If you are the parent of a disrespectful child, it is often difficult not to take his or her disrespectful behavior personally. However, the best way to discipline disrespectful kids is to do it calmly. You should not let anger, hurt feelings or other strong emotions interfere with disciplining your child appropriately. Let the child's words and any hurt feelings of your own flow over and past you. Maintain a calm center.
It is easy to become upset. Sometimes a child's behavior is so egregious that parents might fear that the child no longer loves them. This is almost certainly not the case. In fact, when a child or teenager shouts, "I hate you," or calls his parent names, it is merely a method of venting anger. This behavior is natural, because children have not yet developed the coping skills required to deal with rage, frustration, or other strong emotions. Expressing these feelings verbally is often the only coping mechanism available to a young person, and it is certainly more acceptable than outright violence.
When you are faced with name-calling and hateful words, do not succumb to despair that your child despises you. Simply remember the many times you have become enraged and exhibited the same behavior, shouted angry words, or hurled nasty epithets at someone you love. How many times have you said something hurtful and regretted it later? How many times have you said, "I hate you," (and meant it, at the time) only to find that when your anger had passed, that the love had returned. This will be true for your child, as well.
Therefore, before you allow hurt or anger to push you away from your calm center, just remember that your child is just that: a child. Children and teenagers are not fully developed emotionally. They are impulsive, and much less capable of controlling themselves than an adult. Of course they will make mistakes. They will do and say things that they regret. Do not let their immaturity cause you to behave childishly, as well.
Moreover, even if you do allow yourself to feel hurt or angry, do not let that become the focus of your discipline. The situation is not about you or your wounded feelings. It is about providing guidance for your child.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you must also not permit disrespectful behavior, as some parents do, simply because the child is expressing authentic feelings, or because the child makes a good argumentative point. You must separate whatever valid content is contained within the child's rant from the unacceptable behavior that accompanies it. Then you should immediately respond to the behavior and tell your child that it is not acceptable.
It is best if you do not try to order the child around, or tell him what he may or may not do. In other words, do not say, "You cannot speak to me that way!" This often backfires when tempers are hot, and such comments can enflame a child to further rebellion and greater disrespect. Instead say, "I won't listen to you when you speak to me that way," and then turn away. Never engage in shouting matches. Simply disengage, walk away, stop the car, etc. This lets the child know that they cannot accomplish what they wanted through disrespectful speech.
It is important that you should also model the type of behavior you expect of your child. This means that you should only speak to the child in ways that are calm and respectful, and that you should only accept that kind of communication in return. Likewise, you should never speak in terms that are disrespectful, outraged, or abusive, and you should never accept abusive behavior in return.
The best way to discipline disrespectful kids is, essentially, to treat them with respect and insist they do the same for you. If you can follow these suggestions, you will find yourself engaged in far fewer shouting matches or anger-fueled contests of will. Also, our child's disrespectful behavior will steadily dissipate as he realizes you will not respond to it, and that such behavior serves only to end negotiations.
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