Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

Does Your Child Respect, or Fear You?

Photograph by Getty Images

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.

RELATED: 20 Discipline Mistakes All Moms Make

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 behavior?

"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 way."

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 balance. "

Share This on Facebook?

More from kids