No parent would disrespect her child on purpose, but sometimes we do so without knowing. Check out these three ways we unintentionally disrespect kids — and what to do instead.
Would you say you disrespect your kids?
If you’re like me, you would assume no, of course not. You love your kids and would never disrespect them. You wouldn’t want others to do so, much less yourself.
But sometimes we disrespect our kids without even knowing it.
We mean well and may not see how our words affect them, or we overlook the consequences of our actions, thinking all is fun and jest when really, it’s not.
And sometimes, we just didn’t know any better, and only later realized how disrespectful we actually were toward them.
3 ways we unintentionally disrespect kids
I’ve certainly caught myself after the fact and cringed at how I had disrespected my kids at one point or another.
The acts themselves seem innocent, but in hindsight, they didn’t take into account my kids’ feelings or the message I was sending them.
Of course, in the grander scheme of things, the love we shower them with far outweigh the mistakes we make. Still, take a look at these three ways we unintentionally disrespect kids and see if you’re guilty of them, too:
1. You talk about your kids as if they weren’t there
“Don’t say ‘he’!” my then-preschooler blurted out loud in irritation. My husband and I had no idea who he was talking about.
“Who’s ‘he’?” I asked.
But as just as I said it, I realized we’d been talking about him right in front of his face. Not only were we talking about him, but as if he wasn’t there at all.
You can imagine how this must feel. It’s like having dinner with two people talking to one another about you. Not only were we blatantly talking about him in his presence, we were also leaving him out of the conversation.
If you’ve found yourself talking about your child in front of her, take heart. You were having a legitimate conversation about what she ate that day, whether she had used the potty, or the activities she’d done that morning.
And you’re probably used to talking about her that way because it wasn’t too long ago when she was a mere baby who couldn’t chime in.
Still, it’s enough for kids to notice that not only are they excluded from the conversation, but they’re the subject of one.
It’s tempting to talk about them as if they weren’t there, referring to them in the third person. From proud to funny moments, we want and need to discuss these details with each other. But it’s frustrating for them to experience, especially as they grow more aware that they’re the subject of conversation.
The alternative? Include your child in the conversation and updates. You can say, “Remember what we did today? Tell daddy how we went to the park and you climbed the ladder all by yourself!”
Or wait until she’s not around before reviewing the day with your partner. You avoid talking about her as if she wasn’t there, and you can discuss sensitive issues more freely.
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2. You share your child’s private conversations with others
Back when we lived in an apartment building, my son and I were coming home when we saw the property manager down the hall. He pointed out that our manager had fixed our toilet yesterday because it was broken.
So, when we finally greeted our manager, I asked my son, “What did you say again about Harold?” hoping he’d repeat himself in front of our manager. I thought it was adorable he’d remembered the toilet getting fixed the day before, and wanted to share it with others.
Instead, my son just smiled a sheepish smile, clung onto me, and kept his mouth shut, embarrassed at being put on the spot.
We assume anything our kids say, especially if they’re cute or hilarious, is open for sharing. I can’t imagine doing that to another adult, but we do this time and again to our kids.
We share the funny way they garbled their grammar or that they’re afraid of the dark. We assume anything they say is share-worthy, regardless of how they feel.
Not all stories are meant to be shared. They might make you chuckle or feel proud, but our kids might not have meant them for anyone else’s ears but ours. You can imagine how this might deteriorate the trust they have, wondering if we share everything they confide in us.
My son didn’t intend his comment to reach any other person’s ears but mine. His comment may have been cute, but to him it was just a statement he didn’t want shared, especially as a little novelty.
3. You “spell” in front of your child
Communicating discreetly with others isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve referred to our kids’ lovies as “L” when we couldn’t find them. After all, saying the whole word would incite emotions we’d rather not deal with. (“Where is lovey?!”) I’ve also spelled M-I-L-K to my husband knowing full well they have no idea what we’re talking about.
Our intentions are innocent enough. We don’t want our kids reacting when they realize we’re washing their lovies in the laundry. Or you need to discuss with your partner whether to offer a cup of milk tonight without the kids chiming in.
Still, spelling in front of kids can be condescending. We’re speaking in a “secret” language that relies on their inability to read and spell.
Yes, parents should and can be discreet given certain topics, but that’s the thing: we should be discreet about it. Spelling in front of kids isn’t cutting it, and they’ll realize that sooner than later.
No way are these incidents the worst offenses to children, especially since we don’t even realize we’re disrespecting them. But when you think about whether we would do the same to adults, the idea is comical. We forget kids have emotions and notice the subtleties in our words.
I can’t say I have a perfect record with these offenses even after all these years, but I do my best. I try to be discreet when hiding information, and I honor our private conversations instead of sharing them like they’re novelties.
And I remember my kids should be part of the conversation, not the third-person subject of one.
Get more tips:
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