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Effective Discipline Techniques for Dealing with Disrespect

Updated: 2 days ago

There are many reasons why children are disrespectful (Part 1) and there are also different caregiving styles that increase or decrease disrespectful behavior (Part 2). Young children are learning to navigate the world around them and the variety of cultural expectations they experience in different settings. One thing is certain, what you do will make a difference! How adults handle disrespectful behavior now will ensure it is diminished in the future.

The reality is, humans are just that...human. We all make mistakes.

When did you learn to…

  • Listen and follow other people’s directions?

  • To wait for long periods of time…. For something you really want?

  • Resolve differences and conflicts in a positive and productive way?

  • Speak up for yourself in a respectful way (in a way the other person feels is respectful?)

  • Identify how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and then how to express your intense feelings appropriately?

….consistently, all the time? Note: I am still working on all of these!

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In this BIG Nugget (HUGE!), we look at effective discipline (what it is and is not) and a three-step process on addressing disrespect. Watch the video or read the short article below. Also, check out the FREEBIE below to start teaching children the expectations in your environment and how to recognize and helpful ways to address disrespectful behavior.

First off, let's consider....

Effective Discipline is NOT

  1. Punishment– chastisement, retribution, reprimand

  2. Regulation– order, control, obedience, authority

  3. Restraint– control, regulation, strictness

These types of discipline can actually increase disrespect over time (as described in Part 2).

Effective discipline IS

  • Instructing – prepare, train

  • Assisting – promote, reinforce

  • Training – guide, educate

  • Coaching – prepare, tutor

  • Teaching – explain, show, demonstrate

The focus on these helpful areas builds your relationship with the child and keeps the child open to your redirection.

If constructive guidance includes educating, preparing, reinforcing, demonstrating, and teaching... It helps to ask

"What do children need to learn in order to have respectful behavior?"

Well, research indicates once children learn your rules and cultural-specific expectations, they behave better. But, it also helps to have higher level thinking skills needed to self-regulate, including empathy, flexible thinking, working memory, and impulse control. Once established, these skills help a child behavior respectfully and avoid rude reactions when feeling intensely.

The reality is, children are always learning. So, when considering your response to disrespect, first ask yourself,

"What am I teaching?"

Three Helpful Steps to Deal with Disrespect

1) Teach respect. At this point in the nugget video, there are several ideas.

This video shows a wonderful teaching strategy in action. The activity explores what are "Stop" behaviors that are deemed disrespectful and what are "Go" behaviors that are okay to use when frustrated, sad, angry, etc.

Download this FREE Stop-Go tool, pick up some popsicle sticks, and try this activity this week! Remember to make it fun - and watch children preschool-age and older learn to identify not only what behaviors are not appropriate, but which are!

When doing this activity with 4-5 year olds, it was interesting for me to test their knowledge and thinking around this topic. I could literally see the struggle to get the nuances of acceptable choices for dealing with difficult situations. For example, when given the scenario, "A friend tries to take your toy and you say, 'STOP THAT'... is that a stop or a go?" Most said, "STOP!" They seemed relieved to hear they can use assertive behavior when someone else is stepping over their boundaries. With reinforcement, and teaching these lessons over time, preschoolers can learn the language and behaviors needed to set limits with others in a respectful way. What a life skill!

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2) Address disrespect.