The Secret to Showing Children Respect

When your kids push your buttons, dad, how do you respond?

Our children are precious and often adorable—and sometimes very difficult. Why? Because they have a lot to learn about life, and they’re immature. Many times they’re selfish. They throw fits and hurl insults and get involved in the pettiest arguments. And they quickly learn how to push our buttons.

All of those factors make it challenging for us to keep our cool. Kids can easily bring out the immaturity in us!

Typically, we run into this during correction or discipline situations. A child is acting up, and maybe we start yelling, or we exaggerate how difficult they’re being. We might make negative or sarcastic comments or do something physically demeaning or threatening. Or we pull out one of those doozies like, “Can’t you ever do anything right?” Don’t we all face these temptations?

father and son on sky backgroundAnd sometimes we can even justify it in our minds. After all, he was the one that acted so immaturely. Or maybe she needed a taste of her own medicine. We talk ourselves into thinking our child deserved disrespect because of how bad he or she was behaving. Or that we have every right to talk down to them or put them in their place.

We can understand that thinking; many of us have been there. But we must never justify disrespecting our children. It can have such a negative impact on their self-image and their outlook on life.

Remember, you’re their daddy. If there’s anyone they should be able to look to for affirmation, if there’s anyone who should be a source of respect, it’s you.

And besides, our love and respect for our kids shouldn’t be based on a sense of our rights, or even what we think a child deserves. Our respect for them has to be selfless, active, and not dependent upon our mood or their behavior. And even when our kids’ behavior brings them some negative consequences and hard lessons, we can still treat them with respect.

What’s the secret? It isn’t easy to pull off, and no dad is perfect in this regard, but there’s great wisdom in this statement: “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

So, treating your children with respect begins with filling your heart with unconditional love for them. Really embrace the idea that your child is special and unique. Each one has gifts, abilities and interests that cause him to see the world and process information in a distinctive way. And those qualities in your child that are mostly annoying right now could be shaped and refined over time and become real assets in his future.

That’s also a good thing to keep in mind: our kids are works-in-progress. Think back to when you were their age; you weren’t fully mature at that stage of life either, right?

Remember those things, dad. Meditate on them. And when your kids push your buttons, learn to say a quick prayer and remember how much growing up they still need to do.

Then, instead of talking down to them, you can speak in ways that help them move ahead in life. And if they do need discipline, you can carry that out with the right attitude, and not be angry or insulting.

Remember, it starts with that inner attitude of respect.

What’s your secret to keeping your cool when your kids are driving you nuts? Please share your insights at our Facebook page.

Action Points

  • At the dinner table, tell each child a positive quality you’ve noticed in him or her.
  • Plan a healthy, positive response for the next time you’re angry with your children, so that when something happens, you know exactly what to do or say.

NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.