We did a recent survey where surprisingly all parents unanimously shared a view that successful parenting is having their children grow up healthy and respectful. Interestingly, academic success was not a priority, although it was mentioned in passing as a means to ensuring that the child grew up to have enough. With the resounding mention given to respect, we thought we will flash this out further
1) Respect is not Obedience
When our children are young, we want them to listen to us and do as we say. It may be for their own good, or our convenience but an important distinction here for us adults to recognise is the difference between obedience and respect. A mother we interviewed puts it well when she says:
I know that my child is going to grow up. He may disagree with me in the future but I like his gentle nature now and don’t want him to become rude.”
Respect is about considering the feelings, wishes and rights of others while obedience focuses on following the instructions of an authority figure. To read more about the difference, check out Dr Justin Coulson’s article here.
When our children don’t follow instructions, that’s disobedience. However, depending on how they disobey, they may still be respecting you as a parent. Particularly in teenage-hood when youths are more likely to express their views and ask questions, the parent-child relationship can be strained if we don’t differentiate properly between obedience and respect.
2) Embodying Respect
Respect is challenging to define, even though the absence of it is easily recognisable. As the child grows up, he/she will be exposed to the different definitions of respect and how one relates respectfully to a building, an object and another person.
To begin, here’s a good video from Sesame Street on what it means to respect and feel respected:
As parents,we may feel overwhelmed with life and pressed for time which influences how we treat others. Regardless, we need to be mindful on how we embody respect as children look to us as their role models.
How we treat ourselves, others and even our children themselves will communicate what respect looks like to our children.
3) Respect for the child’s autonomy
Just as we seek to have our children respect us, we also need to respect them as individual human beings, related yet separate to our being.
Parenting is challenging. It is an art of caring for your children, determining how much control to exert while giving them room to develop independence. Akin to a kite, too much tension nor slack will not work. In recognising your child’s autonomy and according them respect, scaffold choices and decision-making in age-appropriate ways. This article elaborates this well.
Ultimately if you err, don’t beat yourself up. Extend yourself some self-respect and allow yourself room to make mistakes. Marry respect with compassion, and you are helping to exemplify a healthy form of respect for your child to learn!