Category Archives: Respect


Parenting with Respect

When I started our Family Project back in July, high up on my list of hopes and achievements for the project was that ‘my children would learn to be more respectful.’

So as usual, when I want to learn how to do something, I buy myself some books. There is nothing more I like in the world (except perhaps food!) than buying and reading books.  My aim was to gather tips and techniques on how to teach children to be more respectful – of themselves, others, their parents, teachers, the environment, possessions, strangers – everything, in fact. It seemed to me that if they could just ‘get’ respect, i.e.understand the need for respect and how to do it, then most of my parenting problems would just dissolve.  In essence I was searching for the holy grail of parenting -I thought that if I could teach my children respect I would have it sorted.

So I picked a couple of books already on my shelves, ordered a couple more, and set about reading them.  At the beginning I read methodically and took copious notes, but soon I became so eager and hopeful for answers that I skipped chapters, read from two or three books simultaneously depending on which book was in reach, in any spare minute. On the loo, in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school, at 6am in the morning, while cooking tea, while the kids were in the bath, and last thing at night.   

But I was in for a big shock.  What I read in those pages did not give me the tools and techniques to teach my kids respect.  They didn’t even pretend to do that, because they said that was impossible.  Instead, I found out that I was the one who needed to learn respect. 

Initially I tried to struggle against this, and deny that I – such a caring, conscientious, loving mother – needed to learn this. Surely I did this most of the time already?  But very quickly I realised that not only were they right, but that I had unconsciously chosen books which matched my true, inner beliefs and the way that I instictively wanted to parent, but didn’t know how to.

The books all stressed that:

  • Rewards and punishments don’t work in the long run, since they are based on fear.
  • Creating a loving connection or bond with your children is the key to parenting.
  • Showing unconditional love and providing a safe, non-judgemental home is the foundation to this approach.
  • How you speak to your children, or about your children, has a huge affect on how they learn respect (or not).
  • A parent can only model respect not teach it. 
  • Listening to your children is a key skill to connect with your children.

Over the next month I will look into these, and many more ideas, in more detail, and review and discuss the books I’m reading.

If you are interested in learning about unconditional, connection-based parenting because you are finding that rewards and punishments, coercion and fear are not working for your family, then these are the books I’ve started with:

  1. How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.
  2. Respectul Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Co-operation, by Sura Hart & Victoria Kindle Hodson.
  3. Connection Parenting: Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, Through Love instead of Fear, by Pam Leo.
  4. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, by Alfie Kohn.
  5. Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen.

Family Project Update

Well, the chaos of the holidays and the start of school term have taken their toll on me, and I have to admit that I haven’t kept focussed on our Family Project as much as I’d hoped.

However, despite my lack of planning this month’s family activities, the concept of respect has been central in my thoughts, and has caused much relief, hope and despair.

The story goes like this:   For most of my parenting life, I have felt uneasy with the general parenting techniques that our society uses, namely the culture of reward and punishment, blaming and shaming, and the reliance on external motivation to mould children’s behaviour.

However,  I’m also not comfortable with the more permissive, liberal side of parenting either, where we let our children discover their own path, and put their needs first.  I do believe that we should teach our children certain ways of behaving, and for them to learn that there are consequences whenever and however we act. 

Add to that the recent realisation that I am a perfectionist who feels the need to be in control of everything – especially her children – you have a set of contraditions that are not likely to bring about a safe, nurturing, respectful environment for children to grow up in.  Instead you find a mother who is instinctively loving and nurturing but who on a day to day basis uses threats, blaming and shaming with her children (and herself) in the misguided belief that this what you have to do to instill proper values, principles and manners into her children.  But it doesn’t work. And because I’m a perfectionist, I blame myself (when I’m not blaming the children!) which makes the whole situation ten times worse.

So when our Family Project focussed on respect I ordered three new parenting books.  But I didn’t get what I expected.  Instead of learning new techniques to teach my children how to act with more respect, I was told what I already knew deep inside: that it was me who needed to learn to treat my children with respect, not the other way around. 

Cue relief (my instincts were right after all), hope (it will be ok when I’ve practiced this respect thing – it can’t be too hard, especially since it is in tune with my thinking) and then despair (it’s sooooooooooooo hard.  Habits are hard to change, and my children don’t respond in the same way that they do in the books). 

So our Family Project will be concentrating on respect for as long as it takes, and it will involve as much learning, and changing, from me and my husband as it will from our kids.  It’s tough, and will continue to be tough, but it feels right. For once I feel like I am living in line with my values.