Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
If you are struggling with a child or teen that speaks to you disrespectfully, you know how quickly it escalates a conversation to an angry conflict. When a child speaks to any person in authority over them in a manner that says “you’re an idiot” or “go pound sand”, communication breaks down and relationships are hurt.
But let me ask you as a parent, how do you speak to your child or teen? Do you model restraint and self-control in the midst of frustration? Do you speak to them as someone worthy of respectful treatment as you would a co-worker that you disagree with? Or do you address them with sarcasm and ridicule as you point out their mistakes? Are we upset over the use of profanity by our kids, but it streams freely out of our mouths? Do you “tease” them in front of other family members in a way that might embarrass them?
A more subtle form of disrespect is when parents discount or invalidate the perspective of their child. “Oh please, this homework isn’t hard, you just haven’t tried.” “You are overreacting, those hand-me-downs look fine.” The message the child receives is: You don’t care or take my concerns seriously.
If we want our kids to manage their frustration and speak with respect even when they disagree with us, can we ask for behavior we haven’t been willing to give? Until we are willing to model respect, we shouldn’t be surprised by its absence in our homes.