“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss
The reason I write about parenting is by no means because I am an expert even half of the time. I write about parenting because I believe it has an intrinsic link to mental health. Our psychological fitness certainly plays a role in the ability and quality of our parenting. Likewise, our sense of self worth as parents regarding ability and quality directly contributes to our overall wellness.
Empowering Parents has forever been my favorite online parenting resource for the tough stuff in life. In particular, I enjoy that their content is direct and specific. Often times I find myself googling parenting methods, and I am left with more questions than answers. Empowering Parents eliminates a lot of the guess-work, thus providing a more meaningful outcome supported by measurable practice and change. So, since the way we treat and are treated by others will always influence our mental health (and we could all use more tools as parents), I thought I would share one with you today.
1. Remember, Your Child Is Not Your Friend
It’s not about your child liking you or even thanking you for what you do. It’s important to remember that your child is not your friend—he’s your child. Your job is to coach him to be able to function in the world. This means teaching him to behave respectfully to others, not just you. When you think your child might be crossing the line, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would I let the neighbor say these things to me? Would I let a stranger?” If the answer is no, don’t let your child do it, either. Someday when your child becomes an adult, your relationship may become more of a friendship, but for now, it’s your job to be his parent: his teacher, coach and limit setter—not the buddy who lets him get away with things.
2. Catch Disrespect Early and Plan Ahead If You Can
It’s good to catch disrespectful behavior early if possible. If your child is rude or disrespectful, don’t turn a blind eye. Intervene and say, “We don’t talk to each other that way in this family.” Giving consequences when your kids are younger is going to pay off in the long run. It’s really important as a parent if you see your child being disrespectful to admit it and then try to nip it in the bud. Also, if your child is about to enter the teen years (or another potentially difficult phase) think about the future. Some parents I know are already planning how they will address behavior as their ADD daughter (who is now 11) becomes a teenager. They’re learning skills to prepare for their interactions with her at a later time. This can only help them as they move forward together as a family.
3. Get in Alignment with Your Mate
It’s so important for you and your mate to be on the same page when it comes to your child’s behavior. Make sure one of you isn’t allowing the disrespectful behavior while the other is trying to intercede. Sit down together and talk about what your bottom lines are, and then come up with a plan of action—and a list of consequences you might give—if your child breaks the rules.
4. Teach Your Child Basic Social Interaction Skills
It may sound old fashioned, but it’s very important to teach your child basic manners like saying “please” and “thank you.” When your child deals with her teachers in school or gets her first job and has these skills to fall back on, it will really go a long way. Understand that using manners—just a simple “excuse me” or “thank you”—is also a form of empathy. It teaches your kids to respect others and acknowledge their impact on other people. When you think about it, disrespectful behavior is the opposite, negative side of being empathetic and having good manners.
5. Be Respectful When You Correct Your Child
When your child is being disrespectful, you as a parent need to correct them in a respectful manner. Yelling and getting upset and having your own attitude in response to theirs is not helpful and often only escalates behavior. The truth is, if you allow their disrespectful behavior to affect you, it’s difficult to be an effective teacher in that moment. You can pull your child aside and give them a clear message, for example. You don’t need to shout at them or embarrass them. One of our friends was excellent at this particular parenting skill. He would pull his kids aside, say something quietly (I usually had no idea what it was), and it usually changed their behavior immediately. Use these incidents as teachable moments by pulling your kids aside calmly, making your expectations firm and clear, and following through with consequences if necessary.
6. Try to Set Realistic Expectations for Your Kids Around Their Behavior
This may actually mean that you need to lower your expectations. Don’t plan a huge road trip with your kids, for example, if they don’t like to ride in the car. If your child has trouble in large groups and you plan an event for 30 people, you’re likely to set everyone up for disappointment and probably an argument!
If you are setting realistic expectations and you still think there might be some acting-out behaviors that crop up, set limits beforehand. For example, if you’re going to go out to dinner, be clear with your kids about what you expect of them. This will not only help the behavior but in some ways will help them feel safer. They will understand what is expected of them and will know what the consequences will be if they don’t meet those expectations. If they meet your goals, certainly give them credit, but also if they don’t, follow through on whatever consequences you’ve set up for them.
7. Clarify the Limits When Things Are Calm
When you’re in a situation where your child is disrespectful, that’s not the ideal time to do a lot of talking about limits or consequences. At a later time, you can talk with your child about his behavior and what your expectations are.
8. Talk About What Happened Afterward
If your child is disrespectful or rude, talk about what happened (later, when things are calm) and how it could have been dealt with differently. That’s a chance for you, as a parent, to listen to your child and hear what was going on with her when that behavior happened. Try to stay objective. You can say, “Pretend a video camera recorded the whole thing. What would I see?” This is also a perfect time to have your child describe what she could have done differently.
9. Don’t Take It Personally
One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is to take their child’s behavior personally. The truth is, you should never fall into that trap because the teenager next door is doing the same thing to his parents, and your cousin’s daughter is doing the same thing to her parents. Your role is to just deal with your child’s behavior as objectively as possible.
After reading this list, I took two things away: 1.) Get in alignment with your mate! Hello people, I don’t know about you but this is one where the talk and the walk are two very different things. Consistency is key for kiddos, specifically when it comes to boundaries and consequences. If junior has different expectations across multiple environments with different people – each with individual styles of teaching – two things are likely to happen. The child(ren) will learn to adapt accordingly and/or the message you really want to send home may take longer to stick with unwarranted stress and confusion along the way. Get on the same page with your partner and caregivers about expectations and consequences. Then, follow-through. This way you’re as consistent as possible while ensuring the good health of your relationships through communication, and the opportunity to lead by example.
Planning ahead keeps you calm in the heat of the moment because you never have to give away your authority, which brings me to my second take away: Don’t take it personally! When it comes to our children’s behavior, especially disrespect, we are often quilty of snapping nastily back at the afront that left our sense of self so severely accosted. When this happens we are tempted into anger, threats or embarrassment rather than capitalizing on the teachable moment.
I hope this resource has been helpful to you! What recommendation resonated with you the most?
Parenting is a skill that takes practice, not at all dissimilar from the task of growing up. Give each other grace, forgiveness, and the opportunity to do better.
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!