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Disrespectful Behavior in Children

by Tiffany Raiford

One of the most important things you can teach your child is respect. When your child shows respect, it makes you feel good, it makes others feel good and it makes your child feel good. However, when your child is disrespectful to you or anyone else, it can be difficult to digest. It’s not uncommon for you to experience a combination of embarrassment and anger, or to wonder whether you are doing an adequate job teaching her to respect others. Before you start assuming you’ve failed as a parent, consider the fact that even the best-behaved children occasionally behave with a bit of disrespect, and you can deal with it appropriately.

Where Do Children Learn Disrespectful Behavior?

Your child learns to respect others by example, according to the book, “Positive Discipline: A Teacher’s A-Z Guide.” If you do not model respect for your child by respecting him and those around you, chances are he will not understand what it means to treat you or anyone else with respect. Of course, when your child behaves disrespectfully, it doesn’t mean that he learned it from you. Sometimes children simply want to see what they can get away with and test their boundaries. Additionally, if you know that you have been a model of respect for your child, you should consider that he is frustrated, angry or stressed about something and that he is taking it out on you by being disrespectful.

Don’t Fight Back

According to Ann Svenson of Family Education, a website designed to educate parents, the last thing you want to do when it comes to handling your child’s disrespectful behavior is engage her in a fight. It’s a better idea to calmly tell her that her disrespectful behavior is not appreciated, nor is it tolerated, in your home before instructing her to take a few minutes in her room to think about her behavior. This gives both of you a few minutes to calm down and get your anger and frustration under control, which means you’re less likely to fight and cause even more conflict and disrespectful behavior. Being able to calmly discuss her disrespectful behavior and get to the bottom of it may make her think twice about being disrespectful in the future.

Setting the Tone

One way to help your child remember that respect is always required is to shut down disrespect immediately. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, when your child begins behaving disrespectfully, it’s a prudent idea to immediately say something along the lines of, “This behavior is not acceptable and you will not continue to disrespect me or your family in this manner.” Remind him that you are the parent and that you will not accept this type of behavior from a child. Being firm while handling his disrespect the moment it starts serves to remind him that you mean business and that future disrespect will be dealt with more severely.

Handling Disrespect with Respect

No matter why your child is behaving disrespectfully, being disrespectful in return is not a positive idea. According to Family Education, you should handle your child’s disrespect in a respectful manner. For example, if your daughter disrespects you by lying to you about something, tell her that you understand she was afraid of getting in trouble but that when she lies to you it makes you feel sad and angry. When you respect her feelings and explain how her disrespect affected your feelings, it helps show her that you understand her behavior and you are not condemning her.

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