Kollel Milhamta Shel Torah of Queens A Spiritual Home for Torah and Tefillah

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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

Let’s define “respect” first. When we would like children to be respectful, we are saying that we want children to look at us and, as a result of seeing a parent, a very important human being in front of them, be motivated to WANT to listen to us and learn from us.

Since kids copy whatever they watch us doing, we have to first ask ourselves if we are treating people with respect. Let’s break “respect” down into two components: Let’s say here that if someone respects someone else, they view them as a very valuable person, and as a result they act in accordance with high standing values in their presence.

Children are constantly “doing research” about our behaviors. They are watching us to see if we act in ways that show we believe people are valuable. With that being said, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Do we treat ourselves with respect? That would mean that we act kindly towards ourselves. If we do so, then in our heads we would be saying things to ourselves like, “You are working hard and trying your best. You have room for improvement just like everyone else, but that doesn’t take away one bit of your inherent value. In fact, whatever is challenging to you is simply an opportunity for you to grow even more.”
If that’s the type of respectful self-talk we have in our heads, we would scream much less, and be much calmer in all areas of our lives.

Many of us suffer from low self-esteem (which can most definitely be changed), and consequently we
treat ourselves with disrespect. And of course, the children see that.

Do we treat our kids, spouses, and loved ones with respect? How about strangers? To treat others with respect would also mean that we are seeing in front of us an amazingly valuable creation. Yup, that’s what a human being is! Excluding nobody! Even people who appear to have sunk to the lowest levels are acting that way simply because they are unaware of their own value. Are our children seeing that we feel this way about people, or that we talk down to people? Whatever they see is what they believe. So, if you are looking to have your children to behave in more respectful ways, start modeling this for them today. Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they learn these new ways, but if you focus on thinking in this healthy way just in the present moment, you will accomplish worlds in those 60 seconds alone. Each minute is an opportunity to show your children what you truly believe about human beings.

If you find that you are actually feeling quite negatively about others, remember that it all starts from what you believe about yourself. If you recognize your own value, you will not feel so hurt when your children don’t listen quickly, or your spouse does things completely differently than you would.

Now what do you do in the moment if your child acting disrespectfully? Well, if you are actually successfully seeing this valuable child in front of you, you will gently and firmly guide him or her. That might look like you saying, “I know you don’t mean to speak like that.” “I see that you are hurt.” “I don’t let you talk to me that way,” etc. But above all, our kids need to see that we are not afraid of who they really are when they act like this. They are wonderful people who are simply acting out some insecurity.
If they sense that we become afraid of whom they really are, they begin to question their own value, and the cycle of disrespect increases.

Let children know that BECAUSE you love them, you will be saying “no” to them, and that it’s important for THEM to act respectfully towards you. Let them know the truths about life — people who know how to respect themselves and others are actually happier and more productive. You might be wondering, “What about consequences?” Consequences certainly have an important place in parenting. The purpose of a consequence is to help the child get back on the right track. So, there’s no emotion or screaming about it. I even like to tell children that we have consequences in order to remind us how to go and stay on the right path. With all due respect!

Submit a question to Tammy

If you are a frustrated mom or dad looking for answers to a specific problem at home, or want to improve your parenting skills in a certain area, please send an email toeditor@communitym.com.Tammy will suggest new and effective parenting strategies that actually work!