It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You try hard as a parent. You do so much for your children, but they’re frequently not respectful toward you.
Sometimes they ignore what you say, or they talk back to you. They even ask you to stop nagging.
I’ve spoken to and worked with close to 25,000 children and teenagers so far, so I know what will get them to respect you as a parent.
When I say “respect”, I’m referring to a sense of admiration and honour that your children have toward you.
I’m not referring to your children feeling afraid of you.
In other words, if you want to get your children to respect you, you’ll need to earn it.
Here are 50 tips that will help you to do just that . . .
1. Respect your children
Children learn from watching you, and they’re likely to copy your behaviour. When you demonstrate basic respect toward your children, they’ll demonstrate respect toward you.
I’m not saying that you should let your children walk all over you. But I am saying that you shouldn’t belittle or shame them, nor should you criticise them harshly.
2. Focus more on the relationship than the rules
You don’t need to throw out the rulebook.
Just show your children that you value the parent-child relationship by speaking kindly to them and trying to understand their perspective.
3. Be a person of integrity
Be honest when talking to your children.
When they see that you’re a person of integrity, you’ll gain their respect.
4. Don’t overreact
Try not to overreact to your children’s less-than-ideal behaviour, even when you’re feeling stressed.
When you stay calm and respond appropriately, they’re more likely to respond in kind too.
5. Assume your position as leader of the home
Being a leader isn’t just about being in charge. It’s also about setting a good example and inspiring others to do their best.
Behaving like a leader also means being compassionate.
When you empathise with your children, they’ll be more open to your suggestions and opinions.
6. Share your values and beliefs with your children
You can’t force your children to adopt your beliefs. But when your children understand why you believe what you believe, they’ll recognise that you’re a person of principles.
7. Be reasonable (especially when your children are being unreasonable)
Sometimes it’s frustrating being a parent, but try to stay calm. Remember that the way you behave when you’re angry is the way they’re likely to behave when they’re agitated too.
Be the bigger person, and don’t resort to name-calling or cheap shots – even if you feel like your children deserve it.
8. Don’t be overly critical of your children
When parents are overly critical, their children start to resent them and become rebellious and argumentative.
Instead, acknowledge your children’s good behaviour and focus more on the process than the end result.
9. Listen to your children
Part of being respectful is listening to the other person.
When you listen to your children, you’ll find they’re more likely to listen to you.
This is especially so if you use active listening techniques, as described here.
10. Involve your children in the process of setting rules and boundaries
When you involve your children in setting rules, they feel valued.
Just like adults, children appreciate having control over their lives.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they get to set whatever rules they want. It means you’ll listen to their views and take them into account as you seek to arrive at a no-lose solution.
11. Respect your children’s privacy
As children and teenagers get older, they need more privacy.
Just as you wouldn’t want other people reading your journal entries, text messages and emails, you shouldn’t infringe on your children’s privacy in that way either.
12. Set an example for your children to follow
Your children are watching you, whether or not you realise it.
Demonstrate the behaviour you want to see in them, and practise what you preach.
If you don’t, your children won’t respect you.
13. Acknowledge your children’s effort and good behaviour
Your children want your approval, so it’s important to recognise their effort, particularly if they’ve tried hard.
This principle applies even in situations when the outcome isn’t ideal.
When you appreciate their efforts, they’ll feel proud of themselves, and they’ll feel motivated to try hard next time.
14. Don’t discipline your children when you’re angry
When you’re angry, you’re more likely to overreact or say things you might regret.
Instead, show your children that it’s OK to be angry, but that it’s possible to manage your emotions effectively.
15. Ask for your children’s opinion
Your children will feel more appreciated and respected if you ask for their opinion.
You can ask them where they’d like to eat for dinner, or what they’d like to do for your family time activity.
Doing this demonstrates that you value their opinions, which means they’ll be more likely to value your opinions too.
16. Be firm but kind
Sometimes your children won’t agree with your decision. In such situations, the key to preventing arguments – and tears – is to be firm but kind.
Don’t let yourself be drawn into an argument.
Hear your children out, empathise with them, but stick to your decision if it’s an issue that’s non-negotiable.
17. Don’t assume that you understand how your children feel
When your children share their problems with you, don’t tell them that you know exactly what they’re going through.
You’ll form a better connection with them if you ask them how they feel and do your best to understand their perspective.
18. Seek to understand your children’s emotions
This point is related to the previous one. Especially when your children are displaying problematic behaviours, get to the root of the issue.
My experience tells me that, at the heart of it, it’s almost always an emotional issue, so you can’t just focus on “fixing” the problematic behaviour.
19. Establish clear expectations
When expectations are unclear, there’s room for misunderstanding.
Establish clear expectations with regard to curfew, homework, chores, family commitments, etc.
This will reduce the number of conflicts that arise between you and your children, which means that your parent-child relationship will grow stronger.
20. If you lecture your children, keep it short
It’s best to avoid lecturing your children. But if you find this to be impossible, then keep the lecture short – ideally 10 minutes or less.
If the lecture is too long, your children will tune out and just pretend that they’re listening, when they’re not.
21. Stay calm
Show your children that you’re able to control your emotions.
Step away from the situation if you need to, and address the issue only when you’ve regained your composure.
Conflicts never get resolved in the heat of the moment, so do your part to remain calm.
22. Don’t threaten your children
Parents who resort to using threats have more arguments with their children in the long run. They also get a lot less respect from their children.
Instead of using threats, involve them in the process (Point #10), be firm but kind (Point #16), and set clear expectations (Point #19).
23. Give your children choices whenever possible
Allowing your children to make choices empowers them. It gives them a sense of control and ownership over their lives.
It also reduces the number of arguments that break out.
For example, instead of telling your 11-year-old to take a jacket with him as he heads out the door, ask him if he’d rather take the blue one or the red one.
24. Acknowledge your children’s feelings
We all have feelings, so it’s important to acknowledge them.
Children must learn that it’s OK to have feelings, even negative ones.
Refrain from telling your children not to be sad, or that they shouldn’t feel a certain way.
Doing so invalidates their feelings, which makes them feel misunderstood.
25. Speak “positively” instead of “negatively”
Tell your children what you’d like them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do.
For example, saying “Please walk when you’re in the house” is more effective than saying “No running!”
26. Show an interest in your children’s hobbies and activities
When you do this, your children will know that you care about them as people.
They won’t feel as if you only care about how they perform in their academics, athletics, music, etc. (Many of the children and teenagers I’ve worked with have told me that this is exactly how they feel!)
Showing a genuine interest in their hobbies and activities will help you build a stronger parent-child relationship.
This means that your children will be more likely to show you respect.
27. Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions
Regardless of what has happened in the past, listen to your children’s side of the story rather than making assumptions.
This will allow you to assess the situation calmly and let them know you’ve heard them out.
As far as possible, assume the best of your children unless the evidence has clearly proven otherwise.
28. Have fun together with your children
Many of the children and teenagers I’ve worked with have told me that they don’t do anything fun with their parents. I wonder why this is the case!
Make time to have fun with your children, and do things they enjoy. These fun times will help you to form strong bonds with your children.
29. Don’t provide unsolicited advice
If your children are faced with a problem, don’t give them unsolicited advice unless absolutely necessary.
Instead, help them to reflect on the problem. Ask them how they plan to handle the situation, and encourage them to be independent problem solvers.
If they need help from you, they’ll ask.
30. Respect your spouse
You want your children to respect you and your spouse, so model the behaviour you want to see.
When you show your children that you respect your spouse, they’ll tend to show you that same kind of respect.
31. Be consistent
If you’ve already stated the consequences of a specific negative behaviour, then follow through if the rule is broken.
Being consistent lets your children know you’re reliable, so they’ll be more likely to respect you.
32. Apologise if you’ve made a mistake
When you mess up, admit it to your children.
Tell your children that you’re sorry, and explain to them how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in the future. When necessary, ask them for their forgiveness.
In doing this, your children will admire you for your humility, and they’ll understand how much you value the relationship.
33. Don’t let your children walk all over you
This doesn’t mean that you should exert your power and authority in every situation.
Rather, it means that you shouldn’t give in to your children just to avoid an argument.
Strive for a win-win situation (or a no-lose situation at the very least) whenever conflicts arise.
You’ll gain the respect of your children, and they’ll learn negotiation skills in the process too.
34. Remind your children that you love them unconditionally
One of the most powerful things you can say to your children is, “I love you no matter what.”
Sometimes children feel as if your love depends on how well they do in school or how well they behave.
It’s helpful to remind them frequently that your love is unconditional, as this will strengthen the relationship.
35. Cultivate a culture of respect in your family
Encourage your children to behave respectfully to all family members. The way you all speak to each other is the foundation of building a stable, happy home.
Show your children what it means to behave respectfully, even when there are differences in opinion.
36. Give your children freedom within limits
Children need autonomy, so it’s important that you give them both freedom and responsibilities.
Encourage them to be independent within certain limits. As they get older, give them more say as to what those limits are, although you’ll still retain overall authority.
37. Discuss the topic of respect with your children
Ask your children what respect means to them, and ask them what behaviour they deem to be acceptable or unacceptable.
Having such a discussion will help you to understand your children’s views on the topic.
You can then determine how best to help them develop the right values when it comes to respecting others.
38. Be respectful when you discipline or confront your children
Treat your children with respect, even when they’ve made a mistake.
Don’t shame or berate them, because this won’t empower them to learn.
When you show them respect even in such situations, they’ll develop greater respect for you.
39. Don’t take your children’s disrespectful behaviour too personally
Remember that your children are still maturing – just as all of us are.
Children and teenagers are learning to manage their thoughts and emotions. If they’re acting out, it’s a sign that they need more help and guidance.
Be the bigger person and show them grace and patience.
40. Give your full attention to your children when they speak to you
I’m sure you expect your children to listen to you when you speak. So extend the same courtesy to them.
Too many parents half-listen to their children while writing an email or checking their phone. This sends the message to children that they aren’t valued, which affects their self-esteem.
And when children suffer from poor self-esteem, they often don’t behave with respect toward others.
41. Tell your children that you enjoy spending time with them
Children need to know that you like them, not just that you love them.
If the relationship has deteriorated to the point where you don’t actually like your children, then focus on rebuilding the relationship as a priority.
42. Don’t belittle your children
Don’t talk to your children as if they’re stupid, and definitely don’t call them stupid! (If you have, refer to Point #32.)
Instead, show them that you believe in them. Assume the best of them. Celebrate their progress. Cheer them on.
If you build your children up, they’ll do the same for others.
43. Admit it when your children are right
When you’re mature enough to admit that you’re wrong and your children are right, they’ll develop greater respect for you.
We all make mistakes, so it’s already obvious to your children that you’re not perfect.
Besides, they don’t expect you to be perfect! They expect you to be a person of authenticity, humility and character.
Do your best to live up to these expectations!
44. Refrain from saying “Don’t argue with me”
When your children hear you say “Don’t argue with me”, they’ll see you as being unreasonable and illogical. This makes it hard for them to respect you.
If you’re at your wits’ end, tell your children that you need some time to think about the issue.
Restart the conversation only when both you and your children are ready to have a level-headed discussion.
45. Give your children advance notice about upcoming events
If you don’t do this, your children will feel annoyed with you, because it seems as if their schedule and activities aren’t important to you.
For example, if there’s an event that your whole family needs to attend, tell your children a week in advance. On the day of the event, give them a couple of reminders closer to the time that you need to leave the house.
Your children will appreciate you keeping them informed, so they won’t be caught off-guard.
46. Acknowledge the progress your children are making (even if the progress is slow)
We all feel more motivated when we feel as if we’re making headway.
As such, it’s crucial that you acknowledge the progress your children are making in the different areas of life.
Refrain from talking as if they’re never trying hard enough. If your children feel as if the effort they put in is never enough, they may stop trying altogether.
And when they feel discouraged, it’s hard for them to show honour and respect toward others.
47. Choose to focus on the issues that matter most in the long run
Choose your battles. Don’t point out every flaw and shortcoming your children have, because they’ll get annoyed and the relationship will be damaged.
Decide which issues are most important to you, and which issues you’re willing to let slide.
48. Under all circumstances, do not yell
When you yell, you’re demonstrating that you’ve lost control.
Instead, withdraw from the situation if necessary. Say something like, “I’m too angry to talk about this now. Let’s talk again after dinner.”
This approach is far better than lashing out and saying things you’ll almost certainly regret later on.
49. Don’t talk as if you know it all
Your children will respect you more if you admit that you don’t know everything.
After all, they’ve probably already realised that they know more than you about certain topics.
Be open-minded, and be willing to learn from your children.
In general, children treasure every chance they get to teach you what they know, whether it’s about technology or the latest hobby they’ve picked up.
50. Keep your promises
Children have good memories, especially when it comes to the promises you make to them.
They’ll be disappointed for a long time if you don’t keep your promises.
Furthermore, the foundation of every relationship is trust. If you forget about the promises you’ve made, your children will find it hard to trust and respect you.
The tips in this article are all simple things you can start practising today.
Of course, it’s impossible to implement all the tips right away.
Choose one or two items from the list and try it out this week. The following week, try out one or two additional tips.
Over time, you’ll see huge changes.
Your relationship with your children will improve. Your children will respect you more. Your family life will become more harmonious and enjoyable.
And your children will be on their way to becoming gracious, responsible and successful people!
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