Your child’s attitudes and behavior emerge from how you treat the people in your life.
The subject of respect for spouses or partners plays such an important role in influencing children’s behvaior that I must write about it here in the context of parenting skills. We show regard for our spouses in many ways: through our words, facial expressions, body language, and actions. How you listen, empathize, support, show appreciation, and, perhaps most important, disagree, are demonstrated to your children during every moment you and your partner spend with your children ( and this applies to divorced parents as well) It’s safe to say you should be hypervigilant about not:
- Yelling or snapping at each other
- Talking down to each other
- Making fun of each other except in a very good-natured way
- Undermining each other
You must set the highest standard for yourselves in this area because your children will miss nothing. If you slip (after all, no one is perfect), don’t think no one noticed; your children should see you apologize, and you should explain to them why your behavior was unacceptable.
Almost as important as respect for your partner is respect for your parents (your kids’ grandparents). Don’t dream for a moment that kids are not acute observers of how you treat your parents, and don’t delude yourself that your kids will not see the analogy – my parents are to my grandparents as I am to my parents. Roll your eyes at your parents, and you’ll be graced with the same response from your kids. If you don’t have time for your parents don’t be surprised when your kids don’t have time for you.
Many adults have difficult relationships with their parents, but even difficult relationships needn’t keep you from modeling respect in front of your children. Sometimes, grandparents aren’t in the picture, but modeling respect applies to all family members, including your siblings (your kids’ aunts and uncles) and other important people in your lives.
The point isn’t just making sure your kids treat you respectfully. It’s about making sure they treat everyone respectfully. Do you acknowledge a doorman as you go in or out of a building? Do you thank the checkout pesrson at your supermarket? Do you have patience and consideration for other drivers on the road? Kids will pick up on every interaction, so monitor your own behavior.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- In what ways do I model respect for my children?
- In what areas do I need improvement?
- Which of my relationships provide strong examples of respect for my children?
TO DO THIS MONTH
- Recall and write down a short list of any recent incidences where you were not as respectful as you might have been towards your parenting partner, your own parents, or someone else in your life.
- Write next to each event what you could have done or said differently to provide a better model for your children.
- If you feel you and your partner’s conduct in this area is lacking and that you cannot change the behavior by yourselves, for the sake of your children seek help.