My girls often get glowing reports from school regarding their kindness and respect and care for others. I am honestly so grateful when the teachers affirm that some of our teaching is sticking.
However, when Ella and Larson get comfortable around others (typically family and friends), they, like most of us, tend to get really comfortable -and the sass and attitude and maybe a tinge of selfishness break out. They sometimes cross the line from comfortable to disrespectful quicker than you can say “Oh no, she didn’t!” (I have no idea where they would learn such behavior. It’s only every day that I’d sort of like for life to go my way, all the way.)
In your home and mine, we might find disrespect in the way mom and dad talk to each other, in the way a sibling snatches a toy or disregards another’s hard work, in a display of poor sportsmanship when a game is lost, in unkind personal comments, in carelessness with a sibling’s borrowed item, or in the way a child responds to being told no. In behavior outside the home disrespect often looks like complaining, rudeness to friends, disregard for another person’s home or toys, ungrateful hearts, pushing to the front or stealing attention from others, a sassy attitude, running through landscaping at a restaurant, or throwing a friend’s toy.
Nothing says disrespect to me like a child interrupting an adult conversation. I love my kids. I want to hear their stories and their voices, but when I am talking to their grandfather or my neighbor and they rudely interrupt around twelve times, it truly gives me red splotches on my neck from embarrassment. Please tell me I’m not the only one with this parental pet peeve.
I was so proud when my kids first learned to say “Excuse me, Mommy,” but this achievement only led to more polite interruptions, with “Excuse me, Mommy” on continual repeat until they got my attention. We are now practicing a more silent way of patiently waiting their turn by simply placing their hand on my arm to let me know they need my attention. I learned this technique from my friend Allison, who does a great job outlining how to teach “The Interrupt Rule” on her House of Hendrix blog. It’s working pretty well for us.
I do have to give myself a reality check when my kids interrupt. Often, I get embarrassed because I am too worried about them being obedient or how others view my success as a parent. In that moment I need to remember their ages, give them grace, and avoid shaming them. I may just whisper a reminder to try the interrupt rule next time. While I may choose to enforce a consequence if it has become a chronic issue, I’ve learned that my girls generally respond better to positive affirmation when it comes to character training.
It’s so easy to point out examples of disrespect in our home because unkind words and attitudes, lack of appreciation, or ungrateful hearts quickly grab our attention. But what if we became laser-focused on highlighting those times when they get it right? I want to be quick to praise and slow to point out failures, honoring them by letting them know I see their efforts.
My hope is that rather than restricting our children with a ton of rules, we can find kid-friendly ways to explain the concept of respect.
The goal is not to develop timid kids who are fearful of putting a toe over the wrong line, but to help them establish self-control and a thoughtful awareness of their surroundings.
Read more about kindness and respect in children
Adapted from, In This House We Will Giggle by Courtney DeFeo, used by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
Courtney DeFeo is a popular blogger and creator of ABC Scripture Cards featured on “The View.” She’s a graduate of Auburn University and has worked in marketing and public relations. Courtney and her husband, Ron, are the parents of two children. For more information on encouraging kindness and respect in children, see her book In This House, We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life (WaterBrook Press, October 10, 2014).