There are few things as frustrating as a disrespectful child. Most parents can deal with mistakes, failures, immaturities, and a whole host of other imperfections within their children, but a lack of respect is unacceptable.
And it should be. (See: Why You Should Never Yell at a Tee-Ball Umpire)
Parents should not tolerate a lack of respect from their children. Few things should result in quick discipline as much as disrespect.
In most discipline situations, whichever parent is directly involved in the issue should carry out the discipline. Unless asked, I do not get involved when my wife is disciplining our children and she doesn’t interrupt when I’m doing the discipline. Think of it this way: he/she who sees the crime determines the time.
There are only two exceptions to this rule. If one parent’s frustration is exceeding the issue, it is fair for the other parent to step in and assist. This should be done by asking the co-parent if they would like help. The child does not get to choose which parent they deal with. If my spouse desires help, I give it.
Yet there is one time in which we should step in with or without our spouse’s permission—when the child is disrespecting our spouse. If my son or daughter fails to obey my wife, they have a problem with her. If my son or daughter fails to respect my wife, they have a problem with me. And in those moments I make it clear their problem is with me. While I often say “obey your mother,” I never say “respect your mother.” I say “respect my wife.” (See: Parenting–Too Involved, Not Involved Enough)
When they fail to show respect to their mother, they are crossing a line with me because their mother is my wife. The change in terminology helps remind them that their relationship with their mother is not the ultimate relationship. Their actions impact others. And as important as the parent/child relationship is, the husband/wife relationship comes first.
This concept is difficult for many people—especially mothers. However, it is in your child’s best interest. When you put your child before your spouse, both lose. When you put your spouse before your child, both win.
There is a secret which many parents aren’t willing to admit.
Many children disrespect their parents, not because it’s a natural part of growing up, but because it is the primary behavior they have seen modeled. They disrespect our spouses because so do we. (See: 3 Things To Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)
When we fail to respect our spouses, our children will likely do the same. Sometimes they follow our behavior because they don’t know better—they simply do what they have seen. At other times, they show a lack of respect because it is a boundary which can be tested because they know we do not have the credibility to rebuke them.
There are few things more sadly ironic than a parent attempting to discipline a child for something the parent does. The child might be forced to temporarily obey, but their heart will not be changed by the discipline. They will see the hypocrisy and be more influenced by what they see than what they hear.
Whenever a child continually fails to show respect, we must look at ourselves to consider if they have had respect modeled for them. Do we show respect to our spouses when our children are present or absent and do we live a life in which we are able to respect ourselves.
Often, the disrespect which frustrates us in our children is nothing more than a mirror of the lack of respect we are showing ourselves or our spouses.
If you disrespect your spouse, don’t be surprised when your child disrespects you.
If you disrespect your spouse, don’t be surprised when your child disrespects them as well.
If you aren’t living a life worthy of respect, change yourself before demanding respect from your child.