Episode 47: Being Respectful to Our Children

Have you ever stopped to consider how your casual remarks could sculpt your child’s self-image? In to days episode we explore  how our words, especially those spoken within earshot of our little ones, can leave an indelible mark on their developing sense of self.  Throughout our journey as parents, we often find ourselves in a delicate dance, balancing the need for candidness with the preservation of our children’s trust. This episode peels back the layers of these complexities, sharing thoughtful approaches to discussing our little ones’ challenges without compromising their privacy.

What you will learn on this episode:

– How casual remarks by parents can shape a child’s confidence and self image. 

– Strategies for balancing parental frustrations with the celebration of a child’s accomplishments. 

– The concept of building generous relationships with children by focusing on their positive attributes and resilience. 

– The significance of maintaining a nurturing environment through positive narratives and respect. 

– Techniques for flipping the script from frustration to planting seeds of trust and positivity. 

– The need to be mindful of how we represent our children’s stories to others.


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Welcome, friends. I am glad to be with you all today. 

I had an interesting experience the other day that has had me thinking about the power we have in our children’s lives when it comes to teaching them about respect. We just had an episode on how to handle disrespectful behavior from our children. Maybe that’s why this was at the top of mind. It was interesting because I had the opportunity to take one of my grandkids to their practice in this big indoor facility. There’s this space where parents sit to watch the kids as they had a break. The kids come over and get a drink of water. During that time, a dad stepped forward to talk to one of the coaches. His little daughter was standing right next to him getting a drink. The coach was joking with her that he’d missed her last week because she hadn’t been at practice. Then the dad started to tell the story of why she’d missed practice last week. Apparently, this little girl had told her dad she didn’t want to go. She started to complain about how hot the gym space was, because it doesn’t always have the best air conditioning. She started complaining about how hot it was and how she was tired and how she didn’t feel like going. She complained a ton and he couldn’t get her to go to practice last week, no matter what he tried. Then he elaborated on what had happened that morning, the morning that he was standing there talking to the coach, how it was such a struggle to get her there and how she had complained that morning too, all the way in the car, all the way up to the building, about the heat, about not wanting to be at practice. It was a miracle that they had been there that day. That poor dad. I think he was feeling bad himself, trying to explain to the coach why he couldn’t get his little girl there last week. I think maybe he was looking for some kind of support or validation about how hard it had been there even to get there today. 

If you’re wondering why I know all of this, it’s because I heard all of it without trying to hear it. I wasn’t eavesdropping. About 10 of us in the parent section were helpless to not hear it. We’re all seated behind this dad and it was almost as if he was on stage and we were the audience. He told it kind of in a funny way, making gestures that were exasperated and dramatizing his daughter’s complaints. Several of the other parents around me kind of chuckled and nodded yeah, my kid has done that. Oh my gosh, we have this battle every week. 

On the surface it was kind of like a parent group therapy session where all the parents were getting validated about how hard it is to get their kids to practice sometimes. I mean, these parents were compassionate and generous, even supportive of this dad, not at all judgmental. To a general observer it was totally a non-event, something I’m sure no one thought about more than a nanosecond except for me, of course, because I had this whole idea of respect and disrespect on my mind, I think, and I was watching this dad just share details of his struggle getting his daughter to practice. But I noticed that, you know, unfortunately he wasn’t the only one on stage. His little girl was standing right next to him the whole time and I looked at her face. She was mortified. She scanned the parent section and saw everyone looking her way and scooted in closer to her dad and just stared at her feet the entire time. 

The moment the coach walked away, she looked up and said Dad, you just told everyone. And dad, still front and center in front of all of us, he looked down and shook his head and said no, nobody heard a thing. And she kept cringing, putting her head against her dad’s leg, and he kept saying there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. No one heard, stop it. And everyone heard. None of us cared. Honestly, we weren’t judging this little girl. I don’t think we were judging the dad and I don’t mean, as I talk about this, to cast this sense of judgment on the dad. This little girl was like seven years old. The story was familiar to all the parents there. 

I think this has happened to all of us. It happens to us on a daily basis if we have children that are learning how to go places and do things that they don’t always feel like doing. So it was kind of unifying. We all related to the struggle, we all understood, but this little girl felt really exposed by her dad and the truth is I think her dad owed her an apology. If she had been the one talking about how her dad had lost his temper that morning and said a bad word, she would have been told to be quiet and not share private information in front of others Kind of a double standard. 

The words we use when we talk about our kids matter, and this is true when we’re talking to them or about them both in their presence and when they aren’t there. Research has found that when children over here are negative feelings about anything, they often internalize or adopt our views about things. In other words, kids are listening to what we say all the time, especially about them to other people, and often I think that they internalize what they hear us say about them more than what we say directly to them. Before I go on much further, I wanna suggest that all of us have probably fallen into this trap. Like this dad, I can remember talking about my kids to other people, maybe expressing my frustration, rolling my eyes, saying, oh morning was crazy, I could not get these kids to be ready on time, or something nothing awful just sharing my feelings, maybe looking for some support. 

And I can remember my kids at different times asking me please, mom, don’t tell anyone. I specifically remember their vulnerability, the fact that I knew so much about them, whether it was that they had a wet bed as an elementary age child or they’d not told the truth and we had to have a big discussion about it. When you think about how much we know about our kids and all the trust they have, that will hold that knowledge respectfully. The trick for me is that sometimes I would think that something was just not a big deal, but they would be really sensitive about it. If you’ve ever had this happen to you, where someone talks about you to someone else and kind of tells your secret, kind of outs you, you know it can sometimes feel like a really big deal to you, even if the other person meant no malintent. 

Our families are an inner circle of trust. We’re 24 seven. In each other’s lives we see all of the ups and downs strengths, weaknesses and there comes a point when our kids are able to catch the words and gestures we use to talk about them and it impacts them. They have to make sense of it somehow and kids are always gauging their world based upon us. They look to us for signals of safety. They look to us to see if they’re valued or if we approve of them, not just when they’re behaving, especially when they are not behaving or when they’re not succeeding or when something isn’t going the way that we expect or that they expect. They are watching to see how we react and they’re listening to see how we make sense of that behavior. 

This could have gone differently. When the coach asked where they were last week, this dad could have said something like we weren’t able to make it last week. Put a hand on his daughter’s back, holding her, keeping her intense struggle private, between just them. Then he could have said I’m really proud of her for being here today. It’s been so hot she still decided to come. I was a little worried about the heat today myself. It would have been easy to not come, but I’m proud of us for being here today. He wouldn’t have had to share the fact that they argued and threatened and cajoled her to getting into the car, that he’d had to explain how important it was to keep her commitment and do hard things. All that may have happened, but he didn’t need to share it. That was the process he and his daughter went through together and it was their process, not for others to hear. 

In the end, she decided to come. She’d shown courage and bravery and strength. She trusted her parents’ direction. Let’s praise that. Let’s point out her commitment, her strength, her courage to do something hard. Now, once again, if you’ve ever struggled with this as a parent, you’re not alone. This dad obviously felt a little battle-worn. His daughter’s win that day was not an easy one for him. In fact, it probably didn’t even feel like a win at all. He just wanted to get up and get his shoes on and drive his daughter to practice. He probably had a lot of other things he would have rather done, been way more fun for him, and this had just been plain hard. 

The truth is that we, as parents, also have to be able to talk through our feelings, our frustrations, what is hard for us in our parenting, but when we do that and how we do that really matters. Kids hear our conversations on the phone. They catch the tone and the manner in which we speak, and I think it’s worth our awareness to catch our own tone and manner, because we want respect to be the thing our child sees and feels from us, even after we’ve had a rough time of it with them. And the truth is that starts deep within us, in how we’re thinking about our kids, long before we say anything out loud. This is exactly why we train so much around understanding children’s behaviors. They’re developmental stages, trying to make sense of their feelings and their actions, so we can understand that kids’ brains are not developed yet. They don’t have the skills to manage those emotions. Literally everything they’re doing each day is part of that development of those skills, and so even refusing to go to practice on a hot day, it’s actually developmentally part of what they’re supposed to be learning. Kids actually are amazing that they pick up so many things so quickly that they often do what we ask them without complaint, that they literally take the things we say and believe them and trust us, and the times when they don’t. 

It just doesn’t measure expectations and I don’t know about you, but that would kind of freak me out. It would get me riled up, it would make me feel disturbed or upset. This is one of the reasons why I love meeting with parents, especially in the privacy and safety of our meeting together. This is when I encourage them to speak freely, express their frustration, tell me about what they’re deeply worried about, all of those kind of catastrophic scenarios of what a failure they’re worried their child is going to be when they get older. I want it all to hang out in the privacy of our meeting together. 

One exercise I love to do with parents is to have them dump all those frustrations and irritation with their kids on one side of a paper, all their complaints. I wish they would do this. Why can’t they just do this? And then after a few minutes I have them turn over the paper and list out all the things they see their child doing well, and sometimes it’s hard for them to get started. They struggle seeing the things the kids are doing well and succeeding at. I have them start with the negative first, because that’s what your brain brings you. It brings you the problem. It brings you the pain point, the struggle, the potential threat. If my child isn’t doing this, then what does that mean about their future? What does that mean about me as a parent? Those negatives come up first and that’s why we start with that and then we turn the paper over. 

What does your child do well? What are they not struggling with? Does your teenager brush his own teeth? Well, duh, of course he does. Well, that counts, and that usually starts the ball rolling. You mean everything, all the things that they are doing, even the kind of dumb ones they’re supposed to be doing, yes, of course, all the times they come when you ask, say thank you, go to practice, share something with their sibling. 

The truth is, if you wrote everything down every day, throughout the day, you would need many sheets of paper. The problem is is that our expectation gets set and reset. We set an expectation, they meet it and we set a new expectation, and in truth, that’s how growth and development happens. We have small expectations that get met, and then we enlarge those and kids grow. But it’s really great to go back and look at all of the progress, see the things that kids are doing well, mindset shift, one that allows us to be generous with our children and I love that word generous. It’s right up there with benevolence. It’s assuming goodness, can I be generous with the people in my life my child, my spouse, my friends, myself when I look for the kindest and most supportive way to see them in any given situation. 

The truth is, there’s always a reason why our kids refuse or drag their feet or disobey or talk back or melt down. We may not always see it or understand it, or even agree with it, but knowing and trusting that there is a reason helps us to stay connected to them and stay respectful, which means honoring their process. Just having the belief that there’s got to be a reason is a respectful thought. Something’s blocking you, and I’m going to see it that way, as opposed to something is wrong with you or you’re doing this on purpose just to upset me. This is a message our children need from us that we’re holding them in the most generous, benevolent, respectful frame. It models for them eventually how they can do this for themselves and then eventually do it for others, including their own children one day. We want to build a relationship of trust with our child so they know we’re going to have their back. 

What does this look like? Well, we speak out loud the things we want our kids to internalize, praise their effort, lay out the challenges and put them in the story as a positive character, as a hero or a heroine, instead of as kind of the villain or the one who’s struggling. Notice the things that we see that are hardworking or dedicated, or how our child overcame something and bounced back from a challenge. We’re building trust as we speak about the good and protect the things that our children told us or experienced that they’re feeling vulnerable about. We’re not outing the vulnerability. What we’re speaking about to others is the process that our child went through to overcome or deal with the vulnerability. 

I learned early on what this looked like through trial and error, talking with my mom on the phone about something one of my children was struggling with, noticing out of the corner of my eye that they’re sitting on the couch behind me, listening to everything I’m saying, watching as they hang their head a little bit, maybe flush a little bit in their cheeks and giving me that look, how could you have told that story to someone? After having a couple of experiences where I saw that feeling of injury on my kiddo’s face, I started to talk on the phone and speak to their siblings differently about my children, especially in front of them, but even when they weren’t there. Kids are smart. When we complain about one of our children to another one of our children, that child knows that they might next time be in the exact same position of being criticized to another one of their siblings. I’ve had this happen with friends that have complained about a friend and you know they’re not saying that to that friend’s face. Then I walk away sometimes and think, hmm, I wonder if that’s what they say about me to someone else. 

It erodes a sense of trust. It erodes a sense of respect. Our human nature is to speak what we feel and to work it out as we’re talking about things. I think it’s important that we just be aware of this. We’re not looking to beat ourselves up about this, but to elevate the level of honor and respect that we hold for our children. I promise what happens is that comes back around. They feel it. They feel that kind of support from us because they felt it held and honored in how we’ve spoken about them. 

And you do have to tell the story about what’s happening in your child’s life. I think it’s really important to acknowledge the challenge kind of thinking out loud, modeling the pattern of I acknowledge the challenge my kid is going through. This is hard for them, not judging it, just stating it. This has been really hard for them. You always want to be looking for the glimmer, that little bit of courage to leave them with a hope, because kids take our responses seriously at a level they don’t even realize is internalizing for them. So, praising them finding the courage to even consider going to practice or facing a challenge or something, even if they didn’t end up going, you can comment on the courage it took to work through the decision and reaffirm your trust and faith that they’re getting better prepared to do it next time, because kids want to feel hopeful and don’t you too? I mean we can interpret and frame situations to be hopeful. 

That little girl got a little closer last week in going to her practice. In fact we know that because the following week, the day that dad was complaining to the coach, she had actually made it to practice. It was probably still really hard. I mean we know it was hard because dad shared that with us. He was still disappointed she hadn’t just popped up and made getting to practice that day easy. Of course that’s frustrating for him, but I think it helps to see that she got a little closer that day and we want to be able to say I’m so proud of you for getting a little bit closer, and let that be what we share with others. 

Our kids are looking to us to see if they are okay. If we’re worried, then of course they will be too, and that can create another layer of difficulty for them. You know our brains as parents are so good at racing ahead and imagining a catastrophe, and our kid is just seven. We need to give them space and let their growth happen and let go of what that has to look like for us. In the process, for today, I wanna invite you to always keep with the forefront of your mind that parenting is a long game I mean a really long game and that our biggest task is to maintain our safe connection with our kids. Truly doesn’t matter if they ever play baseball or dance or go to gymnastics. What matters is that they trust us and they know deep down inside that we’re on their team. And most of this will work itself out as kids get older and they become more self-driven in their commitments to participate in whatever activities kind of light them up at that point. 

Our job is, when they’re young, to offer opportunities and then stay by them as they figure out how to deal with all the feelings that are gonna come up around those opportunities. That’s exactly why we do activities To teach these skills of regulation and how to work hard and keep our commitments. They’re not supposed to know how to do these things overnight, and the speed at which they learn these things are not a reflection of your work ethic as a parent or even your teaching. Keeping pace with our kids is important, so we don’t rush ahead and we don’t hold them back either. We stay maybe a couple of inches ahead, inviting them to move forward, and then come back to them and stay with them. If they hit a roadblock, they will get it eventually and it’s so important to say that to them. You’ll get this, that’s okay, we’re gonna get it next time. This holds the hope and the space for optimism for them. All this to say that we can reflect loyalty to our kids and our belief in their future and their glimmers of strength. We can reflect this out loud to others instead of expressing our frustration about them out loud. Once again, it’s okay we feel frustrated, but when we refocus our own thinking back on the purpose and what’s normal for our kids growth trajectory, we reframe it in our minds and then it’s so much easier to feel less frustrated and to feel more optimism and then to voice that support for our kids to hear. Well, thank you for listening to my theories on this. 

Respect and disrespect they kind of go hand in hand. They start in our thinking. We have to deal with it with our children, on both sides of the coin as we’re dealing with their disrespectful behavior, trying to teach them how to express their feelings in ways that hold our relationship in a safe place. And we have to deal with it within ourselves so that we’re speaking to our children and about our children with the same respect we’re hoping to teach them to use in their lives. 

Parenting is not a game of perfect. It’s full of awareness and repair and then trying again. And we’re just so lucky we get to be part of a family and leading our kids. That gives us the opportunity to learn these skills. It’s the best job ever. Well, I hope you all take care of yourselves and I will talk to you all next week. Take care. The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care. 

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This