I’m all about respecting our kids. Respectful parenting is, to me, the only kind that deserves to be called parenting at all.
But there’s a trap. I know, because I got caught in it.
It’s the trap where you’re so committed to “Respectful Parenting” that you totally miss respectfully parenting your kids.
Like I said, I did it. And I got so freaking frustrated that it wasn’t “working.” That my kid was so angry, so uncooperative, so melancholy.
I was so focused on being respectful– thinking “Was that the respectful way to say that?” and “Is that what a peaceful parent would do?” or “Isn’t this a respectful, cool, calmly set limit?”
I was, temporarily, totally oblivious to the fact that behaving respectfully is not the same thing as actually respecting a person.
I was so busy parenting respectfully that I was basically ignoring my child. My actual, flesh and blood human child standing right in front of me.
I was walking around calmly and cooly spouting off all kinds of respectful verbage, feeling pretty smug, honestly.
I couldn’t keep missing that, no matter how good of a job I was doing talking in this new respectful language, whenever my words landed, the result was a face of pain, and little eyes flashing with anger.
And she was angry.
Angry that she just couldn’t get through. Couldn’t be seen.
Angry that her feelings, preferences, hurts, reactions, and desires were having no effect whatsoever on her reality.
Angry because she felt so darn disrespected.
That’s human nature, you know. To get angry, to get charged up with energy, when we feel challenged by a power that threatens to overwhelm us. To disrespect and disregard our existence.
To resort to fight or flight if we cannot connect. It’s survival.
And that’s the thing. She couldn’t connect.
I couldn’t connect.
Because I wasn’t there.
I was “respectfully parenting” my child but not actually respecting my child, which is both easier and tremendously harder.
Easier because actual respect is not rules to follow. It’s organic, and simple.
But oh, so much harder, because it demands presence.
It demands awareness, that I show up, fully present, undistracted, and truly regarding the other human being standing before me.
Regard and respect. Meaning not only stay still and awake long enough to hear the thoughts and desires and feelings of this other person, but also to value them as equally important to my own.
That is respect. To hold and honor the value of another in high regard. In equal regard.
After all, that’s the Golden Rule, isn’t it? Equal regard for the experience of myself and others.
So I needed to wake up. To show up.
And when I did, ah, but how good is goodness.
When it’s right, it’s right. She saw, of course. She felt the difference.
And the difference in HER was visible almost immediately. She lit up. The angry eyes faded. Smiles came. Cooperation. Compassion for her peers, and for me. Flexibility. Just joy.
I make it sound like bliss, I know. And of course, it was not without it’s moments of conflict or upset feelings. She’s 3, and I’m a work in progress.
But she started this thing. This pudding proof, get-me-every-time, melt my heart thing, where every time I said “Thank you,” she’d smile and reply, “Anything for a friend.”
Anything for a friend.
So glad I got out of that trap in time to show up for this.
To show up and parent respectfully.
Which is really just being human respectfully.
Which is really just, you know, being a friend.