So our child is treating us with disrespect or contempt and we’re feeling really pissed off. How do we do ‘pissed off’ effectively? When managing disrespect from our child there are a few do’s and don’ts:
Managing Disrespect Don’ts:
Don’t think about your child, think about yourself.
Don’t engage with the content of the child’s message, just respond to the way he is sending it.
Don’t bat the ball back over the net. In other words, don’t fight back, threaten, call her names or be really nasty to get your own back.
Don’t try to be really polite ‘to model respectful communication.’ Nobody responds well to anyone putting themselves on the moral high ground, it’s just irritating. Plus they know that underneath really you want to hit them.
Don’t say ‘I feel sad when…’ That makes you sound like a victim, and anyway you don’t feel sad exactly do you?
Managing Disrespect Do’s:
Know that you have a line and if it is crossed it is best that your child knows that.
Make a strong statement about yourself, beginning with ‘I’ – like for example ‘I don’t allow anyone to speak to me like that.’ (Even if that’s not really true…)
Speak seriously, confidently, matter-of-factly and directly. Then you’ll believe it (and so will your child).
That last point is really important. Say your bit and turn away, disengage, move on to other business, change the subject. That sends the message ‘we’re done with that, I expect you understood and you know what to do.’
If your child continues, be prepared to say something like ‘I think you heard me’ or ‘I think you understood’ a couple of times, in the same matter-of-fact tone of voice.
And that’s enough. You don’t need to teach or lecture, or talk things through, or get to the bottom of anything. You can check in with them later (when they’re being nice to you again) if you really feel there’s an issue, but you can’t let disrespect become the way your child learns to get your attention and interest.
What you are doing is sending a huge message of trust in your child’s reasonableness and intelligence. It’s quite simple to channel your anger into a strong statement of self-respect and it’s so much more effective than shouting or pleading.
In managing disrespect with a strong statement of self-respect, we don’t just gain respect from our child but we feel it for ourselves too, and the more times we respond like this the more we honestly feel it. Before we know it we’ll be saying things like ‘I never allow anyone to treat me with disrespect’ and it will actually be true!
Start practising when they’re quite young…