Mutual Respect

What is respect?

Being respected means being valued as a worthwhile human being. It is being treated with dignity regardless of human differences such as age, gender, race and even knowledge and skill.

There are two parts to mutual respect:

  1. Mutuality is a two-way street (I respect you and you respect me.). For that to happened we must each also respect ourselves.
  2. Equality is the basis for mutual respect. Equality here does not mean sameness but in the fact that we are human beings, belonging to the human family. We all need to be treated with dignity and respect. It means we have value or personal worth simply because we are human beings.

How mutual respect works in an adult/child relationship:

Many of us were raised with the idea that children must respect adults, while children were often treated with disrespect. We were taught to obey and this was enforced with reward and punishment. Children were controlled by the adults in their lives. Under this system, children learned to have others think for them, to avoid mistakes and to be submissive to an external authority.

Mutual respect between adults and children requires us to shift out beliefs and techniques of parenting. While the roles of parent and child are different, the individuals involved are of equal value as human beings. When parents are providing for, nurturing and teaching children in a non-punitive way, children come to believe that they are worthwhile, that they have abilities and that others believe in them and trust them. Parents can most effectively help children to learn to become independent, contributing individuals with strong internal motivation by doing the following:

  • Encouraging and valuing children’s contributions, ideas and efforts.
    • Saying “Thank you for helping/sharing. I appreciate it.”
  • Accepting and acknowledging children’s feelings as valid, legitimate and real.
    • Saying “You’re really sad that you can’t play longer at your friend’s house.”
  • Accepting mistakes as opportunities to learn.
    • Saying “What did you learn from this?” – Also see last point.
  • Finding opportunities for children to makes choices and decisions.
    • Give opportunities to make age appropriate choices early.
  • Giving assistance in, and opportunity for, critical thinking and problem solving.
    • Working trough problems with your child initially to teach the skills and then letting your child do it on his/her own once s/he has the skills
  • Sharing affection and fun with children.
    • Lots of hugs and playing with your children.
  • Remember that example is the most powerful teacher.
    • No comment needed here!

Mutual respect begins early!

Adapted from an article by E. Quiring and B. Johnson.

Healthy Self-esteem

The following is a very interesting article that was written by Kerry Watts, an independent consultant for the BC Council of Families. I thought it was worth sharing.

                                             Overvaluing a Child’s Accomplishments can Lead to Narcissism

Most parents hope to raise children with healthy self-esteem; few would be likely to say the same about raising a narcissist.

A recent study suggests that the way parents talk to and think about their children can have a significant impact on whether they end up feeling good about themselves and liking who they are (self-esteem), or feeling that they are better than other people and deserving of special privileges (narcissism).

The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, measured child narcissism and self-esteem in children aged seven to 12 over a two-year period (the study’s author notes that before the age of 8 all children are narcissists). The researchers also measured “parental overvaluation” and “parental warmth” as a way of comparing social-learning theory, which suggests that children acquire their self-image via socialization, with the currently dominant psychoanalytic theory that narcissism is a result of individuals overcompensating for a lack of parental care and attention during childhood.

Over the course of the study, children of parents who consistently overvalued their accomplishments and felt they were “more special than other children” and deserving of “something extra in life” had higher levels of child narcissism, whereas the parents who showed emotional warmth tended to have children with higher self-esteem. According to the research: “When children are seen by their parents as being more special and more entitled than other children, they may internalize the view that they are superior individuals, a view that is at the core of narcissism. But when children are treated by their parents with affection and appreciation, they may internalize the view that they are valuable individuals, a view that is at the core of self-esteem.”

Previous research has linked narcissism to aggression and and violent behaviour, and many researchers argue that narcissism is on the rise, especially among adolescents. At the same time, people with high self-esteem tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression. While the most recent study represents only a small sample of families, and there are many other factors at play that make individuals likely to develop narcissistic tendencies, including temperament, the findings are important in that they show that the type of praise we offer children can have a significant impact in how they view themselves.

Brad Bushman, one of the study’s authors, “It’s a lot better to say ‘You worked really hard’ than ‘You must be really smart,’ ” he says, “because if you tell the kid that they’re smart and then if they fail they think ‘Oh I’m stupid.’ ” He also suggests that parents replace telling children “You are special” with “I love you.” This reaffirms the child’s worth and value and raises self-esteem without encouraging feelings of superiority over others.

BC Council for families

Teens and Letting Go!

Letting go has to be one of the most difficult things to do as a parent.  As we watch our kids grow and become more independent our first reaction is to try and hold on tighter.  Unfortunately, this is the last thing that they want or need and only causes our kids to try to move even further away from us.  The reality is teens are ready for independence a lot sooner that we, the parents, are ready to let them go.

During the teen years our job as parents is to prepare our kids for the adult world – prepare them to be able to live lives independent of us.  We have to let them gain the experience they need for independent living.  They need to make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences of poor decisions, as long as it is not dangerous, life-threathening or immoral.

During the first 12 years, we have taught our children how to behave. We have given them moral guidelines to follow.  We have instilled values and shaped who they are.  We have supported them, taught them right from wrong, dried their tears and bandaged their hurts.  We have modelled how to treat others and how to take care of and speak up for themselves.  Now, in the following five years, we need to let them practice what they have learned yet remain a constant support.  We continue to encourage them, support them, listen to them and dry their tears while remaining non-judgemental.  We offer our opinion but don’t insist that this become their way of thinking.  We encourage open communication by listening without judging and by not lecturing.  It is a time when we trust that we have done our job as parents in the first 12 years and now we watch this person unfold and blossom before our eyes.

Rules and curfews are no longer ENFORCED but are negotiated.  Consequences are a part of life so we make sure that our teens experience the consequences of their actions: “You can drive the car as long as you put gas in it.”or “Dinner is served at 6:00 and if you are going to be late, call or else dinner will be put away.”

In a few short years, our teens may be away at university or working and living on their own.  They will have to know how to take care of themselves.  Our gift to them is to give them the opportunity to learn and practice these skills while still living in the caring, supportive environment of home.


Remember when you first rode your bike without training wheels? You were taught, you practiced, you watched others, you fell down and brushed yourself off but eventually you         did it.  You were wobbly at first, but with practice, it became second nature.

 The principle of practice makes perfect is just as true for parents as it is for beginning bikers.  Most parents come with parenting “training wheels:” our innate ability to care for a child’s basic needs.  But what about when the four-year-old stomps his foot and shouts “NO!” when it’s time to leave the park, or when you constantly have to remind the older child to pick up her toys, or when the teen breaks curfew?  Where does that fine parenting balance between kindness (which shows respect for the child) and firmness (which shows respect for ourselves) lie?  How can a parent learn to go on without their training wheels?

Attending parenting groups are a great way to learn to lose those extra wheels. They provide consistent information and step-by-step guidance for parents wanting to learn more effective ways of raising responsible, respectful, independent children.  Participating in these groups not only acknowledges the skills parents already possess, but provides them with additional parenting tools.  These tools include: understanding the child’s temperament, personality and behaviour, using encouragement instead of praise, effective communication, how and when to use consequences and so on.

Equally valuable is the experience of meeting and connecting with other parents who face similar challenges.  Where better to talk about your six-year-old’s bedtime struggles than with a group of parents who’re going through the same thing? Facilitated by trained, experienced parenting educators, parenting classes provide non-judgmental, inclusive group settings that offer not only education, but solidarity, too.  In response to the question “What was especially helpful or meaningful to you?” One course evaluation given out at the end of a parenting series found that what the majority of parents found most ‘helpful or meaningful’ was this opportunity for talking with other parents with similar challenges.

Each class in a series is designed to address specific topics: language of encouragement, communication, goals of behaviour, routines/chores, consequences, sibling rivalry and more.   The facilitators send parents home at the end of each class with new tools to use and try out. When parents return the following week, they can share their successes or challenges with other parents in the group. As they gain new tools each week, parents often notice how the increase in the number of tools actually makes the job easier, rather than more overwhelming!   After the first week of one series, a father of a ten-year old told the class that after learning about temperament and personality and how they relate to behaviour, he recognized how similar his and his daughter’s temperaments were. “We both dig our heels in when we’re feeling upset.  I’m less quick to anger when she has her stubborn moments now; I know what it feels like.”  During the opening exercise in week three, a single mother told the group how intrigued her seven-year-old daughter appeared to be by the changes in this mother’s approach toward her.  “I don’t know what you’re learning at those classes,” said the seven-year-old, “but you’re different.  We don’t fight now.”  Another mother shared a tale of newfound parenting and culinary success: “When my 12 year-old son asked me if he could bake cookies for his class, I cringed at first.  I could see it all now!  My kitchen would never be the same.  I took a deep breath and told my son that I had confidence in him to bake cookies on his own and to also put the kitchen back as he found it.  To my surprise and delight he succeeded in both tasks and I didn’t have to remind him at all!”  These parents’ experiences show that by taking parenting classes and learning new, efficient ways of dealing with children and their behaviours, children flourish.  The more parents practice and refine their skills, the more confidently they can set reasonable boundaries and limits, and the more effective they can be at encouraging their children to be responsible, respectful, independent and contributing members of the family. These courses are an investment into one of the most important things in our lives: our children.  Why stay dependent on only the training wheels?  Venture out on two wheels, refine your skills and feel the excitement and joy of navigating the road with confidence and ease.  Feel the wind in your hair!  Experience the joy in parenting!