Did your mother have a phrase she used when you were a kid that has become engrained in you? The phrase that comes to my mind literally makes my skin crawl.

“I don’t know who you think you’re talking to…”. I just shivered.

While maybe I wouldn’t go with the same phrasing, I do appreciate the sentiment because here’s what it was saying, “I am your mother and while you may not like what I’m saying, you do need to still speak to me with respect, so I’m going to let you try again—with the appropriate tone and words. Aka: with respect.”

Regardless of the behavior, it’s really important to keep this principle in mind—Discipline isn’t about consequences, it’s about teaching. When kids are disrespectful, it isn’t okay. When parents are disrespectful, it also isn’t okay. We teach by example more than we teach by words. It is important imperative that children learn to respect their authority figure because no matter where we go or what we do, there’s someone to answer to. Learning to respect their parents when they don’t agree with the situation is an important life lesson and isn’t that what so much of parenting is about? Raising happy, healthy, successful adults?

Children thrive in structured environments and when they know someone else is in charge. I’m not saying be a dictator. Actually, please don’t be a dictator. But don’t take the laissez-faire fair approach either. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken government, but do whatever’s in the middle. Be respectful, kind, and loving. Set boundaries as necessary. Listen to your children. Ultimately, you make the rules.

Parents are in charge, which also means, they can ask for a re-do. Re-dos are great because you’re not instantly giving a consequence for behavior, you’re teaching them what the appropriate behavior looks like. Re-dos are all about teachable moments. Again, we want to ask kids to do what is appropriate, not tell them to stop doing what isn’t appropriate.

It’s the difference between saying “Don’t touch that” and “Keep your hands to yourself”.

So, the next time you’re in the store and you ask your kid not to touch everything that catches their eye, when they slip up, rewind the tape (literally go backwards) and have them try again this time keeping their hands to themselves.

Ask your kids to use respect and tell them what respect looks and sounds like. Ask your kids to respond to their own anger without hurting anyone else, to use kindness, and not to complain. All are important life lessons. And at the end of the day, remember a healthy relationship has to be the foundation, so if you’re struggling to remember the last time you and your kid enjoyed each other’s company, start there.

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