Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director
Building the Habit of Respect
One of my sons (no naming names!) was an expert arguer. He knew exactly how to suck me into an argument. Before I knew it my temper was up and voices were rising. As young as he was, eventually I realized that he was learning how to control me! He knew exactly what “buttons to press.” In an effort to not be like my mom, whose favorite phrase when frustrated with me was: “Because I told you so”, I wanted my boys to understand the whys behind the rules and boundaries. However, they were not always mature enough to understand reason - thus the arguing.
This had to change! It wasn’t good for any of us.
Change took time.
I will share with you what I started to do, although what this may look like in your family may look very different:
Typically, through this process I was able to remain calm because they hadn’t gotten under my skin yet, and when they eventually returned, they would often apologize.
One thing I realized is that respect goes both ways. Not only did all three of my sons have to learn how to respect me, but I had to learn how to respect them. Yes, they needed to learn what were acceptable and unacceptable ways of getting my attention or speaking with me when disagreeing. But I needed to model that for them.
I had thought that I was a patient person…until I had children! I had to learn, even as they were learning. As challenging as they often were, I know that I am a better person because of them. I learned to listen – to them and to the Lord – and I learned how to love them with more than my intentions: with my ears, words, and actions.
My husband and I decided early on to make sure that we regularly told our guys (and each other) that we love them. I remember when they were young teens saying to one of them, when things were not going well and he had intentionally messed up, “I love you so very much. You are my son and I choose to do that. I have to love you. That is what families do. But you know what…? Right now I don’t like you very much! We need to work on that!” Love is unconditional and is a commitment. “Like” is an emotion that is contingent upon how we treat each other. And, no, I did not scar them for life! We talked that through so they understood what I meant.
To this day, every once in a while, one of them will turn to me and say, “Mom, I like you.”
I guess I did something right.
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