Is it Disrespect?


Disrespect:   dis·re·spect  (from

1. lack of respect;  discourtesy; rudeness.

2.  to regard or treat without respect;  regard or treat with contempt or rudeness.

I find it interesting how families can determine and define ‘disrespect’ among their children.  Some families have very little tolerance, while other families can hardly find a way to communicate with each other without being disrespectful.

I would say disrespect among our children is escalating – I know that for those of us who are in the 30-40 age range we could certainly say, “I would never have gotten away with speaking to my parent that way!”  The eye-rolling, the deep sighs when asked to help out, the flat out, “no.”  So why is it allowed now?

The reality is that you can and should expect respect in your home among family members indeed just as much as you would expect it dealing with others outside your home.

As I work with two different families over the past month, the topic of disrespect and bad attitudes among their children surfaced.  Both moms wondered at what age to make a big deal of it, or was it just a stage the child had to go through.  Often times, there are stages of behavior that will pass and you will not need to expend a lot of energy on to combat, but others will aggressive action and consistent patterns of behavior – on your part as the parent to help curb it from escalating out of control.

Expect earns Respect

Setting expectations is one critical piece that could be missing if you are seeing an increase in disrespectful behavior.  This is even more important if you have allowed certain behavior to continue because you thought it wasn’t that bad, or that it would go away.  You will have to outline the expectations to everyone in the home.  Adults included.  By setting the basic expectations you can then clearly exercise your options for consequences.

You should expect children to speak to you civilly and vice a versa.  When a certain tone begins to exhibit itself, stop the conversation right then and simply ask your child to “try again.”  If they cannot express themselves in a respectful way, then either remove them from the situation or yourself until they can calm down enough to do so.

Expecting your children to treat their siblings in the same manner creates closer relationships and can help children learn problem solving among their peers.  If this is an expectation and you are consistent in dealing with the issue, it will soon dissipate. 

Expect your children to be contributing members of your household.  That may look different for each family, whether it is individual chores or family obligations done together they need to feel a part of the bigger unit.  No one likes to be the only one doing everything, yet it seems that it has come to a point where mom is the primary one taking care of all household needs.  Delegating tasks will unite everyone for the greater cause and also allow mom to have more time to actually enjoy spending time with them.

Parents have a responsibility to teach their children to be respectful.  They will not learn this in school, it needs to be taught and enforced at home. Regardless of what is now accepted as the social norm, respect is relevant to many areas of your children’s world. However, don’t assume that changing your expectations automatically means your children will enthusiastically comply.

As you navigate a new path to respect in your home, keep these tips in mind:

  • Model respect in how you treat your children, friends, strangers and most of all your spouse.  How you treat others speaks louder than what you try to preach or teach.
  • It may be easier to tackle of few areas of disrespectful behavior first and then progress to cover all.  It is hard to do a complete transformation overnight, so in order to avoid a lot of frustration on your part, I often encourage moms to stick to a few behaviors first.  Perhaps eye-rolling and tone.
  • Follow through with promised consequences.   You will want to have set these up in advance.  It could be as simple as saying to your child, “Try that again.”  Or if it continues they will need to be removed from the situation until they can communicate appropriately with others. Knowing in advance what you will respond with will help you be more consistent and effective.
  • Have fun together.  Make sure you are spending time with your children and creating those memories and shared experiences that encourage a sense of belonging.  Those who feel like they belong will be less likely to demonstrate negative and disrespectful behavior.
  • Dare to redefine your expectations if you feel that disrespect has become an issue in your home.  Do not choose to ignore it.  It will not just go away, in fact it tends to become a bigger issue the longer it is left untamed and as your children get older, the last thing you need is a disrespectful teenager.

What has worked in your home to curb disrespect?

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