Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Balak 73 Part 2 - Respect and then Love

The Chazon  Ish is quoted as saying –' what children need more than love is respect.'

Being respectful to children is one of the principles of Unconditional Parenting ( Alfie Kohn)and the Collaborative problem solving approach ( Ross Greene ). In part 2 of this article I discuss the Chazon Ish's statement  and share the role respect plays  in UP - unconditional parenting quoting from the UP book and CPS – collaborative problem solving approach .

Parents often forget that the laws and expectations governing interpersonal relationships with others include children, and think that kids don't deserve respect in the way that adults do.

 A kid that forgets a book at home is usually gets a mouthful of ' what is the matter with you ?, how many times have I to remind you to look around for your things before you leave ! With an adult , we would simply say here is your book. -  AK

When kids are not held in great esteem it becomes easier for parents to treat kids disrespectfully. They tend to attribute unflattering attributes to kids such as manipulative, attention seeking, defiant, irresponsible and become more controlling and authoritarian. They fail to see that kids have legitimate concerns, write off their kids' requests, dismiss their feelings of anger or trivialize their fears and are often talk about their kids in a belittling way – 'oh, she 's just being a prima donna ' or just ignore her when she gets like that'. This happens also because parents think that because they are the parents and are more mature, experienced and clever. They fail to realize that kids are more knowledgeable about some matters than they are. Thomas Gordon said it well " children sometimes know better than their parents when they are sleepy or hungry, know better the qualities of their friends, their aspirations and goals , how various teachers treat them , know better the urges and needs within their bodies, whom they love and whom they don't , what they value and what they don't"

When we show respect to kids we believe in them and trust them to being caring and responsible and we won't rely on the carrot or stick to solve problems. It is more respectable to solve problems together in a collaborative way trying to find mutually satisfying solutions than impose solutions in a unilateral way. The kids  is given a voice. His concerns, his perspective, the way he sees his friends and the world is important information in helping us to relate to him and crucial for solving problems. We cannot solve problems in a collaborative way if we don't acknowledge that he has legitimate concerns and we have a clear understanding of them.

The CPS – collaborative problem solving process starts with ' empathy step ' gathering information about the kids concerns . We don't start with our concerns and expectations. The Sages from Beit Hillel = Hillel's school used to start out, trying to understand the others' thinking and perspectives and only then share their views and understanding. Being respectable shows concern and caring and helps the kid feel understood. He is more likely to respect you and others if he feels respected and after feeling heard , he will actually ' hear ' what you are saying.

When talking to your child , it is useful to imagine that you are talking to your 25 year old , neighbor's son or your best friend. Your language will be more respectful and also the level of the conversation will be much higher.

When we show respect to a kid , it is an uplifting experience for him. He becomes a' gavrah' – a subject  ( as opposed to an 'object' of our love, commands, rewards etc ) . He can express his opinion, share his perspective , articulate his concerns, share his experiences and participate in solving problems and participating in the decision making process in the home whenever this is appropriate.

If God could consult the angels on his decision to create man we can certainly invite children to participate in decision making especially in matters that concern them most. They learn to be empathic, take into account family members' concerns and perspectives and find solutions that meet every ones needs and concerns.

Loving a kid is important,  but more important is how we love our kids. When the kid feels he is not respected, he will feel conditionally loved and accepted. We need to love kids for who they are,  and not for what they do . When we shower warmth and love on our kids without   respect , they become ' cheftza' =  Objects of our love .

A kid once described the relationship between him and his father. My father loves a boy, he will do anything for him , he shows lots of love and warmth , but that boy is not me . It is some ' virtual son'. He does not know me.  He never asks me what I think, he never allows me to participate in making decisions with him when it concerns me.

The kid was the object of his father's love , but he  needed to feel like a 'subject' in his father's eyes.

I will end by sharing 6 words we should try to say.

A special mom- Hands Free Mama went to her daughter's swimming lesson. After the lesson she said to her daughter.

I love to watch you swim.   

This is showing love. There is no judgment, no praise,  it is just about the mom's feelings. The conversation I am sure continued with her daughter describing how she felt and what she liked or did not like about the lesson.


  1. Hi Allan, I've been enjoying your new blog. This article particularly strikes a chord with me, as I've seen so much disrespect for children during my life, and I tend to lean that way myself with my own children.

    However, as an avid student of Self-Determination Theory and a reader of Alfie Kohn, and as a Latter-Day Saint, my values and beliefs now teach me very plainly that everyone deserves equal respect, and that includes children.

    You might be interested in the books written by the Arbinger Institute, especially "The anatomy of peace: resolving the heart of conflict". They discuss the concepts of how a specific behaviour (such as saying those 6 words you mentioned), can benefit or harm the other, depending on our attitude towards the person.

    If our heart is "at war", or we are "in the box" towards someone, none of our behaviours (even saying "I love you") will mask our attitude, and we will be perceived as manipulative and controlling. I think this is crucial element missing from SDT's autonomy support literature: it all focuses on behaviours, and not at all on the person's attitude (and respect) towards those whose autonomy he's trying to support.

  2. Thanks for your reading recommendations and insights. I am looking forward to learning more . It reminds me of the therapist who asked a mom to describe her relationship with her son - I love him, but I don't like him. Parents who try to collaborate and use Plan B , often find it challenging because their kids perceive this as merely a different strategy to get compliance – Plan B in the guise of Plan A = unilateral decision making. A lot of parenting books have sections devoted to collaborative problem solving and choices to get compliance the importance of relationship in making rewards and punishments more effective .