Families are strengthened when parents require their children to speak to them with respect. What parent has not been faced with a teenager, pre-teenager, or young child who has responded with "whatever," "yada yada yada," or something similar? I imagine that most parents have had this experience at least once. How is a parent supposed to respond to such disrespectful behavior?
Family psychologist John Rosemond (www.rosemond.com) wrote an answer for this "widespread problem" in an article printed recently in the Anchorage Daily News. He indicated that the problem probably starts with the parent-child relationships portrayed on television in which "even preschool children are likely to speak to their parents as if they are addressing bumbling idiot servants, at which point the laugh track comes on. Over time this media influence has significantly undermined children's respect for adults." He claims that one of the first of these destructive programs was one of my favorite shows - "The Cosby Show."
Dr. Rosemond contends that the problem is also increased by parents who "function as perpetual servants to children who sit center-stage, and in all-too-many American classrooms, teachers act as if their highest priority is to be liked by their students." He continued with, "When a person who occupies a position of authority does not act like an authority figure, disrespect is the natural response."
Dr. Rosemond suggested a way to stop the disrespect - "confront it when it occurs but without anger." The authority figure should gently help the child or teenager to realize how his/or words are coming across. Whenever the disrespectful tone comes out, the parent or teacher should simply say, "Try that again." When asked for an explanation, tell him/her that learning to speak with the right tone of voice will be in his/her best interest because adults respond quicker and with more cooperation when respect is shown to them. Repeat the "try again" until respect is shown. Make sure that you praise the effort - and then fulfill any reasonable request. "A gentle, somewhat humorous stubbornness on your part will eventually carry the day."