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Handling Disrespect

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  • Handling Disrespect

    My 9-year-old has been developing some "attitude" over the past year. He can be disrespectful towards both me and my husband...I've also begun to see him acting this way towards other adults recently.

    I like Alfie Kohn's message about not teaching children to express things they don't really mean, and how when we do that we're just teaching them to lie. So I don't want to tell him that he *has* to treat everybody in a loving way if that's not how he's really feeling. I don't want to give him the message that he must act and speak in a certain way because that's what he's *supposed* to do...I think doing so teaches children that it's more important to meet the judgements and expectations of our society than to honor what they think and feel within.

    At the same time, I want him to cut the attitude and be a little easier to get along with!

    My husband thinks that when he says something mean or inappropriate, he should be removed from the situation and isolated. If he was engaged in a fun activity, it should be ended.

    But I don't want to use isolation or negative rewards as a means to get him to behave differently. I want to help him understand how his words affect other people: those he expresses them to, those who hear his angry words, and even himself when he utters them. It is my belief that at some point he will make the connection and choose from within himself to change his behavior and attitude.

    So my DH and I are at an impasse with how we want to handle the situation, and we're both feeling very angry towards one another. Thoughts? Experiences to share?

  • #2
    i love Kohn, but understand his words a bit differently. i don't think it's a betrayal to show love to someone even if you don't "feel" love because i don't see love simply as a feeling, but as an action. so, i don't see being angry, but still showing love as a contradiction. for instance, i can be really angry w/someone, but i should express it in a loving way. ex: "i am angry because i need to have my thoughts taken into consideration. please don't dismiss my ideas." i think we have to teach children that there aren't wrong feelings, but the expressing of them should be done respectfully.


    • #3
      This is probably going to be a little less than fully helpful ;-) , but I remember this issue being discussed in both "Staying Connected to Your Teenager" by Riera and "Playful Parenting" by Cohen. I think "Staying Connected" should be a requirement for any parent of a preteen! Unfortunately, I'm not to this stage yet and don't remember the recommendations. Maybe someone else does?


      • #4
        I wanted to mention that this months read is The Natural Child and there are some really wonderful ideas regarding situations like this. Isolation probably would not be the way you would want to go and her book goes into more detail regarding this.
        You may want to jump ahead in the book to the Chapter Living With Children
        Read the first few paragraphs and then go to the section The Hidden Messages We Give Our Children.

        Then skip ahead again to the Chapter, The Parenting Golden Rule then read all of that and onward.. I suggest reading the entire book when you can, but these are areas that are great for a child your sons age.

        Also at his age, you may want to start having a regular family meeting. For now I would do it for 20 minutes or so every night after dinner perhaps. Get a timer and go around so everyone has 5 minutes to say what they want, less if he is impatient and I personally like 5 for kids 3 for adults.

        I also kept a notepad when we did this. That way if I wanted to discuss a comment made by another person, I would remember, but kept it to a note of three words or less so the others at the table didn't think I was writing a novel or thinking of ways to attack. Most of the time I did no writing as just getting it all out there for everyone to discuss was more than enough.

        Also keeping discussions to this type of environment prevents daily nagging.

        I have started something in our local group, which I seem to have a hard time getting momentum with, but I tell mothers each week there is a thread where you can post only the wonderful things your child did or said so they learn to focus on those wonderful moments as it becomes all to easy to just see the things that are not going well at the moment.

        You may want to that at home. Just keep a list for yourself of the wonderful attributes your son does have and remind yourself that he is 9 and is perhaps as my husband says, just trying it on. Let him know that it hurts you a bit and maybe together you can find better ways to communicate.

        Hugs mama!



        • #5
          Thanks for the book recommendations. We've been going through the same thing with our 9 year old dd. She has started physically developing and she has a very hard time controlling her hormones/emotions. While I'm trying to be respectful of the changes she's going through, I don't tolerate disrespect. It really seems like kids are maturing at such an early age anymore.

          Jessica, I don't have any advice for you (sorry!), but I can definitely sympathize with you. No one ever warned me it was going to be this hard to raise a pre-teen!


          • #6
            It was the same way when my girls were young. I tease some moms and say watch the mood swings when they are four and five. Mark them on the calendar and see if they don't match up to when they start menstruation.

            Children have their own needs and wants and many times it conflicts with our own. Just like yours may conflict with your spouses or your friends. It is hard for us to not think of them as only our children and as their own person. I struggle with this even now with Jackie who is in her own home, but that gives me the advantage of being the silly mommy who likes to baby her now.

            There was a time that children moved out of the home in most cases the onset of puberty, 13 or so, got married and had children. You were considered a spinster by 18. Now we expect them to stay children longer. Their thought processes haven't changed. They are still at an age where they strive for independence and individuality, we just think with legal and society driven thoughts that they are immature and unable to think for themselves.

            Talk more to your children as the young adults they are becoming and see if you can give them more of a say in their day to day lives. With most children being in public school or situations where their every waking moment is being dictated by others, it is hard and frustrating.