Your child doesn't seem to listen to you. She won't
clean her room, her grades are just about average even during the best grading
periods and she talks back when you ask her to do something. She even embarrasses you
in front of your friends with her behavior.
When you listen to other parents discuss their children and how they handle the rough patches, some offer spankings as
punishments for misdeeds while others give time-outs. Some act as strict
dictators, quickly enforcing rules and guidelines, while others are more relaxed
in their communication style. So many options can lead to so much confusion when you're at your wit's end.
You want respect from your child, but you have no clue
how to gain it. Stricter punishments? Yelling and screaming? Maybe shaming her
in public will help the situation. Should you use fear as a motivator for good
"Fear is only effective while you can maintain it,"
asserts Dr. Judi Cinéas, a licensed psychotherapist in Palm Beach,
Fla. "Eventually most kids grow out
of that stage, and you lose your source of power."
Although instilling fear can keep children in line, Cinéas believes there is always a possibility that there will come a
time when you can no longer rule by fear. "Mothers and sons is one of the
easiest examples," she says. "When he gets to be bigger than you, it's hard to
instill fear in someone who towers over you—and the child will see it the same
Instead of aiming to control your child out of fear, Cinéas recommends parents should aim for respect. According to Cinéas,
respect allows the child to be able to trust the parent—something they cannot
have with fear.
It is important for a parent to be an authority figure and not a tyrant.
"When you respect someone, you value them and what they
have to share. When you fear the person, you do what they say to do to prevent
consequences. Fear does not allow the child to develop and grow. They don't
learn how to become independent thinkers, make decisions or express themselves
in a relationship that is kept together by fear," she states.
But how can we parents know when we are crossing the
line between fear and respect?
"Helping children understand the rules and their
purpose is as important as making sure they know the rules," Cinéas advises. "It's important to talk to children. This is one way to ensure that
they get to know you and you get to know them. This helps build the
relationship where they get to see the parent as a person they can trust and
respect instead of this overseer that they should fear. Seeing how comfortable
the child is with talking to the parent can help them gauge if the child fears
them. The way they react or respond to interaction with a parent shows a lot
about what they think of the parent."
Of course there will be those stages where children
will not want to share everything with their parents, which is normal and
acceptable. Cinéas warns that it is
important for a parent to be an authority figure and not a tyrant, which is best
achieved by developing a relationship with your child that extends beyond
laying down the law.
"A parent who is only there when it is time to
discipline is at greater risk of being that feared parent," warns Cinéas.
"Having a fuller relationship that includes fun, relaxed times helps set that