When we talk openly about treating children like people and share that we do not punish, force sleep, require everyone at a family dinner table, have chores, or otherwise treat our children like second class citizens we inevitably hear “respectful parenting would never work with my kid!” The implication is that kids who live with respectful parenting are special. These children were somehow born with more kindness, listening skills, willingness to help, reasoning ability, logic, respect, etc.
When you inquire of the parents who say that living this way would “never work with their children” one quickly finds out that they have never tried respectful parenting, which I totally get. The intention of this is not to point out the differences in parenting- it is to share a difference in thinking in the interest of giving families who want a change hope.
Disrespectful Children: Are They Different than Respectful Kids?
The children who do well in an environment of respectful parenting do not possess unique personality characteristics. Had they been given time-out, had toys and love withheld, or been told when to eat, sleep, urinate, and “learn”, they would be angry too. They would have stuff to fight back against. If they were not listened to, considered, given power over their lives, or were generally disrespected, they too would lack respect. Children learn what they live.
How can we expect children who do not live in respect to learn respect? How can we expect children who have never been allowed to listen to their bodies to know when they are hungry or tired? How can we expect kids to be excited about being curious when so much of their day is spent doing what a teacher tells them to do (when the teacher herself is often times wishing kids had more time to explore the things they love)?
Holding kids attainable for things they have never lived in is not only unfair, it is illogical. We cannot expect kids to be happy when they have no say so over their lives. We cannot expect them to want to talk to and spend time with us when they have about an hour a day (at best) to themselves. We cannot expect them to live respectfully when their entire lives are based on being disrespected. To think that most children in the United States are inherently disrespectful does not make sense. Considering life from a child’s perspective, does it not make sense that most kids in the United States are unhappy?
Is Respectful Parenting for You?
We are all at different points in our parenting journey. If you have read this far you are either on the path to respectful parenting yourself, or are reading because you think we are nuts. If you are part of the former group, know that nobody gets this overnight. No single post, author, suggestion, advice, or piece of wisdom is going to make things better. Rather, it is reading words like these regularly and over time that help us to start to see the myth we have been buying into all these years: the myth that children are savages and we must do all we can to control them.
Once we start to see that children really are people complete with thoughts, feelings, insight, preferences and input, we start down an amazing path toward LIVING! life with our kids. While we will always be on a journey that includes overcoming our own stuff and learning to be better people for our kids, one thing is for certain; if we listen to helpful people and slowly consider what they are saying we can not only make life better for our kids, we get to know and support our children for who they really are.
I suspect that deep down parents who holler “that would never work with my kids” wonder if their words are accurate. I bet if we listen we can hear even the tiniest bit of doubt in their voice and maybe even a hint that they are looking for permission; permission to be curious about whether or not they could LIVE! differently with their kids.
If this is you, permission granted. Allow yourself the time to explore how others are LIVING! with their kids and think about how you might make small changes toward the family dynamic you want.