Teaching children to respect you, not fear you

Discipline is an important part of childhood. But as parents, it can sometimes be difficult to walk the fine line between being strict and scaring your children. So do you teach your children respect, without teaching them to be afraid of you?

Fear and respect are two terms that come up during the child raising process, and they are often confused for one another. Most parents understand that they would rather promote respect in their child and not fear, but the difference isn’t always that clear in real life.

The first thing to realise is that fear is never a good emotion. You do not want your children to be scared of you. Not only will this ruin your relationship with them, but it will also have a negative impact on future relationships they’ll have with others. For example, children who have been disciplined using anger and fear often use those same tactics when interacting with other children. This can easily lead to bullying behaviour.

If you yell at your child and think you’re disciplining them, think again. You are not teaching them about wrong/right or consequences, but are simply causing them emotional distress.

Fear does not stop bad behaviours in a child. It just means that they are less likely to tell you that they have done something wrong. Children who fear their parents’ reactions often learn to lie at a very young age.

Teaching your child respect begins with being a good role model. Show respect to your children and partner by speaking to them in a civil manner, even when you’re angry or upset. Show the same respect to others outside of your home, including the driver who cuts you off while bringing the kids to school, and the cashier in the supermarket who isn’t bagging your groceries quickly enough. Children will copy your actions and follow your lead, and they will learn to yell and get angry instead of showing respect for others.

Keep reminding yourself that you’re a parent – you cannot lose your temper. If you feel angry, take a few deep breaths before addressing your child. Do not yell, shout, swear or become physically aggressive, because the only thing you’ll be teaching your child is to be afraid of you.