In our world today, we are often hearing that parents are struggling to have their children respect them. In fact, many parents come to us shaking their heads, speaking about younger generations in disgust for not respecting their elders. “They haven’t learned a thing,” they say. “They have no idea how to navigate through the world. They just don’t listen. I don’t know what this world is coming to.”
Let’s break this down together, as this can feel to be a major source of conflict in families, and parents can feel that every ounce of their energy is being put towards getting the respect of their children. It can zap us dry of our ability to be present, as parents. We can hardly muster us the energy to ask our child how they may be doing in such a context. Interestingly enough, when we lean in and ask our children how they feel in situations with the said parent, they are most often feeling a similar sentiment – “I don’t feel respected by my parents.”
Respect is a value that can be interpreted very differently by different individuals. The dictionary defines is as a deep admiration for another. For many, it is letting them know that they are seen and heard. To be present and let the other know you are present to their emotions and life process, no matter what it may look like. For others, it may be being truthful, or polite. For those who are better adapted to a more traditional framework, it may be age-related and hierarchically driven, where the respect travels up the lineage but not necessarily down.
Respect, like love, is earned, not demanded. It is typically built over many years of relationship in family systems, rather than based on a single incident. We may think that respect is nurtured as a result of a great deal of time together or doing things of great admiration that will impress on the other, but true, lasting respect comes about when we can be honest with ourselves consistently, and honest with the other.
The truth is that respect is energy, and it begins with the love and honouring of self. It is rooted in knowing what we value as individuals, based on our unique framework. When we see ourselves deeply and live from a place of alignment, we share the energy of self-respect out with the world. And from that place, we lean into respecting others.
When we are not equipped with the tools as to how to love and honour our own truth, we learn to live in the fear of succumbing to another’s wishes in exchange for their approval, as is the case in many family systems. We ‘respect’ the other inauthentically, and it is based on our own sense of inadequacy. We see this a great deal in developmental stages of a child where they are exerting their individuality – both in toddler years and as teenagers. We have seen a big gap between millennials and those elder to them, as millennials are the first generation to openly protest against the formula of success, or values, those before them have carried. Parents push for an honouring of their own ways of being, and millennials are willing to walk a new path. The dissonance stems from a lack of understanding of the other, as this may be the largest break we have seen in value systems since the industrial revolution.
As parents, we are quick to label these stages as troublesome, yet we fail to understand that children have a deep knowing that they have a unique blueprint and gifts they are meant to share with the world. A large part of a parent’s respect for their child(ren) is built on giving them space, and support to explore themselves safely and freely, without imposing their own expectations or even wishes on their children.
When the foundation is compromised in the early years, and a parent may not be emotionally available for the child due to their own inner wounding and pain, it can take some time to repair the relationship later down the line. But the security a child receives in knowing that they are seen and heard by their parent truthfully is something they carry with them for a lifetime. As a result, they don’t need to spend their lives proving themselves to the world, as they know they are enough just as they are. All that they do is led from a place of groundedness and heart-centeredness, rather than fear. They can provide meaningful love and respect to those they feel to give it to, rather than attempt to manufacture it on the outside to get something in exchange.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when understanding the level of respect, you have for your self.
What are my 3 core values? Do I consistently live in alignment with these?
Do I communicate my values to others?
Do I allow others to live based on their own values, or do I try and influence what they should deem as being important in their lives?
Respect will manifest between two individuals as a result of consistent and open communication. It will be solidified by speaking our truth in a loving and honourable way to the others, but also putting in place boundaries that honour ourselves and our needs.
Ultimately, we are here on the planet to meet human to human. It is when we learn to honour and respect ourselves enough that we can extend the same level of honour outside of us, to our children and otherwise, that we will be able to come out of the power struggle that manifests at an early age, and is carried into many contexts later on – from gender imbalances to boardrooms to the world of politics.
As we lean into our own self honour and admiration, and it is bound to manifest on the outside of us.