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.

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.

Teens and Attachment

Sometimes our teen’s behaviour looks very little like an attachment behaviour and at those time we wonder if we really want to be any closer to them!!  They are belligerent, mouthy, sassy, rude and foul tempered.  Is this really all about hormones?  I think not.

Teens and toddlers have a lot in common; they are both trying to identify themselves and become independent.  Remember when your toddler used to play in a room away from you?   S/he would come back to the room that you were in and check to make sure you were still there.   Your child was actually trying out independence by being apart from you and then coming back when s/he needed reassurance.  A teen is doing the exact same thing by pushing you away when s/he wants independence and then reconnecting for reassurance, comforting or acknowledgement.  An elastic band best describes this attachment and separation process for an adolescent.

Developmentally, teens are in the process of learning to live independent of their parents.    Our role as parents is to encourage and support our children while they are doing this.  We encourage good decisions and choices that we see them making; “You were really taking care of yourself when you decided not to go to that party the other night – the one that got out of control.”  We also guide and help with problem solving; “I see that its’t working out for you.  Would you like us to look at this and see if together we can come up with some solutions for you?”  If they say, “No.” then reply with, “I’m here if you change your mind.”

A good book on talking to teens: How to Talk so Teens Will Listen and How to Listen so Teens Will Talk  by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber