Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

When Kids Are Disrespectful!

wpid-My001.jpg“Dr. Smialek you gotta help me. My son called me a bitch at the bus stop this morning, and I’m so frustrated, I don’t know what to do! Please help me!”

She continued: “I think Paul learned it from his older brother and father. I don’t know what to do, so I called you, sorry to interupt your class but I just couldn’t wait. I’m so upset and hurt! I don’t know where that little bastard gets off calling me a bitch!”

This is a sad but true instance of teaching by bad example. Paul’s mom was not even consciously aware of her bad example of calling her son names. If she had been aware of her role in this akward situation, she could have used an “I message” to convey to him how she felt in this situation. It would have been quite effective for her to say: : “When you call me names, I feel sad. It seems like you don’t love or respect me. I’m sorry for calling you names. Let’s make a promise right now to never call each other names ever again.” Another shorter but just as powerful is the strong statement: “I think you are really mad at me now for some reason. Let’s talk about it. I’m ready to listen.”

Even though you establish the fact that you are the adult and need to be respected at all times with no exceptions, you still need to let your kids know you love them, and are very much interested in their well being. Emphasize that you will be flexible, and will listen to all they have to say without interupting or judging. A great thing to remember is to stay calm, and above all else be logical in your discussions with your kids. End your conversations with an action plan for the desired behavior from now on. On occasion it is extremely helpful to have kids sign a written contract to “seal the deal”. Use your discretion.

Another impotant consdiration is to avoid reacting defensively in a shared decision-making and problem solving discussion. Avoid the mistake of trying to force young ones to understand or convince them that you are being “fair”. It’s a waste of time! Parents and educators who attempt long expanations simply lose their kids’ attention. Young ones are just not mature enough to fully appreciate what you are trying to say or do. Often, they can’t even imagine that the actions you suggest and take are in their best interests.

Find effective rewards that will work to shape the particular behaviors that are desired. When you can recognize and control these rewards, your dealings with your kids will improve dramatically over time. You know your kids better than anyone. You know in your heart what rewards will be the most successful in a specific situation. Use them wisely!

Some Things To Try When Kids Are Disrespectful:

Calm down before you respond. Give kids time to “cool off” too.

Say:” It hurts me when you speak to me that way. Let’s talk things over. Let me know when you’re ready.”

Really listen to what kids have to say. Be open to their ideas, and by all means explain yours.

Look for underlying causes of the inappropriate behavior. Get to the root of the problem by asking the right questions.

Be generous with an approving glance, kinds words, and hugs. Tell them you want things to change.

In no uncertain terms let them know you care about them but don’t like their actions.

Share an action plan. Discussing alternative behaviors is a very important step in preventing relapses in the future.

Ask kids to consider: ” How can we solve this problem together?” How do we keep from upsetting one another from now on?”

Lay out some ground rules. And yes, discuss consequences if the rules are broken. Avoid consequences that you are not ready to follow through on!

If you need some support with a particular behavior or situation comment on this post, or contact me at

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