In last week’s article, I offered the ‘Simple Plan for Respect.’ The key points covered were:
• Only listen, talk & respond to respect
• Play fair: Inform the kids of a change
• Be an impeccable model of respect (or forget the simple plan for respect)
• Manage your expectations: It’s not instantaneous; learning takes time
In essence, if we want respect from our children, as well as an attitude and tone of respect, we must model respect in all situations of life. Secondly, we must only engage and respond to our children when they are communicating respectfully.
How the ‘Simple Plan’ will fail
Failure Philosophy: “I won’t let my kids talk to me that way.”
I received an email which is reflective of the struggle many parents have with the simple plan. This is also a pointer to why the simple plan works so well for some, yet others abandon it.
One mom wrote: “Dr. Cale, I can’t just walk away from disrespect. I’m sorry. I just won’t let my kids talk to me that way! If I have to remind them a thousand times a day…I won’t stop! I will not tolerate that in my home. They will get it eventually.”
There are multiple problems with this very well-intended approach. She means well, and has a strong value system she wants to support. If she happens to have very compliant, easy children then this approach may not look that bad. They may comply well before she reaches her 1,000 times a day. However, the more typical teenager, and the strong-willed child, will need a more precise plan.
The first problem is that this philosophy reflects a very strong personalized approach, where I am taking personally my child’s ‘in the moment’ response and FEEL compelled to respond. My very response will likely reflect disrespect for their disrespect. We model what we don’t want…in the moment of getting what we don’t want.
Secondly, I am giving energy and attention to the very behavior that I want to eliminate in my home (i.e., disrespect), and that is a guarantee for failure. We are thinking that we are disciplining them, when in fact, we are only feeding the very negative behavior we want to eliminate. That’s why we must not ‘talk or respond’ to disrespect.
Third, hidden behind this is an odd sense that we can’t let our child have the final, ugly word. Somehow, we must be the one with the FINAL WORD. Why? What’s the big deal here? Let them have the final words…that you are NOT listening to as you walk away. Yes…as you walk away…leave them talking with their final words. It does not matter.
Finally, we will rarely be successful if we insist on correcting a moment rather than choosing to change a pattern of behavior. When we get pulled into a moment, we are often (not always) simply guaranteeing that we will be doing the same thing tomorrow, next week and next month. Why? Because we are leaning into the negativity, feeding it our attention, and (delusionally) thinking we can correct a disrespectful pattern with a few stern words. This will not work.
Return to the Simple Plan
Hopefully, this will compel you to return to the Simple Plan for Respect, if you are struggling with disrespect in your home. You will find it on my website at TerrificParenting.com. Just remember: all lasting results require an investment of time and resolve. This is all the Simple Plan asks of you.