Erica Reischer Ph.D.

What Great Parents Do

4 Reasons Kids Stop Respecting Their Parents

Just telling kids their behavior isn't okay is not enough.

Posted Mar 25, 2015

 Karah Levely-Rinaldi/Flickr
Source: Karah Levely-Rinaldi/Flickr

Does your child interrupt you? Ignore you? Yell or roll her eyes? Say, "Whatever"—and then flounce away?

Although most parents are vigilant about how their kids treat other people, expecting kind and respectful behavior, those same parents often have kids who treat them disrespectfully.

Here’s an example: A loving mom is considerate of her son and watchful of his behavior and manners with others. She works hard to treat her son with respect and kindness, but often doesn’t notice—or know what to do—when he interrupts her, ignores her requests, or yells at her when he is frustrated. 

When her son does these things, she is usually able to stay calm and patient, and often she will tell him that what he is doing is not okay. Staying calm and patient is always a good thing, but just telling kids that what they are doing is “not okay” is often not enough.

Parents unintentionally let disrespectful behavior continue for several reasons:

  1. They are not paying attention to the situation and don’t notice the disrespectful behavior.
  2. They have gotten used to the behavior.
  3. They aren’t sure how to change the behavior.
  4. The behavior fits their expectation of how kids behave.

Whatever the reason, “allowing” your kids to treat you poorly is establishing a dysfunctional pattern of behavior (a.k.a. a bad habit); it also makes it more likely that your kids will treat others that way, too.

Children notice both what we say and what we do. Therefore, we also need to do something differently in response to their disrespectful behavior, when a reminder isn't sufficient.

What Should Parents Do?

Don’t continue the conversation while your child is yelling, for example, or speaking disrespectfully. Don’t just give up when your child ignores what you are asking her to do, either.

Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Pause and matter-of-factly point out the behavior. “Sweetie, I can see you want my attention, but you are interrupting me right now.”
  2. Describe why the behavior is problematic. “Interrupting is not nice manners.”
  3. Suggest an alternative behavior. “Please wait until there’s a pause in the conversation, or say ‘excuse me.’”
  4. Above all, do not gratify the behavior. Do not address the issue your child is trying to bring to your attention until they try one of the alternative actions you have suggested.
  5. Ask for a replay. "Let's try that again. You need to get my attention—how can you best do that?"
  6. Only resume the conversation or activity once the problematic behavior is replaced by a more appropriate behavior.

If the problematic behavior continues, the next step is to give your child a meaningful consequence that's appropriate to the situation.

© 2015, Erica Reischer, Ph.D.