Respectful parenting

By Haley Droste, LCSW

Advice from Youth First

We’ve all heard it at some point: “That child needs to be spanked;” or, “My parents did (insert punishment here),” and I turned out fine. Each generation has had to make significant changes in parenting for a couple of reasons.

One, when you know better you should do better.

Two, the world has changed – not only for adults but also for children.

We’re navigating a completely different world now than our grandparents or even our parents did. I’ll be the first to say there are some old-school parenting techniques that should be here to stay – hello family dinners – but even those are drastically different than those our parents sat through with their parents. Gone are the days of “children should be seen and not heard,” making way for the dining room table being a place to connect with all family members, learning the highs and lows of the day.

At the core of parenting is a deep desire to raise happy, healthy, well-balanced children. Somewhere along the way, it was determined that, to do this, we must make our children respect us while sometimes undermining their emotional health. At times, the power struggle between parents and their children can seem overwhelming. There must be a delicate balance between fostering an environment that allows children to feel their feelings and learn to express them, while also providing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

The most important things parents can do are to model healthy boundaries and take care of their own mental health. Teach your children it’s okay to take a minute to themselves instead of responding while angry. A fitting example of this is when your child is throwing a fit and you ask them to go to their room. Instead of yelling at them and sending them to their room, treating isolation as a punishment, explain to them that they need to go to their room until they’re able to communicate their needs without yelling at you. It isn’t a punishment; there isn’t a time limit involved; they’re able to take that time to decide when they’re back in control of their emotions and come out when they are ready. You’re also teaching them that speaking to someone in a disrespectful manner isn’t okay and that you won’t allow them to do that to you.

The concept of parenting in a gentle or respectful manner gets the reputation of not providing boundaries and allowing children to run wild with their words and actions. That reputation couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, when done correctly, this form of parenting is setting firm boundaries on what is allowed and teaching those boundaries by communicating both verbally and through example. Raising resilient children starts with respecting their feelings and teaching them how to communicate and express themselves in a healthy way. Respecting our children’s boundaries helps teach them how to respect others.

In short, setting clear, respectful boundaries with your kids and affirming their feelings sets them up for success in the future. It allows them the time and the space to explore their emotions, their relationships and learn to express themselves in a way that does no harm. There is nothing weak about choosing growth. Sometimes it feels unnatural to talk about our feelings or discuss our mistakes in handling situations with our children, but in doing this we teach them how to express themselves and send them into the world as more well-rounded, loving individuals.

Haley Droste, LCSW, serves as Youth First social worker at Westside Catholic School in Evansville.