Home Family & SocietyFamily Dynamics Building Respect in the Parent-Child Relationship

Building Respect in the Parent-Child Relationship

written by Laura Dabney, M.D. October 28, 2020
Respect in the Parent-Child Relationship

Do you think you have a disrespectful child?  How do you handle their behavior? It’s common to demand respect from your child, especially if they are being disrespectful. My advice: Don’t demand respect from your child because it doesn’t work. There are better ways to build respect in the parent-child relationship.

What Is Respect?

It’s common for parents to get the true meaning of respect mixed-up.

A lot of parents think any display of negative emotion is disrespectful. But it’s not!

If a kid stomps up the stairs, slams the door, or yells at their parent, and the parent responds with, “You’re not respecting me and my house.” This type of response is not doing you or your child any justice.

A parent’s job is to raise a man or woman who can handle relationships well.

Demanding respect will not work.

Always keep in mind, a child has a job. That job is to separate from their parents and learn how to control themselves.

If a child is stomping up the stairs and slamming doors, of course, this is not going to translate into good social behavior. The key is to remember, they are kids, and they’re learning as they go.

When anyone is learning anything, it is not a linear curve, it’s not always perfect, parents are not always perfect. They are going to lose control once in a while, we all do.

How Do You Handle This Type of Behavior?

Give the child some time, and then let them know how you would rather they behave.

If they are acting out an emotion, the goal is for them to use words, and that has to be conveyed to them by the parent.

If the child apologizes first, that is great because this is what a parent wants. The goal is for the child to use their words, and if they acknowledge they lost control and apologize, this is perfectly acceptable.

If they don’t, approach them and say something along the lines of, “I’m getting the impression you are angry, is that correct?” It is important to ask questions and let them confirm their emotion first. Proceed to ask why they didn’t say they were angry. Ask them, “Next time, can you please let me know with words and not all of the acting out?” This is a great conversation starter for teens and gives them a chance to speak about their feelings. It will also help with nurturing the parent-child relationship.

By doing this, the parent is taking the emotion and untying it from the action and tying it to words.

What Is Disrespect?

Disrespectful behavior is if the child is being physically abusive or verbally abusive. Such as swearing at the parent, name-calling, or trashing the parent in some way behind their back or to their face.

If this is happening, it’s common for parents to want to start demanding respect. This is not helpful.

What is helpful, and is hard for a lot of parents to absorb, is that typically when children disrespect the parent, it’s because the parent has been disrespectful towards the child or somebody else.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s very important to take a hard look at yourself and see where you may be disrespecting somebody. Is it possible you’re disrespecting the child? If you are name-calling, putting hands on the child, or verbally abusing him, that is what they learn, and that is what they repeat.

The irony of all ironies is demanding respect is disrespectful. Demanding anything from anybody is disrespectful.

Other examples of possible disrespectful behaviors a parent may be showing a child:

  • Talking about people behind their backs – Is it possible they have heard you doing this on more than one occasion?
  • Disrespecting the other parent – If you have a problem with the other parent, do not bring your kid into it.
  • Disrespecting yourself – Are you using alcohol or drugs? This is disrespecting your wellbeing, yourself, and the law.

How to Handle Disrespect

Take a good hard look at yourself, start changing the behaviors you see, and wait to see what happens with your parent-child relationship.

If they’re disrespectful, and you don’t know why then address it. Address it, don’t demand anything.

When everything is quiet and calm, you can ask your child, “I don’t understand why you are being disrespectful to me, what is going on?”

You can also ask them, “Is someone treating you that way?” It’s possible they will tell you. You may not like what you hear, but it’s very informative and will be very helpful.


Demanding respect isn’t very helpful to the parent-child relationship. Doing this will cause you to miss the opportunity to see how you are fostering this behavior in your child; which you may not know.


Watch a video on this topic here.

If you have any questions or would like help with how to break up with someone you love with, call, or text anytime at 757-340-8800 or go to www.drldabney.com.

Dr. Laura Dabney

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