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Respectful parenting is a wonderful gift that we can give to our kids. Here are its most important principles that every parent can try at home.
“One day your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and will run to you instead of away from you and in that moment you will know the immense value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting.”
This quote by L.R. Knost reached my heart from the first moment when I read it. I wrote it down in my agenda and it accompanied me through my first years of motherhood.
Some weeks ago I was in the park, talking with a mom who recently had her first baby. I told her about respectful parenting and the big impact that it has in children’s life.
She seemed really curious to find out more about this! So before leaving the park, she asked me to send her some links to articles about respectful parenting. She told me that her husband isn’t a fan of these ideas, so she hoped that an article about the importance of respectful parenting will change his mind.
I promised to send her a message later that day. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said.
Why do people need to be convinced that kids deserve to be respected? We don’t need any articles to tell us why we should respect other adults. So why is this necessary when it comes to kids?
The truth is that many of the adults nowadays were raised in families where children were considered inferior. Where their opinions didn’t matter. Where obedience was far more important than a loving relationship.
So sometimes we get trapped in those old concepts and they might even feel like the right way of parenting. Especially because in the short term they seem to be effective. But what about the long-term?
Do we want to raise kids that blindly obey or kids that have the courage to speak up? Do we want our kids to hide their mistakes from us or to come to us when they’ve done something wrong? And do we want to control and lead our children’s life or do we want to empower them with the skills they need to take charge of their own life?
We get the chance to choose.
I truly believe in respectful parenting! Not only because I always felt that this is the way I want to raise my child. But because I see the effects it has on my boy. And they are so powerful!
The most powerful principles of respectful parenting
This is why I decided to share the most powerful principles of respectful parenting that we applied in our house. They helped us build a strong relationship with our son. And they allowed us to teach him about good and bad choices in a gentle way, without time-outs or punishments.
1. Treating the child with respect in all situations
This is the fundamental principle of respectful parenting. It means that we need to treat our children with as much respect as we would treat an adult friend.
The simplest way to implement this is to ask yourself: “Would I act this way with my friend?” and let the answer guide you.
Would you spank your friend when she does something wrong or would you help her find a solution?
Would you send your friend in another room when she has a difficult moment or would you hug her and offer her your support?
Of course that the relationship with our children is different than the one with our friends! With our kids, we need to set limits and make sure that they are respected. But we can do this in a gentle way, making sure that we always treat them respectfully.
The huge benefit of this approach is that the child learns that respect is important and is more likely to be respectful to the people around him.
2. Empathizing with the child’s feelings instead of dismissing them
The big difference between respectful parenting and the traditional approach to discipline is the way that the parent reacts when the child has a difficult time.
The traditional approach to discipline focused on the behavior and the way that the parent can control or punish it.
On the other hand, respectful parenting focuses on the feelings behind the behavior. It is important to find out what generated the behavior and help the child overcome those negative feelings.
You can read more about this here: How to help young kids deal with strong emotions in a gentle way (where you can also download a printable cheat sheet).
So instead of punishments and time-outs, parents can use connection to empathize with the child’s feelings and provide a gentle guidance.
Here are some great alternatives that every parent can use: What to do instead of punishments? 5 gentle ways to discipline young kids.
This approach of focusing on connection instead of correction allows kids to learn from their mistakes and make better choices the next time.
3. Building a relationship based on trust and support
When we trust kids, something magic happens: They gain more confidence and they are capable of amazing things!
Trusting a child means offering him independence and allowing him to take the lead when this is possible. It’s important for kids to feel that they have control over their life. That they can make choices on their own. And that they have the parent’s support anytime they need it!
There is another side of trust that we often ignore. It’s the trust that kids will do things when they are ready!
Sometimes as parents we feel the need to push our kids to do things that we think that they are ready for. Like riding a bike or swimming without a life vest.
But treating our kids with respect means that we also need to take a step back and listen to them. Sometimes they are not ready when we think they are. And they need us to be supportive and not to add an unnecessary pressure on them!
4. Involving kids in family decisions and allowing them to make choices about their life
One of the things that most empowers a child is the feeling that their opinion matters!
Involving kids in family decisions is a great way to show them that they are important and that we value them! Of course that we cannot always do this. But there are a lot of moments when we can!
Allowing kids to make choices about their life is a huge help for ending any power struggles. Even small choices like what to wear in the park or what to eat at breakfast are important for kids!
In time, they will get more aware of the impact of their choices and this will teach them to take better decisions in life.
The main idea that guides me as a mom and makes me a big supporter of respectful parenting is the belief that the way we treat kids makes a huge difference in their life!
In these years, we put the base for their emotional development. And this is more important than any other thing that we offer our kids!
Helpful resources about respectful parenting
At the end, I’ve gathered a list of resources about respectful parenting. They helped me understand it better and apply it into our life and I hope that they will help you too!
1. Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury – in my opinion, the best book about gentle parenting and the way we can apply it to raise happy and confident kids
2. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – another helpful book by Janet Lansbury, where she focuses on respectful discipline and how we can apply it to young kids
4. What Is Respectful Parenting? – a wonderful article from Happiness is Here that explains everything a parent needs to know about respectful parenting
5. Janet Lansbury’s blog – a website full of great content where I always found helpful advice for dealing with the difficult challenges of motherhood (this is one of my favorite articles: 9 Parenting Words to Live By)
p.s. I sent some of these links to the mom that I talked to in the park. I also sent her the quote that I had written in my agenda. She sent me a message back to tell me that she will show them to her husband.
I don’t know how their discussion went. But a couple of days later she sent me a photo of her journal where she wrote the same quote with big blue letters. And that message is the reason why I wrote this post. And I hope that this message will get in the homes of many other moms!
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photo credit: Alliance / shutterstock.com