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Teaching Children to Respect Authority


I had to laugh at an email I received over the weekend. It’s from a blog network wanting to add me, and the message was very flattering. Especially this line: “This can help further establish you as an authority on raising a child.


I’m so far from an authority on child-rearing. In fact, because I know so very little on the topic, I’m coming to you with a question today.

How do you teach a child to respect authority?

I have a child (who will remain unnamed) who thinks they are every adult’s peer, despite their small stature and low number of years. They talk back, throw out orders, contradict, argue, and play my husband and I against each other (though it has never succeeded). Those who hear or see it now thinks it’s so funny. I say, give it a year or two. The charm and humor will disappear into an obnoxious, annoying, rebellious, totally out-of-line and out-of-control child.

I feel like I’m hitting my head on a concrete wall with this child. We’ve been having them stop and re-state what they said in a respectful way (which sometimes means just saying, “Yes, mom” instead of whatever argument they have for doing their own thing) for what seems like forever, but disrespectful words and defiance is very much still the default. To  me, it doesn’t seem like we’ve made any progress in teaching respect and respectful speech.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to equip our children to function well in the world. I see this weakness in my child, and frankly, I’m discouraged. With a mouth like this, this child is utterly ill-equipped to respond to teachers, bosses, and other authorities. Somehow, we must help them learn to control their tongue and listen to others. But how?

Do you have any suggestions? Is this something we just have to keep after for as long as it takes, even if that’s years, or are there other ways we can try to get through?


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