False Assumption 7: Kids Must Earn Respect

by | False Assumptions Series

My kids must earn my respect and it can be lost if they don’t perform, obey, or live up to my expectations.

This is another topic that I focus on in my book Parenting with an Attitude, Chapter 2 “Do I respect my kids?”

I strongly believe that generally speaking, kids who are respected during their formative years are the ones who grow up being willing and able to respect others. If this is true, then it gives credence to the saying, “respect is caught, not taught”.  And yet, we’ve all heard the sound bite, “I’ll teach you to respect your elders”.  It seems to me that logically, the former makes much more sense than does the latter.

There is an important distinction, however, between respect, which I am suggesting must be offered to our kids unconditionally, and privileges and rights which are indeed earned, conditionally offered, and can for a time be taken away in response to unacceptable behaviors or attitudes.

Respecting our kids also does not mean we are obligated to blindly and unconditionally approve of their behaviors, or to accept their decisions as always right. Respecting our kids does not require that we show constant appreciation for them when clearly there are reasons for our disapproval and disappointment. However, all of our challenges can and must be addressed within the context of our respecting them for who we know they are in spite of whatever current behaviors are taking place that deserve our admonishing them.

Respecting our kids also does not require an attitude of equality when it comes to decision-making.  Simply because we have the final say where we feel it is necessary does not negate the respect we hold for them.

So what then are some of the ingredients of respecting our kids?

  • Do we make jokes at their expense, thinking they should laugh at themselves rather than be hurt?
  • Do we make fun of the friends they choose because they are not the friends we’d choose for them if it were up to us?
  • Do we interrupt when they are attempting to explain or express themselves-something we would never tolerate from them?
  • Do we treat our kids the way we want them to treat us? (now, don’t play the “no, but I’m the parent”, card).
  • Do we ever ask our kids what they think about life issues, like current events?
  • Do we ever ask their advice about some life circumstance we may be struggling with? (this doesn’t include making them our shrink).
  • Do we ever tell them we are proud of how they handled a particular situation, and maybe even let them know we learned something from observing how they responded?

All of these and others send a very loud and clear message of respect to our kids when they see that we care what they think and how they feel, and that what matters to them, matters to us.

It’s not brain surgery, just good common sense.


Suggestion: recognize the differences between respect, vs. rights and privileges.  Find creative ways to give consistent messages that communicate your respect of them.



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