This is letter is in response to a parent looking for some help on dealing with a disrespectful child. For me, there was no bigger step I could have taken than reevaluating my view of my child. That’s what this one letter is about.
Question: My daughter disrespects me and doesn’t listen to me. When I ask her to do something, she’ll just look at me and say no. Often she is mean to me and will hit me. I try to stay calm, but I get angry. I don’t want to get angry. I lash out, yell and get negative. I don’t want to be like this. I want to be better for my daughter. What should I do?
Here is my response. The parent found it useful, so I thought I would share it.
I’ve struggled with the exact same scenario. It can be super frustrating. This used to be one of my triggers for sure. It can feel like your child is disrespectful, for sure. I don’t doubt that. Especially with how much you do for her, with how much you love her. The hitting, the not listening and the outright defiance are difficult to deal with, I get it.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret though that might help. What if I told you that she is not intending to be mean to you. Rather, her behaviour is a road map to understanding what is going on for her. The behaviour, although not appropriate, points to the fact that she is having a hard time, she’s not really trying to give you a hard time.
The world our little ones are living in can be confusing, frustrating and full of big emotions. Combine that will an evolving sense of self awareness and self control and you are going to see some of the behaviours you mentioned. Yes, our children will learn to self regulate and advocate for themselves in more mature ways, but we need to have patience with them and model for them the behaviours we want to teach.
Replacing the idea that my child is disrespectful, or testing me, or somehow intentionally trying to bother me with the idea that my child simply needs help and guidance was the best thing I ever did as a parent.
This perspective helped me step out of a blaming style of parenting into a more compassionate and problem solving way of being. It helped me be more consistent, less reactive. The more loving, assertive, and consistent we are during these tough times, the better it is for everyone. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll be doing your daughter a huge favour. For her to witness you being in control and loving… no matter what, will go a long way for her and her development. You’ll be modelling the very behaviour you want to teach. And by the way, this is the quickest way out of any “misbehaving” stage…to not be reactive to the misbehavior.
This will likely won’t be the last time you face challenging behaviour. So, it helps to understand that when she “acts out”, it is not really about you. Knowing that it was not really about me put me in much more of a mature mind set. My parenting completely shifted from reactive and offended to more calm and controlled. I really started feeling like the leader that I wanted to be. And my children completely responded! They sensed that I was in control of myself and the whole house calmed right down. It was magical!
Conflict really is a opportunity. We get to teach our kids how to deal with it. We get to show them maturity, listening, understanding, being assertive, and problem solving.