Respect Is a Two-Way Street—Especially with Your Kids

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me…

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What is respect? Does anyone know besides Aretha Franklin? Does anyone really know what respect is? Did you grow up hearing things like, “Respect your elders; you must respect me—I AM THE PARENT, TEACHER, AUTHORITY—be respectful of others, etc.?” I never really understood what people meant by be respectful or you’re being disrespectful. These statements seem to cover a lot of different scenarios.

I often wondered about this word. It seemed so important and powerful. I didn’t understand why it would be given so blindly. I didn’t understand what it meant that it had to be earned. I always felt like it was just part of being alive and human. Like treating all humans and animals with respect meant being kind. Even if we look up the definition, I believe, we may all have different definitions for this word and different expectations.

I have never understood the common parenting terms to describe kids such as talking back or being rude, sassy, disrespectful, etc. I believe these are labels given when a child is showing emotions and uncomfortable with what’s happening in their world. Typically, a parent then may feel uncomfortable as well and unprepared to handle this emotional outburst, so they may quickly label/name the behavior and punish their child for having these big emotions. We never used these terms with our girls. We might have said we are not comfortable with how they are speaking, but have not used these common labels.

Imagine if a parent could “recognize” an energetic misalignment by how their child is speaking and reacting and think to themselves, “Hm, maybe there is another way I can say what I need to say or ask what I need to ask that would show my child respect and assist them with their reactions and emotions.”

Imagine a parent realizing that in that exact moment where they think their child is responding inappropriately, they take a step back and look at their own behavior, communication, actions and emotions. Where do parents think that their child is even “learning to be disrespectful?” A baby isn’t born speaking with an attitude.

I have always felt that respect needed to be modeled, not just a one-way street. If parents who desire respect know so much about it, I would imagine that they would be the BEST people to learn from and really honestly show a child what respect looks like. How good it can feel? How beautiful might it be to communicate respectfully?

When I became a mom and I got to the point where my kids could speak and interact, I already knew something about treating my family with respect because I related this word to kindness.

Sometimes a solution is right there in front of our faces. It’s often hard to even accept a solution that is so easy when a situation feels so difficult. So what is the secret here? I’ll tell you.

The secret to getting your child to respect you? You respect your child. 

That’s it! There, I said it.

We can only teach what we know and if we are older and we know what respect looks like, we are so lucky, we can model it to our child and they will learn what it feels like. How it feels to be heard, to be valued, to be loved, to be kind, to be compassionate to someone. To see us doing it, they will learn it.

They will see how we respond to them when they have big emotions or have a hard time getting their feelings out in a loving way. We can respect THEM by responding with love and showing them how it’s done. They can learn from us as they hear us speak on the phone, while we drive, while we shop and we are out in the world.

If they are speaking in a way that doesn’t feel aligned with your values and how you treat them, then you know for sure, they need your help, love and respect. They need you to see beyond their behavior and tone of voice and they need your help to soothe their painful emotions.

So what are some ways we can show respect to our children? I believe there are so many ways we can do this, even too many to list. These are just some of our favorite everyday ways you can try from our list of what we do in our home:

  • Speaking to them with love and respect and kindness and compassion (yes, even if they are not speaking kindly).
  • Learning the names of their favorite toys and stuffed animals & then refer to them by name.
  • Listening to their stories and ask questions and get curious about how they feel, what they like and why the like it.
  • Shifting your response to seeing their toys around… Isabella our oldest, taught me to see toys all over the floor as Creative Innovative Learning… At first glance, I might have seen a messy room, but once I took the time to communicate and listen, she explained a very detailed story where every “pile” was part of a bigger story.   Then, learning to help them lovingly organize/clean because of “energy” and dust and cleanliness, etc. and not calling this “chores.”
  • Asking their permission before taking their fort down OR cleaning their toys yourself or putting away their things.
  • Giving them a choice and options of what they can eat and taking. them shopping with you so they can learn about healthy lifest‌yles.
  • Educating them about why you make the decisions you make and explaining to them so they can understand.
  • Asking if they want their photo taken and do they want it posted or just for us to keep as a memory.
  • Noticing: Are they busy? Are they engaged with something or someone else? Asking to come to see you when they get a minute…or if they are playing an electronic game does their game have a pause button?
  • Allowing them to say NO to you!
  • Giving a choice: Are they in the mood to help? Sometimes I ask Gabi to help empty the silverware and organize it from the dishwasher…except we don’t call it “chores.” I simply say, “I am in need of a Silverware Fairy. Is she around? Does she have some time to stop by?” I am okay with her saying yes or no, so she typically says yes since it’s not required.
  • Letting them wear two different socks—even outside the house!
  • Helping them: Seeing them leave their clothes on the floor and noticing they are tired and asking them if they need you to pick them up.
  • Allowing your young child yell at the top of their lungs, show some hard emotions and instead of responding with fear or anger, helping them by getting them a glass of water, sitting quietly near them or hugging them. Letting them know you are there and you love them and you’re both going to work this out.
  • Letting your child throw you paper airplane messages while they are hiding and recovering from getting angry; realigning their energy, allowing them to not answer you until they are ready to speak.
  • Being okay with your child changing their mind after you cooked, putting it in the fridge for someone to eat later and make them something else—or when they are hungry they will eat, but we all deserve to eat something we feel is yummy and nutritious and delicious.
  • Laying down with your child at night after they are all washed up and teeth brushed and they say they’re hungry and going downstairs for a late night drink or small snack and re-brushing teeth without complaining and blaming.
  • Letting your child know that it’s okay they forgot something and telling them a story about when you forgot something important and finding ways to help remind each other of what they need to do or bring (we like to write on the calendar or set iPhone alarms).
  • Communicating with your child with loving-kindness, compassion and respect and reminding them often of your love and assuring them that whatever comes up you will face it together as a team.
  • Supporting your child when they want to stop taking guitar lessons, dance, etc. and together figuring out what they can do next or being okay with them not doing anything structured until they are excited to.
  • Honoring your child’s individual needs, even if they are different than everyone else’s needs. This might look like bringing their favorite stuffed animal out, storing their toys in your purse/bag or always keeping earplugs in your purse/bag because you know your child is sensitive to loud noises & discreetly handing them to them without discussing it and making a scene.
  • Asking them permission as they grow, if you can give them a hug or put their hair up or brush their hair or wipe their face or help them in any way.

Because we live this Prana Boost Lifest‌yle™, there are literally hundreds of ways that we all show each other respect in our home. It might look different for everyone, but at the end of the day what matters most is the connection you have with your children and loved ones. So I see respect as a result of just creating a loving environment.

P.S. This secret is actually the secret for any relationship, not just with a child. Insert here, human, family member, boss, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

This post originally appeared on Prana Boost.
Tina Louise Balodi
Tinybeans Voices Contributor

Tina Louise Balodi is a Mommapreneur and Founder of and Tina is a mindful momma to two unschooled girls who are 10 and 12 and has been happily together with her husband, business partner and best friend for 22 years. Tina is a peace advocate, author, speaker and tansformational leader, as well as host of The Prana Boost Show™ podcast.


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