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Lessons on disrespect


Monday, May 02, 2016 7:17PM

When your 7-year-old child’s overnight playdate is disrespectful to you, what do you do? Should you send him home? Should you discipline him? Should you be honest when his mother asks about his behavior? And most important, what do you say to your child?

When a snarky voice from your child’s BFF says things like, “My house is bigger than yours” and “My mom’s cooking is better than yours” how do you stop from retaliating and stooping to his level of rude remarks when what you want to say is, “Oh yeah? Well you can just go back to your house and eat your mom’s cooking then” accompanied by the fantasy of a smack across the mouth. How do you take the high road and say something like, “Oh that’s nice”? Then when it gets followed by, “Open my lollipop, NOW” and, “I don’t have to” when asked to eat in the kitchen, or“WHY?!”when asked not to kick the door, it gets close to the edge of contemplating child abuse.

Worse still… when told not to do that after throwing a dirty sock in your face only to have the other one thrown in your face or to continue kicking a soccer ball at the window when told to stop or grabbing and eating any food in sight, you are ready to call the henchmen in. You grin and bear it, get through the night only to get more of the same the next morning, and finally get to take the brat home. What do you say when his mother asks how he behaved? “Oh fine” and run to the car swearing your child will never play with him ever again.

OK, you deal with the sleepover with gritted teeth but now what? The kids go to school together. This unmannered, entitled child is your son’s best friend. You see his mother almost everyday at pickup. Surely she’ll ask for another playdate. What is the right thing to do? Blow her off? Hope that you can simply evade a decision by saying, “Oh sure. I’m really busy for the next couple weeks, but I’ll get back to you”? Tell your son he can’t have him over again? What’s the right thing to do? Believe it or not, this is a valuable teaching scenario for your son. After the child has gone home, this is the time to seize the moment. Be honest and upfront with your child. “Well, that experience did not go down well with me at all. I felt very badly treated. Do you know why? Did you sense how upset I was?” This is your opportunity to teach your values without jamming You need to do such and such down his throat. This is your show-don’t-tell-moment. You can be very clear about how you felt with each transgression as long as you own your feelings, which you can do without blaming the transgressor. You don’t need to say, You may never have him over here again. I don’t want you ever to play with him.” When you share with your child how you experienced what happened, your child can listen. Telling him to be respectful of others when he is at someone’s house doesn’t hold a candle to this lesson.

Then add, “How do you think you would have handled a situation like that?” and “What do you think you would have said if his mother asked you to stop doing something?” Again, no need to tell or lecture. He will get a very strong message from your personal experience.

Then what next? When your son wants him to come over again, you can prepare yourself by anticipating the same rude behavior. So no sleepover. If he is rude, you can say, “I don’t like to be spoken to that way. Would you please try again and speak to me differently.” Then, if he doesn’t appear to hear you or care, “If you don’t want to follow our rules, I’ll be happy to take you home.” Then, to his mom who asks about the early return, “He seemed to be having a hard time at our house.” Period. Impressive lesson taught. No blame. No put-downs. No lecture. No submerging your feelings and living with resentment. You are taking responsibility for yourself and what you deserve. An admirable modeling job for your son.

Bonnie Harris is a parent educator, counselor, and author of “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” and “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With.” She founded The Parent Guidance Center in Peterborough, now The River Center.