and, respectful ways.
Of course, we as parents are somewhat responsible for our children’s behavior. The key therefore, is to engage them in a way that teaches them the qualities we want them to have as adults, while still helping them learn how to be contributing members of society. How can we best do this? Not with criticism and fear-based discipline, because this only teaches them “obedience” and how to deal with others in this way.
Instead, I suggest we tap into the most powerful source of influence we have with our kids, and that is their deep desire for our love, attention, and approval. I mean, wasn’t that the case when we were children?
Didn’t we live for our parents telling us how proud they were of us and how much they loved us? Isn’t it true that none of us got as much of this parental love as we wanted and even needed?
For those of you who follow my, “Life from the Top of the Mind,” philosophy, this perspective on parenting is about engaging the joyful, cooperative part of our child’s brain versus the frightened, resistant, angry part, and we are so much more likely to do this when we are coming from the clear, confident, creative part of who we are, versus who we are when we are angry or frustrated.
Did you know that the root word of “discipline” is “disciple”… it means to “follow out of love.”
~ All the best, Dr. Bill