The Boy and I are at the stage where he is becoming his own person. He is a wonderful son, but occasionally, I find his actions and behavior to be disrespectful and rude. While those actions may come more easily to him as he moves closer to being an adult, I find the behavior unacceptable.
Disrespectful behavior often comes down to children having poor problem-solving skills and a lack of knowledge about how to express themselves as they mature. Finding one’s self is a lifelong journey. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children how to behave appropriately and to be respectful towards others, including their parents.
The other evening, we came home from dinner with friends and I walked into my laundry room to complete a load of laundry. The clothes I had placed in the washing machine before we left had been thrown on the floor. I thought for a moment that maybe I had not put my clothes in the machine, but then I asked The Boy if he had taken my laundry out of the washer. He said, “I took the clothes out to wash my football uniform. I have a game tomorrow!” Then he said, “It is more important than anything you have to do!” That comment pushed me from annoyance to anger, and I asked, “Who are you talking to like that? What were you thinking when you decided to throw my stuff on the floor?”
Then I stopped before I asked another question while I was angry and asked him to go upstairs. I knew I had to take a moment away from him for me to collect myself.
Once I was calm, we had a discussion about how I viewed his actions as disrespectful and his comments rude. We talked about throwing my clothes on the floor and what he said to me. We also addressed better ways to approach this and other situations where he may have to wait on others before he can move forward with his priorities. I made him wait until my laundry had been washed and dried before he was allowed to put his uniform in the dryer. He was upset that he had to wait, and I reminded him I was upset that he was being inconsiderate. But at the end of the conversation, we re-established expectations and boundaries.
It is inevitable that our children are going to be upset with us at times, and they are going to test the limits. That’s to be expected, which means that we’re doing our jobs as parents. These are three ways I handle disrespectful behavior:
Take time apart
Instead of immediately addressing disrespectful behavior, The Boy and I take time apart to calm down, especially if we are angry or frustrated with each other. Stepping away from the situation allows us to focus on the behavior and not dwell on the emotions of that particular moment. We also avoid power struggles and unnecessary arguments. It’s best to set limits when everyone is calm rather than in the heat of the moment.
Don’t take it personally
Instead of feeling hurt or angry, I focus on the rude or disrespectful behavior that I want to prevent in the future. Once a limit has been set, I respond appropriately to the disrespect and hold my son accountable for his actions. I let him know his actions have consequences. Remember, it does not matter if our children always like us. It is important to focus on the lessons we are trying to teach because our children are looking to us to steer them in the right direction. Parenting is not a popularity contest. It is important to establish rules and set some limits. The Boy is my partner in crime, but he is not my partner or my peer.
If I want things to be different, I have to consciously decide to act in a different way and stick with it. It’s difficult at first, but once things start to change, it’s really rewarding.