Due Respect

26 Aug

Dear LetterBalm: Sometimes I feel my husband and I are two against the world. He and I try to teach our teenagers to be polite and kind. But when they see other children acting rude and disrespectful and getting away with it, this undermines our efforts. Besides, our kids see that tough-guy, smartmouth attitudes are cool today – as in video games, reality shows, movies, music and celebrity life. We try to be consistent in applying fair and appropriate discipline, but we can’t always hold our kids’ attention. We don’t want to nag because this dilutes the purpose. Any helpful ideas?

–Parental Rights

Ms. L.B. commiserates. It’s deucedly hard to be a parent these days. You and your husband are on the right path. You’re the parents; you set the tone for discipline. Develop several simple stock phrases for use when the kids stray. These are known to all in the family and reflect your values. Keep them short and consistent. Rinse and repeat as needed. For example, the esteemed Miss Manners has a particularly effective mantra: “Sorry, but that is not the way our family does things.” Here is a sampling that kindly but firmly can bring the kids in line:

  • No matter what others are doing, we don’t go along with that behavior. No excuses.
  • You know that rude/disrespectful/disruptive behavior isn’t tolerated in this family.
  • You’ve behaved badly. You know better than that. How do you think you should make things right?
  • What you did is unacceptable. You’re going to have to undergo some punishment for that. What do you think would be fair?
  • You owe your friend/sibling/relative/parent/teacher/adult an apology. You acted badly. Please take care of this right away.
  • You lied/you were dishonest. This is serious, and you need to think about what you did and come up with a fair punishment so we can talk about it later today.
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