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Dealing with Disrespect: 5 Keys to Building a Culture of Respect in Your Home

Purposeful Parenting community!


We’re back with another weekly post, this time continuing in our series on dealing with difficult behavior. This post will be tackling one of parents’ biggest frustrations—a lack of respect from children!

When challenging behavior manifests as a lack of respect, enforcing discipline, schedules, and goals becomes incredibly difficult, leading to decreased stability.

"Children's malleable, impressionable psyches are seeking security in the authority figures closest to them, the parents. When that control is missing, children will take advantage of parents and situations and seek to exert their own power, to the detriment of the family and child." -National Physicians Center

This post will provide some simple, actionable tips and tricks to help parents and caregivers foster a culture of respect that will make everything else you do for discipline easier.


The Science Behind Disrespect


Age and stage of development play a huge role in understanding the ‘why’ behind behavior...

  • Teens: A preteen or teen is going to exhibit patterns of disrespect largely because they are going through a stage of development, and that behavior is an expected part of learning how to be appropriately independent. In our last post we tackled the process of managing this stage, and you can read it here.

  • Children with special needs: Sometimes, challenging behavior that manifests as disrespect is a response to an environment that is overstimulating or overstressful, and the appropriate response as a caregiver is to try to understand what about the child's outburst environment caused enough stress to overwhelm the child. This linked article does an excellent job of introducing the idea of anxiety and its relationship to a child's challenging behavior.

Often times in this case, a child’s brain may be so overwhelmed by their sensory environment (lights, sound, chaos, others’ behavior, or repeated frustration) that its only response is to engage in poor behavior to escape the environment and exercise control. If you feel your child may have special needs, consider consulting an expert that can accurately diagnose those needs and help you respond appropriately with parenting changes or medication. This is also an important part of the #investinyourchild mantra—understanding your child’s brain and needs is an incredibly valuable tool to help you parent with purpose!


Disrespectful behavior can be the result of an unmet social/emotional need. Last month's free expert-led workshop was on this topic, and you can check our this video for a short recap. Challenging behavior provides a chance to re-evaluate your child's needs and respond to any high-level needs.

  • Children: The rest of this post will focus on the ways parents and caregivers can respond to disrespectful behavior in children and create a culture of respect. Unless the pattern of disrespect is a result of a special need or an environmental stressor (like physical violence, verbal abuse, etc.), the behavior is likely due to a lack of consistency in expectation. The big key here: You, as the parent or caregiver, have the ability to change your child’s behavior over time. They have to be taught the proper ways to engage with others.

5 Respect-Building Tools

  1. Set the example: The best way to teach respect is by respecting others yourself. Watch the way you interact with your spouse, drivers on the road, service workers, strangers, and especially your children. When we treat others with respect, kindness, and dignity, we set the standard for our children. Coupled with this is the need to minimize other bad influences. Be cautious and diligent about your child's media influences (tv, games, etc.).

  2. Teach the positive, don’t just punish the negative: Children need to be taught the ways to respect others directly. A super simple way to do this is through the Ron Clark Rules we share at the end of each post! Little things like saying please and thank you, holding the door for others, and using kind words are learned behaviors that need to be taught. After you teach, remember to reinforce that behavior by praising your child when they demonstrate respect.

  3. Empower your children: Give your children the opportunity to live up to expectations, take initiative, or demonstrate leadership, and you will show them that you respect and love them, while teaching them to respect themselves. People who respect themselves are more likely to respect others.

  4. Set clear rules: Building a culture of respect at home means setting clear standards and rules for behavior, and consistent forms of discipline are an important part of those rules. Children have to know that discipline will occur when the rules are broken, and they have to know that it will be consistent and expected. Firm boundaries are an incredibly important key to helping children grow and develop.

  5. Don’t overreact to disrespect: Disrespect is going to occur, and your response to it demonstrates whether or not that behavior is an effective way for your child to get what they want. When we overreact, we give the behavior credibility in the eyes of the child - they baited their parent into giving them attention. When we respond to disrespect calmly and firmly, reminding our children of our standards or rules, and warn them of impending punishment, we redirect the focus onto proper behavior and encourage the child to live up to our expectations.

Lastly, don't expect perfection from your children or teen. Grace is a big part of a culture of respect, and balancing grace with discipline is a great formula for success. Building a culture takes time, but a few small things done consistently will make everything else you do to discipline your child easier. Remember that when challenge arises, it is another opportunity to put in the work and #investinyourchild!


This week's Purposeful Parenting Action

1. With your partner, set rules for respect in your house, and post them somewhere clear, for all to see.


This week's Ron Clark rule

Rule 20 "Treat other adults with the same respect as your parents."

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