Kids with defiant attitudes are clearly also disrespectful. So while part of your makeover is to no longer tolerate a defiant attitude and to expect compliance, the other part is to rebuild respect in your child. Here are four strategies to enhance this critical virtue:
• Define respect. Take time to explain clearly what you mean by acting respectfully.You might say, "Respect means that you value or admire someone or something by treating them in a considerate, courteous, and polite manner. How you treat people can let them know you think they are special. It can also let them know you don't value them. I expect you to act respectfully because it's one way to make our world a better place." Once your child understands, then expect respect.
• Ask the Golden Rule question. Emphasize the Golden Rule in your family: "Treat others as you want to be treated."
Explain that a simple way to determine if you are acting respectfully is to always ask yourself before you act,"Would I want someone to treat me like that?" Once your child understands the meaning of the question, use it any time her attitude is disrespectful: "Are you using the Golden Rule?" It will help her think about her attitude and its consequences to other people's feelings.
• Reinforce respect. Don't overlook one of the easiest ways to tune up respect: acknowledge your kid when he acts respectfully. Remember that attitudes that are reinforced are ones that kids will continue to use. "You told Dad using a respectful voice why you couldn't take out the trash because Grandma was calling any minute."
• Create new family rules. Many families develop a set of rules based on respect that everyone agrees will govern how they treat one another. Though they are almost always ones you would choose yourself, because the kids have a voice in determining them, they become "their rules," not "yours" (so they're much easier to enforce). Begin by brainstorming together, "What rules should guide how we treat one another in our family?"Write all suggestions on paper, and then use the democratic process and vote.The top suggestions become the family constitution. Here are a few family guidelines:
Don't borrow without asking. Listen to one another.
Don't pass on to others what is said in confidence.
Treat one another as you'd like to be treated.
Be considerate of one another.
Use a calm, pleasant voice.
Say only things that build people.
Respect each other's privacy.
Many families make their final version into a chart, have all members sign it, and post it as a visible reminder.
The First 21 Days
For the next twenty-one days, put your kid in charge of a major but age-appropriate Personal Responsibility Project that would benefit the entire family. For example, for a young child, organize the family games and sports equipment into bins or weed the flower patch. For older kids, possibilities are organizing the family photos, painting the steps down to the basement, or alphabetizing the family videos, books, and DVDs.Agree on a list of requirements and goals for the twenty-one-day time frame, and let your kid figure out how to get to the finish line on time. Also build in a consequence for failure, like loss of privilege. Don't help, and don't monitor. This kind of responsibility and respect can go a long way toward building self-confidence, creating independence, and ultimately teaching a spirit of willingness and cooperation, to replace the noncompliance and defiance of recent attitudes.
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