10 Parenting Tips for the Firefighter Family, Part 4

By Anne Gagliano

I’ve saved this tenth and final parenting tip for last because it is so encompassing, so vast as to need its own entire column.  I believe it to be foundational to good parenting, so much so that if you fail in this area, no matter what else you do for your kids, you’ve failed as a parent.

10. If Your Child Does Not Respect You, They Will Not Have True Respect for Anyone Else, Including Themselves.  Respect—it’s an awesome word.  What does it mean?  We know it when we see it, and we especially recognize its counterpart, disrespect.  You’ve seen these children, and so have I. We avoid them; we don’t want to be around them; we may, in fact, secretly wish to be mean to them.  I’m referring to the spoiled brat.  We watch in horror as these little beasts slap at their parents, defy them, yell and scream at them, and completely disobey in absolute utter defiance.  We think, “Oh, that kid’s a monster!”  But the truth is, the real monsters are the parents who have failed to earn this child’s respect, for they are doing their child a great disservice by making them unfit for society.

Children aren’t born respectful; anyone who’s had a baby recognizes this truth almost immediately.  Babies and toddlers, though adorable, are the most selfish, demanding little creatures on the planet; they genuinely believe everyone, especially their parents, exists solely to meet their every need, right now!  But as early as possible, we parents must educate them otherwise; we must show them, day by day, step by step, that the world does not revolve around them.  If we do not, they are in for a rude awakening when they go to school and cannot play well with others or follow the simplest of instructions from a teacher because they have no respect for others or for authority.  And as this spoiled child becomes a disrespectful adult, he is headed for disaster in every arena of life from relationships to jobs and, if not stopped, ultimately with the law.

So how do we turn our selfish little ones into respectful, highly functioning children and adults?  The first step is to set rules and boundaries.  With firmness, not anger, tell your children “no”; no we don’t hit, no we don’t yell and scream, no we can’t have everything we want the minute we want it.  Make the rules clear and define the boundaries, and when they’ve been crossed, let it be known that there will be consequences.

This leads to the second step, proper discipline.  What is proper discipline?  Proper discipline is consistent and fair.  It is enforced equally with all children.  It is done with resolute strength countered by patience and love.  And, most importantly, proper discipline occurs only when the offender clearly understands the rules, but knowingly defies them anyway.  For example, we never punished our boys for childish behavior, such as accidently breaking or spilling something.  We never punished them for forgetting to do something which, again, stems from immaturity.  But we did bring down the law when they deliberately and blatantly defied us, and we did it early and consistently.  If you set the boundaries right away and enforce them regularly, they will be respected, because your kids will then know, without a doubt, that you mean what you say.

Teaching your child to respect you and others doesn’t end with telling them what’s wrong; it also must include showing them what’s right.  The third step is to earn your child’s respect by example.  Again, this should begin early.  If you don’t want your children to yell and scream at you, then don’t yell and scream at them.  I did the opposite; when my kids were crossing the line, they got “the look.” No yelling was involved.

Since I never yelled at my kids, they learned that a raised voice was something to take notice of, for it was not the norm.  A loud cry was generally in warning of impending danger, which is, in my opinion, the only proper time to scream at your kids.  Without yelling, and with “the look,” I could warn my kids that they were crossing the boundaries in public without embarrassing them.  Screaming at your children in front of others is disrespectful to them; it is humiliating.  If you do this, you teach them it’s okay to shame others.  If “the look” was not enough to deter them in public, then they were quickly removed to the car and taken home. Instead of publicly shaming them, they learned that bad behavior was not tolerated; the outing would then simply not proceed.  Respect your children’s dignity in public, and this will teach them how to do the same for you.

Show your kids respect in public and, more importantly, at home.  Speak to your children with praise and support.  Encourage them.  Don’t call them names, mock them, or criticize them.  With kindness and consistency they will grow to trust you, which is the basis of all respect.  If you are considerate of them, they will be considerate of you.  If you respect their possessions and give them ownership, they will respect yours.  And if you demonstrate character, they will listen to you.

And lastly, if you want your children to have respect for others, let them see that you do.  Firefighters, you have an instant leg up in this area, for no one has more honor and cares more for people than you.  Bring your kids to work, let them see what you do and how much you serve others, and they will witness firsthand what it means to be a positive, contributing member of society.  Firefighters are the antitheses of selfishness; they are truly self-sacrificing.  Let your kids see this from an early age and they will admire you beyond words.  Your courage will make you their hero, for life.  This admiration will carry through even into the most typically disrespectful years of all, the teens.  Don’t hide what you do out of modesty or a desire to shield them; they need to know about sacrifice to truly appreciate it.  You have an ace in the parenting game when your profession is one so worthy of respect, so use it!  Raising your children to respect you is the greatest gift you can give them, for children who are respectful are a better students, better friends, better spouses, and more employable.  And they have higher self-esteem as they are typically happier, for true happiness comes from an attitude of gratitude rather than an assumption of entitlement.  So remember, parents, respect begins with you.

 

Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 27 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.

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