Being Treated Respectfully By Kids

by , M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)

respect words

Is respect one of your family’s top moral values? Treating each other with respect is a fundamental quality of healthy relationships. When your children treat you with respect, they honor your worth, dignity and importance. Likewise when you treat your children with respect, you honor their worth, dignity and importance.

Both you and your kids want to feel valued and have your needs taken into consideration. When this happens, everyone feels respected. Parents who yell, threaten, insult, and curse their kids aren’t respected. They may be feared or even hated but they’re not respected.

Respectful Versus Disrespectful Behavior

What does respect look like to you? When your children are treating you with respect, what are they doing?

Here are some ways your children may be showing respect:

  • Listening to you
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Waiting a turn to talk without interrupting
  • Helping out with household tasks
  • Letting you know where they are going and when they’ll be back
  • Calling or texting if they will be home late
  • Smiling, hugging
What do your kids do that you consider disrespectful? How do you feel when your kids are being disrespectful? Disrespectful behavior tends to trigger strong emotions so it quickly catches your attention.

Some disrespectful behavior you may see from your kids include:

  • Talking back
  • Ignoring you
  • Hitting you
  • Swearing
  • Refusing reasonable requests
  • Rolling their eyes at you
Nobody likes being treated disrespectfully! You cannot force your children to treat you with respect. However, how you respond to disrespectful behavior can make a big difference in how your kids behave in the future.

Setting Boundaries on Disrespectful Behavior

Healthy boundaries establish the line between what behaviors are okay and what are not. Disrespectful behavior from your kids crosses the boundary into behavior that is not okay.

Have you ever seen a young child hit their parent while the parent ignores what is happening? Ignoring disrespectful behavior sends the unspoken message is that it is okay to act that way.

What if your child hit you? How could you set a boundary? One way is to take your child’s hands in yours, look straight in her eyes declaring “It is not ok to hit me. Our rule is you hit, you sit. So you need to sit right here for three minutes.”

When your kids are acting disrespectfully, there are often big feelings behind their behavior. Their feelings are not right or wrong. The way they chose to express their feelings crosses the boundary if it is disrespectful.

You can always acknowledge their feelings while setting a limit on their behavior. Suppose your child is angry and says “You’re so unfair! I hate you!” You might respond “I know you’re angry. You need to find other words to tell me about your anger.”

How do you handle your child being disrespectful in a public situation? You can choose to delay fully dealing with the disrespectful behavior. You might say “That is not okay. We’ll talk about it when we get home.” When you do get home be sure to follow up on it.

Holding Kids Accountable

It is important to hold your kids accountable for their behavior especially when they cross boundaries. Brené Brown discusses this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Brown writes “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”

For example if your child leaves dirty dishes in the living room, yelling at him for being lazy is attacking him as a person. Holding him accountable could be done by saying “I notice that you left some dishes in the living room. I’ll be happy to start making dinner just as soon as your dishes are cleaned up.” Then go do something you enjoy like reading or gardening to help yourself avoid nagging him.

You teach your kids how to treat you. By refusing to tolerate disrespectful behavior, you teach your children to treat you with respect. When they treat you with respect, they are far more likely to treat other adults also with respect. Respectful behavior will serve your kids well in life and being together will be much more enjoyable!

About Kathy Slattengren

Kathy Slattengren

Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.

Parents and teachers from across the United States to Australia have been helped through Priceless Parenting's:


online parenting classes

parenting articles


Raising Kids Who Blossom book