“My children don’t respect me!” the woman wailed in my office. “They don’t listen to what I tell them to do. They’re rude to my face. They treat me like dirt. I would never have treated my mother like this. Things are completely out of control.”
This woman is certainly not alone. Many moms feel as if they’re second-class citizens in their own homes. They may be powerless in dealing with their offspring, or their partners and kids berate them. Whatever the symptoms, the outcome is the same: their households are horribly out of balance and both adults and kids suffer as a result.
The reasons are numerous and complex. Some women are weak parenting figures. They may make idle threats that kids know don’t have any power behind them. They might plead with their children to obey them. They communicate in a long-winded style that severely undermines their intent.
Partners can treat women in a derogatory manner. Fathers might yell at wives and call them names in front of the children. Boyfriends may disagree with the women’s decisions and tell kids, “You don’t have to listen to what she says.”
Family disruptions such as divorce cause acrimony and bitterness. Men demonstrate contempt for their exes whenever they argue with them in front of the kids. They may set differing rules in their separate households and verbally undermine Mom’s authority when they have the children. Dating dads expose children to a succession of girlfriends, preventing their sons and daughters from developing close, endearing bonds with adult women.
Regardless of the source of the disrespect, it’s imperative that mothers reclaim the authority that they deserve. Mom, you are the adult leader of your household. Period. If you’re married, you share that leadership with your husband. If you’re single, you hold that title by yourself. Children must abide by your rules. Also period. If they’re living under your roof, you’re in charge. When they move out and start supporting themselves, they take their own reins. Until then, they do as you say.
Mom, since you’re in charge, you must behave in an authoritative manner. Don’t ask your children to respect you. Expect that respect and demand it from them. Make it clear that you’re in charge.
Children must follow your rules or experience the consequences. From the very earliest ages, they learn that you’re the boss. You are never to be challenged. What you say goes. They need to do what you say.
This doesn’t mean that you’re a despot. You can be head honcho yet still be gentle and tender. Use a wide variety of parenting tools, such as humor, reason, family meetings and logical consequences to influence children’s behavior. Meanwhile, make it crystal clear who’s the adult and who’s the child.
Be respectful to your children. Your respectful tone and choice of words teach youngsters how to behave and create the groundwork for all relationships in the family.
Men, you can foster respect for your wives by treating them respectfully at all times. Never, ever belittle them. When you disagree, do so in private. Your wife is your loving partner. Make sure you demonstrate that on a daily basis.
Involved with a man who doesn’t respect you? You’ll need to make some dramatic changes in your life. If you’re married and have children, seek counseling to create the respect your relationship lacks. If you’re still dating, end the relationship ASAP and pick more wisely in the future.
Tips for reinstating respect
Want to get the respect you deserve from your children? Start with these suggestions:
• Never tolerate disrespect in any form. Make it clear to the offenders that their behavior is unacceptable to you and that you will not respond to them until it changes. Then end the conversation. • Don’t make idle threats. Be willing to back up any requests or expectations you make of your youngsters. If you don’t, kids will quickly learn that you don’t mean what you say and that they have the upper hand.
• Stop nagging. Nagging is a powerless form of communicating with your kids. They know you don’t mean business. They know they don’t have to obey. Tell them what’s expected and take rapid action if they don’t comply. You’ll demonstrate your authority and get the cooperation you want.
• Keep it simple. When mothers use lengthy explanations, their ultimate message gets lost or watered down. Say what you want in one or two sentences. Then expect that they’ll do as they are told.
• Reinforce respectful behavior. When kids are respectful, let ‘em know it. A warm, “I appreciate your respect,” helps instill the attitude you want and increases the likelihood it will happen again.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com