Picture this scene:

You are shopping with a relative or a friend. An item in a store catches your eye and you reach out to examine it more closely. Suddenly, your companion yanks your arm away and yells into your face, "Don't touch that! You're not getting anything!"

Who would treat someone this way? Parents.

Most of us have witnessed this unpleasant scene many times — in the grocery store, the drug store, the department store. The child's frustration, hurt and embarrassment are painful to watch, as well as the parent's.

This same parent probably wouldn't dream of treating an adult this harshly, even an adult they don't know or particularly care about. Yet, this parent finds this behavior acceptable toward her own child. Why?

There are many possible reasons. Some people just unthinkingly treat their children as their parents treated them. Others view the parental obligation to keep kids "in line" as more important than the obligation to treat them courteously. Unfortunately, there are even some people who seem to see children as some kind of lesser creatures who are not entitled to personal dignity.

Very often though, it is simply a matter of stress. Parenting, in and of itself, is an exhausting, full-time, 24/7 job. Yet, parents also have to be concerned about work, money, family needs and the other demands of everyday life. Without meaning to, they take their own stress out on the kids.

As a relationship coach, I have seen that these incidents are not meaningless. The things that parents say to children for good or ill stay with them for life. Words that make children feel bad about themselves haunt them into adulthood and keep them from enjoying positive relationships and leading emotionally healthy lives. Words can and do wound, and harsh, hurting words constitute verbal abuse.

Parents do have a responsibility to raise their children to behave in appropriate ways. You can't allow your children to touch everything that intrigues them, for reasons of safety as well as manners. But you can teach them restraint without humiliating them and without threatening them. If you don't know how, there are parenting courses and many parenting books available to help you.

A good basis for a respectful relationship with your children is to treat them as you want to be treated. For instance, you expect people to explain rules and the reasons for them clearly. You would probably feel that your intelligence was being insulted if a boss or co-worker yelled at something you did without having explained what was expected of you.

Your children don't have to agree with your reasons, but they are entitled to know what your expectations for their behavior are. Sometimes parents do have to pull rank when a child won't behave, using the "Do it because I asked you to" approach. But most often, giving a child an opportunity to understand the reason for your expectation does work; for example: "That's not a nice thing to say. Would you want someone to say (or do) that to you?"

Another example might be to agree with your child that when you go to the grocery, they can pick out the cereal they want, or give them an opportunity to help you by asking if they can spot an item you are looking for — make it a shared experience.

Children are also entitled to personal dignity. They don't like to be embarrassed in public anymore than adults do. If you need to talk to your child about inappropriate behavior, find a private place to do it quietly, or physically come down to their level, look them in the eyes and with a calming voice address the problem by acknowledging their feelings and giving them an incentive or something to look forward to: "I know you're tired and standing in line is not fun, but I need you to help mommy by being quiet so you don't disturb others. We'll just be a few more minutes and then we'll go home so you can play outside and ride your bike. OK?" Assuming a positive response from the child, reward him with a "That's my big boy!"

While your children may not be your peers in age or experience, they are your equals in humanity. Although they are smaller and younger, they are people. People with thoughts and feelings and needs. When you treat them with disrespect, you are teaching them to disrespect you.

Children deserve to be treated with the same consideration and respect that you would give to a thinking, feeling adult. Ultimately, they will learn to respect you, others and most importantly, themselves. (…)


Source: Gloucester Daily Times – http://tinyurl.com/knz45f