Respectful Challenge


December 15, 2009 by Marj Hatzell

It’s difficult for me to admit, but Bug Boy’s sassy mouth was inherited directly from me.  I’m impulsive, Type-A and easily excitable.  It’s no surprise that he’s a rude little mofo when he wants to be.  At school he’s polite, kind and basically the teacher’s little pet. He’s all PLEASE THIS and THANK YOU THAT and EXCUSE ME and MAY I.

At home?

Let’s just say I’m about to buy a few extra bars of soap.

I had just about enough of it last week. I was literally shaking, I was so angry and frustrated.  And then it hit me.

He’s like this because of me.

I must talk to him the way he talks to me.  He is just modeling what he sees/hears.  He raises his voice, gets crabby, answers back, is short-tempered and rude.  Because I AM THAT WAY.  I don’t even want to think about the kind of child I was.

This is my kid.  Man, did I cry my eyes out about that one.   I treat him that way.  MY KID. I am embarrassed to even admit it.  It wasn’t always this way, I can assure you.  But, apparently, lately, Mommy needs a chill-pill. The past month, the lack of sleep, the frustration and pain of raising kids with disabilities?  It really piled up.  Shake up a bottle of soda and unscrew the lid.  That’s what it has been like. When I got two calls from two teachers the same day I knew we had to do something.  So I thought and thought and thought.  We had a sit down with Bug Boy.  We calmly chatted about why he is being angry and disrespectful.  And he confirmed what I thought.

Well, MOM, you talk that way!  And Dad does, too!

Right then and there we decided as a family it was going to stop. IT HAD TO STOP.  I was tired of going to bed angry and frustrated. My kids were miserable and whiny.  My husband dreaded walking in the door each night.  It had to go.  But how?  The next morning, Bug Boy and I brainstormed and came up with a tally.  We were going to keep track of disrespectful versus respectful behavior.  All of us.  Well, not Bugaboo (I’d pay for him to talk back to me, really, I would!).  But the other three human members of our household.

Each day, I write down the date on a spare copybook we have.  There is a line drawn down the middle and two columns, “respectful” and “disrespectful.”  At the bottom of each column we wrote down the definition and some examples.  Under each date, each one of our initials are written.

The first few days we had to work very hard at this. Then?  It became second nature. We are constantly catching each other in the act of being respectful or disrespectful and policing ourselves.  We tally for each other and congratulate each other.   It’s working.  We are happier and calmer. It’s easier to get them to listen and follow through.  Why?  Because we’re speaking to  each other the way we want to be spoken to.  And the more respectfuls  he gets (and less disrespectfuls), the more privileges he earns.

Funny how something so simple can do so much for a family.

Now, we DO slip up.  But we hop right back on track again.  And this works for us.  Might not work for you, but BOY HOWDY was it ever a wake-up call! I didn’t realize how snippy and angry I sounded sometimes.  I didn’t realize HOW I sounded.  Now I know.  And each and every day, I’m going to do better and better.

Because my kids, my family, deserves my best.

5 thoughts on “Respectful Challenge

  1. RuthWells says:

    Good for you. It can be really hard to reverse these things.

  2. HG says:

    This is such a problem in my house too and I know that I’m at fault also. Maybe we should keep a tally book – I’m afeared though 🙂

    • I was afeared, too. And I didn’t want to admit I was part of the problem. But there it is, in black and white. I don’t want THAT for our family. I want peace. Harmony. A shelter from teh storm. A place where we can all relax. The only way I saw achieving it was by putting it all out there and challenging our family.

      TRY IT!

  3. choosy says:

    I had a similar realization with my eldest recently in the realm of where does she get this craptastically obnoxious attitude?
    um, yeah. That would be me.

    I LOVE your solution. Glad you’re having success.
    I have to think of a similar way to work with a younger crowd.
    maybe mommy needs an sticker chart?

  4. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Our daughter is 9 and she’s going on 14. I’m going to pay more attention to how I am acting and see how things are going.

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