Disrespectful kids. This is an image of a young girl mad at her parents.

Responding to Disrespect from your Child

I had a parent email me this week with this situation:

“We have run into something knew with our 5 year old.  Lately when we ask her to do something, she replies with something like  “I will not” or “I never will.”  Usually she is kidding. She will say it with a smile on her face. Then, the other day I was making pancakes and she came up to the island where I had the hot griddle.  I asked her to move down a bit because I had just turned it on, and she replied, “I will never.”  She said this with a normal toned voice.  “I will not” and “I never will” I just plain old don’t like it.  I think it is very disrespectful!!  HELP!!!”

Use these tools when kids show disrespect in the order they are listed below. We’re starting with the relationship or control-giving tool first:

1. Ownership of the Problem:

Step 1: “Honey I need to talk to you about the new phrases you are using, it is a bit of a bummer but those phrases make me feel disrespected.”

Step 2: “What do you think you can do about not using them?”

Step 3: “Do you want some ideas of breaking this disrespectful habit?” Then brainstorm ideas of how to break the habit.

Step 4: Allow the child to solve the problem or not solve it. If they choose not to solve it, then its time to use consequences.

2. Consequence options:

Remove Yourself.

This should be your first option, because it is generally the easiest. When she uses either of those phrases, pair it with an Enforceable Statement: “Bummer, I only hear respectful words” Remove yourself and be sure to stay in empathy mode.

Energy Drain.

Whenever you hear those words, you say, “Energy Drain, oh those words drain my energy.” If she uses the phrase with a sibling, give them permission to use Energy Drain (if they are old enough to have their energy put back in them). Remember, energy is refilled via the parent not doing something for the child (reading a story book, going to the park, etc…) or having the child do chores FOR the parent. Siblings can do one-another’s chores.

Linked here, are handouts for ownership of the problem and Energy Drain.

The key to changing the bad habit is to NOT give negative attention to the inappropriate behavior, so again you have to use empathy and calmness. By handing the problem back to the child, you are sending the power message that this is their issue not yours. I always like to start with handing the child the problem; it is always a win-win for everyone. But no matter what, consequences (experiences) teach.

13 thoughts on “Responding to Disrespect from your Child”

  1. Really? What ever happened to: "I don't appreciate those words. We don't use them here and if you continue to do that you will have to suffer the consequences". Of course for young ages you will have to speak in their terms because they don't know what consequences are unless you explain it. Children need to know it is NOT OK to talk like this and be disrespectful. The new generations of children don't know respect when they see it because it hasn't been taught at home. When it happens they don't know they have crossed a line. I say lay down the lines, punish appropriately when they cross them and they will know when they have done wrong.
    I grew up in a home where we were always punished for inappropriate deeds. We did not talk back, tell our parents NO, and learned the hard way (spanking, and other types of punishment) for treating our parents this way. I did not turn out to be "warped" or have my little feelings hurt because of it either. I couldn't say exactly what I was punished for and how at this point, because we were learning a lesson, not being abused.
    I think you have to be the parent, not their friend. Also respect should be earned, not just because you are the parent. Respect them, they will respect you and others. Teach them to listen as well, especially when it is something that will harm them.
    I think there are 3 things that need to be done as parents: LOVE, DISCIPLINE, AND BE CONSISTENT.

    1. I second this. I’m so sick of weak advice pandering to the kind of parenting that coddles bad behavior. Here’s some advice: Kids are assholes. Stand up for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.

  2. Everyone parents differently.
    Children are not to be treated as adults because they are children. They are not allowed to disrespect teachers at school and they know it they need to be taught respect, and that comes from you as a parent. The first ways children develop is through imitation. If you as a parent let your child run the house and manipulate you not only will you be miserable they will too. Children are much happier with boundaries and rules that are clear and predictable. This structure will help them develop properly. You as a parent are supposed to respect your children and you are also supposed to teach and mold them. It's OK to have consequences, you can give your child choices if they break rules or are disobedient/ disrespectful. Give them a change to redeem themselves.
    I use "You have two more times to say that nicely." This allows for the child to be introspective and think -red flag what did I say and they have two more times to try other ways of expressing what they want to say. And if they get to three which happens there is a consequence.
    Spare the rod and spoil the child. (no one likes a brat)
    Be firm, consistent and loving.
    Everyone makes mistakes you can be a good parent.

  3. I think the response you gave sounds, "a little soft". Obviously they are children and should be treated as children, not adults. If this was the first time the child was disrespectful then of course explaining it, identifying it and giving alternate acceptable behavior sounds reasonable but your reader would not be asking for help if this wasn't a repeated behavior. Children are VERY smart and know exactly what they are doing and test boundaries. As you described, children need boundaries….FIRM boundaries that are CLEAR. I would give the child one warning so they can re-direct their behavior after careful thought and if they continue then immediate consequences should occur. The consequences should be the same every time for disrespectful behavior. If you make a chart of predetermined consequences for different behaviors both positive and negative then there are NO emotions involved and you don't get all CrAzY Mom on them. You can remain empathetic as you described. "I am sorry you chose to be disrepectful, let's go see what the chart says the consequence is". The chart has been reviewed ahead of time with them and they know what consequence they are choosing when they continue the stated behavior.
    Example

    Not sharing = sit in time out
    Sassy / Disrespectful talk = go to bed 30 minutes early
    completing homework without arguing = extra nighttime snack
    Getting caught being kind to syblling= you get to pick what is for dinner one night this week

    Obviously pick consequences that make sense for your child

  4. I’ve been experiencing a somewhat similar yet a bit worse phase with my 5year old daughter. She’s been saying we should die and that she’s doesn’t love anymore and tries to hit us. She never behaved like this before. We never any sort of violence at home, but i know that her father (we’re divorced and we don’t have a peaceful relationship) sometimes slaps her to discipline her. I tried talking and explain her that her behavior is wrong, she’s extremely smart and understands she’s wrong, but when she’s frustrated lashes out again, it’s driving me crazy. How should I proceed? Thank you.

  5. I agree with the initial poster. I was spanked, yelled at and taught to behave through intimidation, which is what a few people have eluded to in their comments. To each their own, maybe that works for them, not for me. I only learned to yell back and fight back and become even more disrespectful.
    Not giving negative attention to the problem is the perfect solution, only because they way most of us were raised and continue to live, we find it extremely difficult to do this. We want the respect and therefore demand from our children that they should give it to us.
    I was having terrible troubles with my 14 year old son in this regard and fell into the pattern of yelling and telling him how he was not going to continue to be disrespectful and how inappropriate it was. He learned that he could get attention this way (even though negative) because I allowed him. I finally just started calmly ignoring him when he would be disrespectful and made sure and gave him extra attention when I caught him being nice and respectful. I won’t say it was easy, but I persevered and the disrespect has gotten much better. There were consequences beyond my ignoring him as he would not get his electronics, but I didn’t even have to tell him that, he knew. If he did ask after he calmed down and was being polite I would tell him how much i appreciated him being polite and asking me and then asked him if his earlier behavior warranted him being rewarded, to which of course he would say no. If he was able to do this without throwing a fit, he would eventually get his electronics. If he threw another fit or said something sarcastic or disrespectful then I would once again ignore him and he knew he had lost the electronic privilege for the night.
    Just a thought that positive attention results in positive behavior and negative attention to negative behavior only worsens the behavior.

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