Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

May 26, 2017

6 ways to teach kindness and respect- a psychologist article review


Ashley Kies PhD LPA NCSP is a psychologist at the Midtown office- Child and Family Development.  Recently, she read a helpful article on a school psychologist page that was linked to the website of parent coach, Nicole Schwarz, MA, LMFT.  A direct link is available here.  The article offers helpful strategies for parents to use when teaching their children how to treat others with kindness and how to communicate strong feelings without being disrespectful. 

Dr. Kies shares her summary:

The article makes some important points about the importance of teaching children about speaking respectfully to others, but not in the heat of the moment.  However, this is the time that parents often feel it is most important to deal with the child‚Äôs behavior.  The author reminds readers that once a child is angry, disappointed, frustrated, or upset, the thinking part of their brain has shut down. They are in survival mode and their body is flooded with stress chemicals and they are not able to hear and process the lessons you are trying to teach.  Additionally, the fact that we cannot teach our children to be respectful by treating them with disrespect is emphasized.  Unfortunately, parents are often triggered by their children‚Äôs disrespectful behavior, which causes their brain to go into survival mode. At this point, the parent also is not able to think rationally.  This can result in a parental response that will either be filled with anger, yelling, and punishment or the parent may shut down and give up.

So, what did the author recommend? She stated that the goal is to address the behavior without threatening, bribing or responding with disrespect.

  • Stay calm: It‚Äôs not easy to keep cool when our kids are being rude. This may feel impossible at first. Meeting them with disrespect sends the wrong message. Instead, model good self-care by taking a deep breath, counting to 20, or repeating a mantra: ‚ÄúThis is not an emergency‚Äù before you respond to your child.
  • Decode the Behavior: Look at things from your child‚Äôs perspective. Were they caught off guard? Is what you‚Äôre asking inconvenient? Do they feel powerless? Their response is a reflection of what they are feeling inside. Unfortunately, at this point, they can‚Äôt put it into more appropriate words.
  • Empathize: Help your child understand their own feelings by offering an empathetic response, ‚ÄúIt seems unfair that we have to go already‚Äù or ‚ÄúI know it‚Äôs hard to leave when you‚Äôre having such a fun time!‚Äù You do not have to agree with the feeling; it simply means that you are willing to relate to their experience.
  • Check the Time: Some kids are affected by low blood sugar, hunger, or thirst. Others are very sensitive to environmental stimulation or not getting enough sleep. Has it been awhile since your child ate? Could they use a sip of water? Or a break from a loud environment?  Offer it in a non-threatening way, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to have a cracker, would you like one too?‚Äù
  • Slow It Down: It‚Äôs easy to get pulled away with the ‚Äúrunaway train‚Äù of angry, frustrated words and emotions. Instead of jumping on board and responding to every criticism or complaint your child throws at you, try to put on the brakes, ‚ÄúWhoa! That‚Äôs a lot of info. I‚Äôd like to listen, but you‚Äôre talking too fast. Let‚Äôs calm down so I can understand what you‚Äôre trying to say.‚Äù
  • Connect: If your child is misbehaving, the last thing on your mind is cuddling. However, for many kids, connection is exactly what they need! If you are able to look past the behavior and ignore all of the big feelings and overwhelming emotion, you will be able to see that your child is hurting and needs support. Sometimes, a hug is better than any verbal response.                     

The article concludes by stating that once you have made it through the big feelings, you can decide if the situation was simply the result of a child who had too much candy and excitement at a play date or if this is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. 

Read more about counseling services from our psychology team here.