I want her to treat others with respect
Manners ... hmm. Kids really learn these by example. If you are polite, your children will learn to be polite.
I've seen parents who are truly sweet and gentle and polite and the kids seem harsh and rude and demanding. I DO think parents ought to let kids know when they're being discourteous and actually talk to them about why courtesy is useful in lubricating social interactions and so on. In other words, I think my kids (who are generally very well-mannered) learned mostly from just living with parents who behaved with good manners, but I do think there are times for discussions AND times to bring things directly to kids' attention. And I do not think parents should let kids be really disruptive.
If a child IS being rude, for example, in a restaurant, and disturbing other customers -- I would not punish the child, no hand-slapping, no verbal reprimand (how many times have we seen parents being INCREDIBLY rude in telling their kids not to BE rude?). But I'd say, "Honey, that wasn't polite, it is bothering other customers." And if a child kept it up, I'd take him/her outside to run around a bit.
I'm not suggesting that parents do the "Go tell Mrs. Brown thank you," routine so much as giving information such as "Mrs. Brown would probably like it if you thanked her."
And even with much older kids, there are times they just don't think/realize what effect they might be having on others. So it isn't often, but occasionally I might STILL say,"So-and-so went to a lot of work for you, did you thank her enough?' And I might point out to them how other people's lack of manners impacts how people respond to them -- point out how people are more eager to do things for those who show their gratitude, for example.
So -- be careful that you're not misleading your husband into thinking that radical unschooling is so hands off that we withhold information and expect kids to learn ONLY from our modeling.
I've tried everything from time-out to ignoring to confinement to her room for the evening to spanking. None of it seems to work. Now I'm up for trying anything that will do away with spanking while getting her to recognize that she is a member of the family and needs to treat others with the respect that she gets rather than her perpetual nasty attitude.
If you look at the list of things you do to her, from her point of view it isn't respectful.
You're trying to control her. And she's trying not to be controlled. Yes, it's going to be a battle. There's no gentle way of getting someone to stop doing what they think is right and conform to what someone else thinks is right.
Someone just mentioned something that affected their outlook profoundly that they learned from La Leche League:
You're not your child's adversary, you're his partner.
It helps lots to mentally shift away from trying to change our kids to helping them be who they are.
Yes, I know you don't want to help her to be nasty! But nasty is a reaction to something that's going on in her life. It isn't who she is. It's just the best response she's been able to come up with to a situation she finds intolerable.
Her unacceptable behavior is coming from being controlled. Which makes her behavior more unacceptable so it feels like you need more control.
Be her partner in helping her get what she wants from life rather than her controller.
Right now she's probably not socially being the best she can be because of the circumstances. But assume that she is doing the best she can be under adverse circumstances. She's trying to hold onto who she is and is making sacrifices in niceties in order to do that. Assume that's the best she can do and help her find even better ways.
Be a role model of respect for her. Treat her with respect. Don't wait until you think she deserves your respect. Respect her for who she is inside rather than the creature she feels she needs to become in order to fight for control.
Think of it like this: If some controlling adult thought you should put on courtly manners at church and you felt you were behaving well already, would you respect him and change to his ideas if he gave you a time-out, ignored you when you spoke to him, confined you to your room or spanked you?
It's not likely we'll want to change for someone who's ranting at us! But we'll consider doing things as a favor for someone who loves and respects who we already are.
If you can tell us some specific problems, maybe what I'm talking about will be clearer.
I do, however, feel that I yell and speak harshly way too much. I have 3 younger children also (ds 6, ds 4 and dd 2).
Part of the process is becoming aware before you do this. How we respond to our kids becomes automatic and we need to switch to manual mode. (Maybe you've already got that part mastered.)
Lately I have been very frustrated with my kids behavior. It just seems like they have no respect for anyone but themselves. By respect I mean they don't seem to care about others feelings or personal boundaries.
It might be part of their personality.
But I think it's likely a reaction to conventional parenting. Conventional parenting is incredibly disrespectful of children. It treats kids as malformed objects that need to be molded and shaped into decent human beings.
I think it makes sense that we need to teach kids how to care about others and show respect for others' feelings. So we tell kids when they're doing it wrong and make them act respectful.
But that can have the opposite effect because essentially it's saying I don't respect you and I don't respect your feelings. You need to act and feel the way I want you to.
So kids then feel like their feelings aren't being treated with respect! And when people feel their feelings aren't being treated with respect, they tend to not treat other people's feelings with respect. And it becomes a vicious cycle.
But we need to be the adults. We need to be the ones to stop the cycle.
Have you read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen? It's a very easy read, with a lot of different scenarios in it to help people see what's going on between themselves and their kids.
I feel that my behavior has probably lead up to this. I have been trying to change my parenting to be more respectful of them, but I'm just wondering how long it's going to take to break this cycle.
It could be they feel the agenda you have: that you're being respectful because you want them to change to be respectful like you.
It could be you're being respectful only part of the time and there are still times when you're feeling "You're wrong. Your feelings are wrong. Your attitude is wrong. I need to act differently towards you so that you'll change and do it right."
Of course sometimes they are going to get it wrong! But it helps to see the feelings they have are honest even if they aren't pleasant. If they're feeling they need to be disrespectful in the moment, it's because of something else in their lives that's making it feel like that's the best response.
It could be they're being disrespectful because you haven't given them feedback on how it feels to you. You may have let them know you were angry, but anger tends to put up people's defenses. It tends to make people feel they need to hold onto themselves and be right even when they know they're wrong.
You can let them know if something hurts your feelings. (The How To Talk book is good for that.) But don't do it with the agenda of changing them. Do it because they need that information in order to figure out for themselves how to act and react. It's going to take years for them to figure out social interactions so expect that you'll need to be supplying them with feedback on your feelings so they can work things out.
I have noticed that when I'm feeling like yelling that I feel hurt by something they have done. I'm trying to change, but it's like they don't notice.
Probably because you get the feeling they're acting as they do deliberately. And you feel they know how to act better and could do better but they just don't care about you.
Maybe it would help if you see that their attitudes come from three other places:
1) They don't have the information they need to act differently. It could be you've explained how something hurts but they just don't have the emotional maturity to understand the words. For them it's like being 3 mos old and someone explaining talking to them. You'll need to keep supplying them with the information, but without expecting them to understand or know what to do with it. It's the same as talking to an infant. We know they don't understand but they need us to talk to them so that they will be able to understand eventually.
2) They don't have the skills needed to act on their understanding. They may know what to do, but when the emotions well up or there are a lot of things (for them) going on, they don't know how to do it. Think about it as the same as what you're going through trying to change. You may know you should be doing something different but the situation seems out of control so you just reach for whatever feels like it will bring it back into control. Even though you know it won't work and might even make things worse. And that's where you are after a lifetime of experience! Imagine where they are after only 6, 4 and 2 years of experience.
3) They're feeling disrespected so their disrespect toward you is a way of protecting themselves. It's like armor. And once someone has felt the need to put on armor, it takes more than a handful of experiences with not needing the armor for them to remove it. It can take months or years to regain the confidence that the armor isn't needed. That's going to require patience and understanding.
I'm not sure if any of this makes sense. I just know that I feel like my children, the 4 oldest, are not respectful of other people and sometimes act like everyone should be at their service. I want to help end this and I know it has to start with me. Any ideas?
I think it would help if you could describe some interactions that you felt went wrong on their and your part. Then people here can point out what's going on from a perspective that isn't all tangled up with the emotions and agendas you all have. That will help you see how to put the idea of respect into practice. Just talking about respecting kids more doesn't help people see how it looks in real life situations. I think it's because we tend to do what seems to make sense. Being respectful towards kids who are (seemingly!) being disrespectful doesn't make sense. It seems to make sense to withhold respect until they can respect.
What helps a lot is to turn the situation around. To trust that they are reacting honestly to the feelings they have inside of them. Maybe try to imagine what would need to be going on in your life, how people would need to be treating you in order to make you act that way. And then trust that it seems exactly like that to them. Even -- especially -- if it doesn't seem that way to you. Trust that it looks like that to them. And treat them the way you'd want to be treated if life was treating you like that.
Or turn it around to an interaction between friends. You'd trust that your friend was behaving honestly and if she were acting mean or disrespectful, rather than seeing her as needing fixed, you'd wonder what was going on in her life that was so off kilter to make her act that way.
Often times when they're being the most difficult is when they need the most love and attention. If they're being what feels like snotty, give them a hug and tell them sincerely that you love them. It'll be hard! But it will work better than yelling. :-)
Last updated: April 2009