Back view of a Young girl with blond hair in pigtail braids wearing a white tank top under blue jean overalls. walking down a tree covered path with hands behind her back


As a coach of willpower and empowerment, I am fascinated by the qualities and characteristics that allow us to increase respect for ourselves, others and life. In today’s article, we’ll take a closer look at a nine-year-old’s simple wisdom about how adults can gain respect from children.

Although I generally hear from adults, I treasure the opportunity to hear the thoughts and feelings of children. Their “tell-it-like-it-is” nonchalance is endearing and often packs an obvious and humorous punch. My nine-year-old friend regularly shares astute observations of the inconsistency of adults. Last summer, when we were enjoying some time swimming and paddling on the lake, she shared her loss of respect for an adult, and her theory of how to deal with adults who are inconsistent. I found her summary to be succinct and accurately describe the behavior of both children and adults.

She began by stating her curiosity, “I don’t know why parents tell kids not to do something and then they go and do it themselves. It makes me not want to do anything they say.”

Wanting to learn more

I asked, “Could you give me an example?”

“Sure!” she said. The last time I was playing with my friend, her mom said, “Don’t go outside and play now, it’s getting dark and it’s not safe. And then she went outside for like an hour and talked to her friend while she stood there in the dark. Why is it not okay for me to be outside if it’s okay for her to be outside? I mean, is it safe or not?”

“Good point!” I said. “So how do you deal with that type of parent?”

“I let them talk, but I stop listening. I mean, why should I listen if it doesn’t mean anything?”

“How does that work?” I asked.

“Sometimes they don’t notice at all. Every once in a while they yell at me for doing what they just told me not to do, even though they are doing it. Or, they ask me if I have A.D.D., since they have to say the same thing over again. But most of the time it works.”

Parents, do we get the picture?

How WE LIVE, is how we “teach” our children to live. A child’s respect for us crumbles when our words are opposite of our actions. Our “double meanings” create defiance and rebellion in our children (and most adults as well). Rebellion is exemplified by children who “tune us out,” ignore us, do opposite of what they are told (aka-they choose to do what WE do), burst out in anger, cry, struggle inwardly, murmur and curse us under their breath, fight, are confused and even depressed. Children seek clarity—single-mindedness in thought, word and deed. This gives them the structure upon which to build: character, personality and trust in us and their feeling of safety in the world.

With this in mind …

Here’s what the nine-year-old said we need to do to gain respect.

1) “Do what you say. If you say we get to go for ice cream tonight, don’t change your mind except for emergency.”

2) “Tell the truth.”

3) “Be nice. Why would I want to listen to someone who’s mean to me?”

4) “Listen instead of talking. Sometimes I need to ask you things.”

5) “Do stuff with me without anybody else.”

6) “Don’t punish me because you’re mad. Most punishment would never happen if parents would pay attention to what their kids are doing–they could stop it before it starts.”

7) “Tell me when I’m good. Be proud of me.”

8) “Ask me to do something important.”

9) “Hug me even if you’re mad.”

10) “Be happy.”

What say ye?

Please share your thoughts and feelings so we may grow in strength and willpower together …

Always with love,

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