Are you in need of a bit more respect from your kids? Tired of being answered back and ignored, having to put up with their attitude, and wondering how it can change. I know for me, as a parent oblivious to all my parenting faults, it was a constant battle. Let me make it easier for you.

It is important to realise that in our eagerness to make our children perfect and our lives bliss and halt all the disrespect we surely don’t deserve, that we don’t go overboard! If our attention focuses on correcting every bit of disrespect shown we are not only going to make our lives and relationship with them miserable, we will make our children feel they fail at everything. The idea then is to focus on what you might feel are the important issues, the others can wait. (And when I say “the important issues” that means a few not 50.)

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of changing everything, we need to look at why things have gone awry. Quite simply this can be for a few simple reasons namely:


As a parent I thought I communicated well. I told them what I needed and what was expected, and if they didn’t do it I told them again, and again. Not once did I stop to see how they felt about things, or have a sit down and discuss, and get imput from them because after all I was the parent. Nor did I pause to see I had turned into the epitome of a nag. It would have been sensible to wait until things had calmed down and then have a discussion WITH them about expectations and limit setting, instead of having them turn off the “Nag” dial.


Quite often parents find it hard to follow through with consequences, give age appropriate consequences or be consistent. Your child needs to understand that they may not like the rule that was set, but they do need to comply with it. Consequences must be applied if you are wanting to rule your roost. They need to be fair and they need to be negative consequences. However, there are consequences and there are consequences. You can let your child know there are natural consequences {Some kids will not like them if they are disrespectful, and they will lose potential friends}. There is also negative consequences. One negative consequence may be selectively ignoring the disrespect as your child attention seeks. You would do this in a situation where your child is trying to disrupt you from the task at hand. A common negative consequence is time out/in. The best consequences are those that relate to the behaviour.


Sometimes as parents we can be proud of what our kids achieve and we brag about it to our friends. Sometimes though we forget to acknowledge the achievement to our child. And then we can overlook their failings as well as fail to see their weaknesses in our eagerness for them to meet our expectations. We tend to overlook that Johnny sometimes lies, or that Johnny may be displaying bullying tendencies now and again towards others, or his 100 meter sprint is just not as fast as the others. As a parent we need to look at the whole package. We need to understand that Johnny may like to play football but he is not going to be the quarterback that you want him to be. So we need to step back and set realistic goals and expectations, and the same goes for their behaviour.

Social Engagement

Your child’s disrespect may be a sign he needs help learning socially appropriate ways to manage his anger and frustration. Quite often as parents we fail to comprehend that our reticent child may need guidance and help in how to conduct themselves socially, and what is and isn’t socially appropriate. Candy Lawson (Centre for Development and Learning states there are several types of social skills that must be mastered for a child to be socially adept. These range from the ability to initiate, maintain and end a conversation to reading social signals to more complex skills such as solving problems and resolving conflict. Empathy is also very important and can sometimes be missing if a child is not being treated empathically by their parent. Reading social cues is also important, because if someone that has been smiling suddenly starts frowning a child needs to see this, so as to adapt.

Limit Setting

Disrespect is going to occur if we are not being consistent or fair in limit setting. Can you honestly say you have been consistent with discipline and applying good limit setting. If you have you need to go to the top of the class because you have learnt to respond, not react to situations. A lot of parents, however, do tend to take little or no disciplinary action and may even deny the behaviour exists. It may be a case of overlooking that your child can be hostile, may swear or hit out. When limit setting we need to take the emotion out of the picture and be focusing on their behaviour, not their feelings.


Kids are sharp. If we are not consistent in our discipline, they soon learn to ignore what we say because we do not take it seriously. Be consistent in your discipline. Don’t take it personally and learn to respond not react. Role model respect to others. If you are angry with the check out operator what is that going to teach your child? Try and point out the good behaviour he did (by acknowledgement NOT Praise), and regard that bad behaviour as needing more practice.


As parents we sometimes need to change our tactics. Change from demanding obedience, to asking for clarification, are they wanting this? Or that?. A parent may get more cooperating by explaining she needs assistance rather than demanding it. So as parents it is helpful to learn to communicate better.


More one on one time will lessen the disrespect. It doesn’t have to be a length of time, Use of reflective listening during this time makes children feel empowered and listened to.

Avoid Heat of the Moment Decisions – “I can see you are really upset, we will talk about this later. We can do it after school or after tea, which would you prefer?” Children feel they are in control as they have made the choice, but in reality you are in charge.

Stay Calm – Don’t overreact

Ignore the shrugs – If he generally is behaving how you would like

Acknowledge – The good behaviour when he communicates in a positive way.

Provide Space – When Angry it is never a good time to resolve issues

Don’t Nag – You will get more frustrated, your child will switch off

Don’t Lecture – If you want your child to listen to you, you need to listen more to them (through reflective listening)

Set Clear consequences– If your child has forgotten to do his homework. Set the alarm 30 minutes early so he can do it first thing in the morning.

Check your Understanding – Sometimes kids can be rude without meaning to be disrespectful. You can respond “That came across as pretty offensive, did you mean to behave rudely?”

Recognise the triggers – Hunger, tiredness and thirst are common triggers.

Know your Limits – The average child will whine nine times. The average parent will give in the ninth time.

Learn to say Thanks – Role model appreciation

Don’t be drawn into debate – Once you have made your decision and stated your reason STOP.


Wait until you are calm, ojective and have the time to sit down and discuss their behaviour. Don’t make it three days later… Try after tea, when tummys are full and most relaxed. Sit around a table with some cookies and drink, not lounging on the couches. Don’t have the television going in the background providing a distraction. Talk and discuss what happened. Discuss your point of view, look at their point of view. Get your child to contribute how he could have behaved differently.

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