My daughter mentioned a recent conversation with her father to me the other day regarding respect-or lack thereof. Rather than badmouthing my ex-husband as the parents in many blended families, I chose another approach. In our family, we really try not to talk poorly about one another, as with any household, our children sometimes take things out of context, so we all try to keep that in mind. We also listen to our kids and want to hear what they have to say and we want them to feel that their opinions are important to us.
The issue my daughter brought to my attention had been the way my she had been speaking to other adults, not limited only to her parents, but also to grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends. My ex-husband felt she can be disrespectful to adults. In his attempt to convey his feelings of what he perceived as a lack of respect, he stated she showed no respect for any adults. This was of course being relayed to me by my daughter, so I knew the information was filtered and she only told me the parts of the conversation, omitting chunks she thought were unimportant or did not apply to her.
My oldest daughter did not understand why her father thought she spoke disrespectfully to all adults. It was not the conversation or that her father wanted to discuss the topic with her that bothered her. She told me the part bothering her was the word all. She did not feel she treated all adults disrespectfully. She asked me if I thought it was true. I thought about it for a moment and about the message my ex-husband wanted to convey. He and I had not discussed any of this, so I had no idea about his conversation, but I knew what he meant by her tone. I had witnessed the way she addressed adults, and I myself have been the target, as well as my husband, my mom, and strangers. I have called her on it when I’ve witnessed it.
I explained to her that she does not treat all adults with disrespect, and that I fact, parents of her friends have always raved about how wonderful she is at their homes. Teachers have also always gone on about how respectful, polite, and well-behaved my child is. I explained to her that she is not disrespectful to all adults. At other people’s homes she is ideal. She saves the bad attitude for her parents. She listened intently, nodded and said it was because the other parents treated her respectfully. They talked to her in an even tone, asked her questions, rather than talking down to her or shouting at her. She said sometimes the four of us yell or talk to her less like a person and more like a kid. Those words hit home for me. Less like a person. Do I talk down to you? Not all the time, she replied. Just sometimes. I told her I would work on that, and she asked me to please start reminding her in a positive way when she spoke in a disrespectful tone. I told her part of the issue was when she spoke to certain adults like they were her peers, regardless of who they happened to be, and certain adults found this behavior offensive.
I went on to explain that one of the biggest lessons in life is people don’t always treat you with respect, but you still have to treat them with respect. In life we have to do things we don’t always want to do. Some might disagree with me. A good example would be in a professional setting. In order to have a positive work situation, even if your boss or co-worker might not always treat you with complete respect, there are times you still have to play nice anyway to continue to earn a paycheck until a better situation comes along. There will always be situations in life which are not ideal, but we have to deal with them as they come and move on.
I told her I knew one thing that really upset her father was the way she spoke to her grandparents at times. I explained that I had heard first-hand the way she has yelled at both her dad’s mom and my mom, and I felt it was completely unacceptable. She cut in and said she felt it was unacceptable when they yelled at her. She went on to say they have both yelled at her and she had a right to defend herself. That, I explained, was the difference between my generation and hers. I asked her how many times she thought I raised my voice at my grandmother when she was still alive. I asked her why she felt entitled to raise her voice at my mom. The difference between our generations was apparent to me, and I understood exactly what my ex-husband meant. We were taught respect. We knew not to raise our voices to our elders. I was never told not to yell at my grandmother, but I never yelled at her. I did not raise my voice at her once in my life. I explained to my 15-year-old that it does not matter whether or not her grandmothers yell at her. If they yell at her, she probably deserves to be yelled at. There were things we just did not do, and her generation crosses lines that ours knew better than to cross. I told her she was far too good of a person for the way she comes across at times. I said I knew that all of her loved ones could be annoying at times, but that was part of life.
I don’t think children should be treated disrespectfully. I am not condoning verbally abusive behavior from adults. I am referring to moments when there are legitimate reasons for a grandparent or a step-parent to discipline a child.
I ended our conversation explaining to her that my biggest responsibility is to raise two respectful, caring, and responsible adults. Responsible adults are accountable and aware of their actions and reactions. Self awareness is the first step to changing behavior. We have since been working on treating others with more respect and I am happy to report she has improved!
Check out my article on Her View From Home from last week about Cognitive Distortions.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of eleven and fifteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.