How do I get my kids to respect me?

One of my favorite teachers of all time, a rabbi, used to tell us, "If you want your children to study Torah, then you should study Torah; if you want them to give charity, let them see you giving charity."

I am also reminded of a beautiful poem on the wall of my pediatrician's office when I was a little boy, entitled "Children Learn What They Live." The simple truth it expressed was very powerful -- our children learn from our behavior, not from our lectures, from the way we are, not from what we say.

So, the short answer to the question is, if you want your kids to respect you, respect your kids. Model respect to them, by showing respect to your spouse, to your neighbors, to people different from you and don't forget to show self-respect as well.

HOW TO SHOW RESPECT

There are all kinds of ways to demonstrate respect to your children, in the little things and in the big ones. Show them that you care about their opinions, and that while you may not always agree with them, their ideas have value. Always respect their dignity, their need for space or privacy, and never belittle them, or laugh at them.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of respectful discipline. When your children push your buttons, when you feel like you're losing it, it is then, at that precise moment that you need to model a sense of calm. By maintaining your dignity, by not getting personal, by not hitting or name-calling, you communicate the incredibly important twin messages of love and respect.

In effect, you are saying through your actions: "Even though I am angry at you and even if I am hurt, I will not hurt you. I love you."

When you do something wrong, apologize, because this will build trust, and their respect for you will grow.

Assertive parenting is not aggressive parenting -- your children are fragile souls.

Assertive parenting is not aggressive parenting, and if your children see how careful you are with their fragile souls, they will learn to be careful of others. Assertive parenting also means being firm and not being afraid to disagree, set limits and provide appropriate negative consequences such as time out, grounding, and so on. Your child doesn't have to agree with you, he/she just needs to feel loved and respected.

START EARLY

The parental attitude discussed above begins with the birth of your child. It is the attitude that he/she is a separate entity, not an extension of the parent. It is not the child's job to gratify the needs of the parent, to be the fulfillment of a father's unfulfilled dreams or a mother's never realized wishes.

Judaism views the ideal parent-child relationship as one of warmth and closeness as it is the primary vehicle for the transmission of our traditions, values and laws.

The Torah demands that the child respect his/her parents, but true respect grows from within.

The Talmud teaches us that this transmission, representing the continuity of our religion, is rooted in the joy and love of its practitioners.

Yes, the Torah demands that the child respect his/her parents, but it is the wise parent who knows that forced respect is empty and that true respect grows from within, in an environment of love, approval, and joy.

It is our job to help our children respect us, by being worthy of respect, by living lives that we are proud of and by connecting with our kids in a deep, loving, spiritual, joyful way.