How can we prevent our children from becoming abusive young adults? Being abusive doesn’t just happen one day in our child’s behavior. It is nurtured in an environment where respect for other people has not taken root in their heart. Being abusive is the outcome and not the cause of unacceptable behavior. Lack of respect is a big reason for this behavior.
Time to Raise Expectations
A definition for respect is “due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others.” Maybe it’s time to raise the bar of expectation we have for our children to care about the feelings of other people and not just their own.
If your children are young, learning about respect normally happens at home. By simply expecting them to respect you and respond to you in a respectful manner, is enough to begin impressing on them the importance of this quality in their character. You are their most important relationship in their life and should be the standard for all relationships in the future. Take the time to correct them when they are being disrespectful to you with their words or even just their tone. Let them know how it makes you feel when they talk to you that way. Rolling their eyes also counts as disrespect. There will be many opportunities to teach this lesson and move their heart.
If your child is already in middle school or about 10 years old, you know that the way to have an impact on their heart will need to take a different course than when they were younger. Because of the development happening in their brain, they will be basically focused on themselves and their own desires during the next few years. It is going to be more challenging to help them to grow in their respect for others. There are, however, some ways you can make a big impression on them.
Here are two suggestions for you:
- Your child is going to keep a close eye on you to see if you are being respectful in your conversations, especially the way you talk to them. It is important that you don’t expect more from them than you expect of yourself. Be honest and apologize when you are rude or insensitive.
- You could consider making this more interesting by turning it into a “respect” competition. I always encourage you to use reward to motivate an adolescent. Come up with a reward system for each time they are respectful or sensitive to another person, including their friends, teachers and family members. If you didn’t see the act of respect, they would have to have some evidence to prove it happened. As parents, you could also be in the competition. Set a reasonable end point so it doesn’t lose its impact.
It’s Never Too Late
Although your child is maturing and you might feel you have missed an open window to teach respect, be creative. Their brain is developing very rapidly right now and you can still have a profound impact on them.
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