Don’t Speak

Girl with hand over mouthIf your childhood was anything like mine you would have heard the phrase “You need to earn my respect” many times. It seems like most of the people I speak to had similar experiences growing up. But as  my own kids have grown I have had to fight the urge to just go with what I know because the way I want my kids to learn what respecting someone looks like is for me to teach them.

What does that look like? Great question. I have a list of things that are key in modeling respectfulness when speaking to your kids. I know that reading a list doesn’t help much but picture yourself interacting with a very emotional four year old girl as you read it. That’s what I have to do…minus the imagining.

  1. Listen more than you talk – If you have to speak ask questions more than anything else. Always maintain eye contact, smile, frown, nod, etc. This will help your kids to read non-verbal cues is a valuable skill.
  2. Give your full attention – This means no texting, emailing, television etc. Give them your full attention. It’s what you want from them so show them how it’s done. Don’t be a selective listener and tune in when you feel like it. Be present from start to finish.
  3. Don’t act self-important – You’re only impressing yourself and not reaching anyone when you turn conversations into sermons. You can’t learn anything new by listening to yourself but you can learn a great deal by listening to your kids.
  4. Praise is better than guilt or shame – Tell them what they did well even if you have to occasionally reach. Kids blossom with positive reinforcement. Remember that you can’t over praise. It’s not possible.
  5. Don’t speak for them – Let them speak. We have to give our kids a voice. The goal of parenting is not to create little robots, the goal of parenting is to prepare our kids for all of life. Don’t tell them what they are thinking and don’t finish their sentences for them.
  6. Only speak when you have something important to say – Remember that important should be defined as what’s important to them and not what’s important to you. People connect with those who care about them.
  7. Transparency is key – Some of the best connection moments with my kids have been when I have shared my shortcomings and failures. Be humble. Admit your mistakes. Those are respectable qualities.
  8. Think before you speak – Last but not least because this is key. You can wound children deeply with your words. You have to remain in control especially if the conversation is happening because of something they did wrong. Don’t tell your child that they did something stupid because they walk away thinking that you believe they are stupid.

What if we showed our kids the same respect we showed adults when we interacted with them? Would that teach them to respect others like we want them to? Our kids, just like us, are only able to give what they have. So model respect so that they can in turn give respect. You’ll thank yourself later.

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