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Disrespect means to have little or no respect for something or someone.  Disrespect can be displayed, not only by the way that you talk to someone or treat someone, but also by your attitude and actions towards someone.  When thinking about disrespect, it is vital that we take into consideration the importance of relationship building between all people.  Remember, different is not better or worse.  Different is just different.

Other Names and Terms: Talking back, rolling eyes, stomping feet, name calling, being rude, constant complaining

Key Points of Discussion: Parents, guardians, youth workers, and friends are ideal to help understand and deal with issues involving disrespect. Listed below are key points that might be useful in discussing disrespect:

  • Model respectful behavior. Before approaching a situation that's making your blood boil, take a moment to calm down and regain your composure.  Find out what is going on with the student to make him display this type of behavior. Typically a child who is hurting others is feeling hurt herself; the goal then is revenge. Some children may be disrespectful to get attention or to show power. Identifying the likely hidden message helps figure out the best way to respond.
  • Give lessons on respectful behavior. Demonstrate respectful ways to approach and respond to others, and let the children practice them. If your student was in a situation where they disrespected someone, ask them what they could have done differently in the situation. 
  • Role-play a problem situation with a child individually or during a class meeting. Allow the child to play the role of the adult and to practice both unacceptable and acceptable choices. Encourage the child to openly express the feelings he experienced when in the adult role. Reverse roles, and go through the process again.
  • Avoid lectures, shaming, and blaming children. Such adult tactics create disrespectful responses.  It is important to keep an open mind.
  • Take time to connect with each other. It is easy to be disrespectful to a person you perceive only as an object that you can control or manipulate. It is difficult to be disrespectful toward someone who is an asset to you or who sees you as an asset. Take time for giving compliments, appreciations, and words of encouragement.
  • Discuss the students' understanding of disrespectful and respectful behavior.  Identify and role-play ways in which people can behave respectfully in specific situations.  Correct inappropriate behavior and give examples of appropriate solutions.
  • Develop an atmosphere of trust.  Help students to see that you are more interested in solutions to problems than in identifying or punishing those who misbehave.  Learn to trust the process of working with children rather than trying to control them.

Talking to Children:
As adults we can choose whether our interactions with children are positive or negative.  After all, we do have more experience.  Teaching respect to children is not something complex.  Rather it is all about modeling behavior. Children do not learn how to be disrespectful on their own.  It is a modeled behavior they pick up on.  Think about a time when someone demanded something from you.  Did you give them the time of day or give them what they wanted?  Probably not.  When a child demands something from you, talks back to you, or is rude to you it is important to help them think about their actions by how we react.  If we engage in an argument, all we are teaching them is how to have a power struggle.  We cannot control their thoughts or actions, but we can definitely control ours.  Staying calm, possibly ignoring their demands, and definitely not rewarding their behavior (by giving them what they want) are effective ways of communicating our expectations. 

  • 5-7- you can teach younger children about disrespect by asking them to recall how it feels to be made fun of.  Ask them how they felt, and whether or not their feelings were hurt.  Chances are they will remember crying, feeling sad, and feeling alone.  Teach them making fun of someone or being made fun of is disrespectful behavior. Younger children can related to feelings better than abstract concepts.  If a stronger form of discipline is required, explain to your child why the behavior is wrong and give them a “time out.” 
  • 8-11- children at this age tend to relate to actions.  The next time your child demands something from you, try ignoring them.  Continue responding in this manner until they ask why you did not respond. You can take full advantage of this teachable moment by staying calm and politely asking them to sit down.  Explain to your child being demanding toward others is disrespectful and rude.  Make it very clear they will continue to be ignored until they choose to address you in a polite and respectful way.  Remind them using the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are wonderful ways of showing respect.  Although ignoring your child when they are being demanding is rude and disrespectful on your end, it does teach them their rude behavior will not be rewarded.

Risk Factors and Warning Signs:

  • Outwardly disobeying the rules.
  • Makes fun of or mocks you.
  • Does not respond when they are greeted or asked a question.
  • Making rude remarks and talking under their breath.
  • Complaining.
  • Rolling their eyes when they have been asked to do something.
  • Talking back.
  • Barging into a room without knocking or asking for permission.
  • Yelling or screaming when asked a question.

Coping Skills and Techniques:

  • Model respectful behavior.  When your child is disrespectful toward you, it is highly important you stay calm.  The last thing you want to do is yell, threaten, or shame your child. 
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your child.  Talk to them about specific disrespectful behaviors you do not approve of, and make the consequences of such behaviors very clear.
  • Set your plan in motion, do not correct disrespectful behaviors, ignore them instead, follow through with the consequences, and praise respectful behavior.
  • Do not allow reward disrespectful behaviors by giving in.