How to Model Respect to Your Kids When They Push Your Buttons

You bust your butt for your kids. Rise early, end the day late. You do what’s necessary to give them a good life. All you ask for is some respect. Too much to ask? I say no. Respect is a basic human need. If it is to be found anywhere, first place to look is in the home. Unfortunately, respect is not often found in some homes. In fact, it is missing in our society. Our culture has lost respect for respect. Parenting is more challenging today because kids learn from a social media world that it is okay to show disrespect. It’s even applauded. Doesn’t make your job any easier! [Tweet “Our culture has lost respect for respect.”] Have you heard the saying, “some things are better caught than taught”? When it comes to respect it combines both–modeling and teaching. We want our kids to be respectful. Remember, they cannot be what they cannot see. Here are 3 ways to model respect for your kids when they push your buttons.

Give kids unconditional love

Kids have a tendency to equate love with behavior. They think love is conditional. Unfortunately this is true in some families. This is confusing to kids. It negatively impacts the formation of self-identy. On the other hand, unconditional love sends a positive message to kids. They are loved apart from their behavior. Tell your kids you love them every day. Do not withhold your love when they act out. Dole out the consequence for misbehavior. Also remind them that your love never changes.

Give kids a voice

Commanding respect and demanding it are two different things. Parents who demand respect don’t give their kids a voice. Parents who command respect foster an environment for kids to express themselves Kids need to express their thoughts and feelings without feeling judged. You may not like or agree with what you hear. That’s okay, you can deal with the content. The key is giving them a voice. A voice needs an audience. In your case, an audience of one–that’s you! Develop the art of listening to understand. Convey what you hear. Validate your kids voice. Afterwards, you can address their concerns and bring parental guidance. Patient listening and thoughtful responding models respect. [Tweet “Commanding respect and demanding it are two different things.”]

Give kids a choice

In a power struggle, parents are interested in outcome. For example, “Go clean your bedroom.” Kids are interested in power, i.e. control. Showing respect for their need for age-appropriate control is important. However, you must balance this against your parental authority. Permitting choices within limits accomplishes this. Here are a few examples of how this works. “You can enjoy dessert after you finish your dinner. If you insist not to eat your vegetables then I will understand that you have chosen not to have dessert tonight.” “When your bedroom is clean feel free to spend time watching TV.” If you don’t give your kid a choice within limits, he/she will likely keep pushing your buttons.

Bonus: The Most Important Way

The most important way to model respect during a “button-pushing” moment with your kids is to be calm. Get yourself under control. I have this emotional mantra, “Don, get a quick grip on yourself.” Here are some things you can do to get yourself under control
  • Take five deep breaths from your diaphragm
  • Coach yourself into calm – feel free to borrow my emotional mantra
  • Rehearse the three ways to model respect: love, voice, choice
  • Reboot the conversation by listening first

Now its your turn

Of the three ways to model respect, which one do you do best? Which one is the hardest? If you have an idea that works for you, I’d love to hear it. Share your comments below or on my Facebook or Twitter page. You want to take a deep dive and learn more about respectful relationships? Check out my book! Bringing Respect Back:Communicating Without the Conflict.