I believe that every person, regardless of age, is a child of God and worthy of respect. My children have been sent to me for instruction and guidance and love, but not as pets. They are my equals as people, even if they are currently behind me in the progression of education (which, as many parents can tell you, is a questionable assumption anyway).
As John Holt said "be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult..."
So today I'm just sharing a little list of some specific ways that I try to practice respectful parenting.
- There are foods I don't like, so it should be ok that there are foods that my kids don't like. (They aren't allowed to have an opinion about a food until they have tried it, but once they have given it a chance, then it's ok to conclude that they don't like it, and I won't make them "eat just one bite" every time.)
- I try to avoid patronizing phrases like "What do you say dear" or "because I'm the mom that's why" (although I firmly believe in teaching my children manners, I do so by example or the occasional "please say 'please.'" Just now as I was typing my toddler asked me to kiss something better, then said "sank oo, sank oo, sank oo!")
- When applicable, I apologize to my child (eg: "I'm sorry that I yelled at you Wolf. I was very frustrated that you did XYZ, because it's not acceptable for you to do that, but I am sorry that I yelled. I will work on responding more gently, I need you to please work on XYZ...")
- I expect my child to respond when I call him, but "just a second, mom" is a valid response (after all, I say it to him too).
- It is always ok to ask "why" in our house. As in, "why do I have to brush my teeth every night?" or "why is my bedtime earlier than yours and dads?" or "why do I have to do ____ that you just asked me to?" Depending on what they were asked to do, they may need to hurry and get it done (taking the dog out for example) and THEN I will answer the question. But I think it is always valid for a child to ask a question. For one thing it helps him develop good habits for the right reasons (ie, we brush our teeth to keep them clean and to avoid cavities, not just because mom says so).
- Another reason that I like questions is that they help me to question myself--is this an unfair request/demand I am making of him? Is this something necessary, or is it just convenient for me, or is it just habit for me? For example Wolf dislikes the transition of having to change his clothing. So he rarely wears pajamas--most nights he just sleeps in the t-shirt (and sometimes even jeans) that he plans to wear the following day. He says he is comfortable, it spares him a bothersome transition, and hey, why should I really care what he sleeps in, so long as he is warm enough?