Saturday, April 2, 2016

Parents, Kids and the R word: Respect

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 

--Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I read this quote years ago, but still remember being struck by how true it is. As a parent, I've seen tons of other parents struggle when their children not only talk back, but talk mean. How do you teach a son or daughter how to be respectful, especially when he/she is furious? 

I started thinking about this topic when my husband showed me a cartoon about Katie Kaboom from Animaniacs. Hugely funny, but true enough to resonate with any mom or dad. Just click on the link to see what I mean. 

I guess I got lucky, because for the most part, my son has really been kind and respectful when talking to me. By no means does this mean he is perfect, but I've been lucky in a lot of ways with this young man. Honestly and truly, though, I have no idea how or why I got that way--or how I escaped getting stuck with Katie Kaboom.

I remember being twelve years old and watching a mother and daughter in my dentist's office. The daughter was being a complete snark to her mom, for no reason I could see, as her mother always replied quietly and carefully. At one point, when her mother opened the door for someone and then sat down before it was closed again, the daughter said, "Close the door! You think you're in a barn?"

It was an extremely painful thing to watch, even for a kid, and sounded to me like the two had switched roles in the worst of all possible ways.  If I was being Freudian, I suppose I could theorize that kids like this are super angry and they feel safe taking it out on their parents. Still, I have to go back to the old Aretha Franklin song and say, you know what? We all deserve RESPECT.

What would I do if I felt disrespected? I would have to let my child, tween or teen know it was NOT OK to talk to me like I was a bug. I would have to draw a line in the sand about that, because I grew up in a house where mental and physical boundaries were not even remotely honored, and I could never go back there again. I guess, like Aretha, I have a no-tolerance rule when it comes to stuff like that.

At the same time, life is complicated, and it's extremely hard to figure out how to deal with family members who disagree with us (even at the best of times). So I found a couple of posts on this topic. And I'M going to read them, too.

 5 Things Not to Do as a Parent by Megan Devine, LCPC
Is Your Child Starting to Push Your Buttons? by Janet Lehman, MSW
In Over Your Head? Sara Bean, M. Ed.

Angry tween: Steven Depolo