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             If your son or daughter is disrespectful, maybe your brother or sister could say: “Hey, don’t talk to your mother like that!” It’s not a happy moment, but as the parent on the firing line, you might feel more supported and your child might get the message that some talk is not tolerated.

            Joey: I’m going to watch TV now.

            Mom:  How about your homework?

            Joey:  Later, I’ve got plenty of time.

            Mom:  Didn’t you say your history paper was due tomorrow?

            Joey:  Mom, you don’t know anything about how long the paper will take.

            Aunt Sylvia: Be careful how you talk to your mother.  She’s had many years of school; I think she knows.

            Joey:  I’ll do it when I’m ready.

            Aunt Sylvia:  Well, I can’t ride you over to your practice until your mother says it’s okay.

            Joey:  You didn’t even know about the history paper until Mom brought it up; what do you have to do with it, anyway?

            Mom:  Don’t talk to your Aunt Sylvia that way; she’s concerned about you, too.  Now get to that paper so you can make soccer practice on time.

            Your best protectors are your own spouse, relative, or friend who comes to your aid when it seems parent abuse is likely.  They should protect both Mom and Dad from mistreatment, even by a child.

            Jenny: Mom, tie my shoe!

            Mom: Just a minute. I’m talking.

            Jenny: Do it now!

            Eric (Mom’s close friend): Take it easy, Jenny, let your Mom finish.

            Two adults can be stronger than one, and they can be an example about how the members of the family should treat each other. Eric wouldn’t let a stranger barge in and make demands of his friend at a restaurant, and he’s not going to sit by when her child does it at home either.

            Extended family can help, like Eric and Aunt Sylvia, or they can be part of the problem.

            Eric: You can’t find your keys?  I can’t believe it!

            Jane (Mom): Just a minute, here they are.

            Eric: I swear, you would lose your head if you didn’t have …

            The kids can easily absorb an adult game of “I-can’t-believe-you’re-such-a-klutz!” It’s no help to have an adult friend or relative show the kids how to abuse or show disrespect for their parent.

            Eric:  This car needs some work.       

            Jane:  Why don’t you take it in Monday.

            Eric:  Me?  You’re the one who drives it most!

            Jane:  I have to get to work early.  You just lounge around until later anyway.

            Eric:  Hey, that cushy job of yours…

            Jane:  Wait, wait, let’s get the car fixed , OK?

            You may think this argument is about car repairs and who should see that it gets done. But a child listening on the sidelines doesn’t understand, and doesn’t care to understand, the details of dropping a car off for repairs. As with their friends, children have their “antennae out” and are more interested in what the conversations say about how people feel about each other rather than the content. They often get it wrong.

            So after a simple disagreement on the car, Eric may be surprised to hear Jenny say:  “You don’t like Mommy, do you?”

            “What!  Of course I do, whatever gave you that idea?”

            The misunderstanding can be corrected, but the temptation to imitate the attitude Jenny heard will linger on.  The impression will only be corrected by future examples from Mom and Dad and from the Erics and Aunt Sylvias of Jenny’s world.

            So on your next visit with the family, in addition to recognizing the next birthday, donate extra time for talking– ask good questions, take time to listen, and keep the pace slow.

 

Dr. McIntire is the author of What Every Parent Should Know About Raising Children, Raising Your Teenager: 5 Crucial Skills for Moms and Dads and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times. Write him at sumcross@aol.com

 

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