Respectful relationships start at home

Michael Grose By Michael Grose

As parents we have an incredible power to shape children’s attitudes and behaviours, particularly how they relate to and treat other people. One of the core values of our society is respect between men and women; and that’s also the core value in every healthy, functioning family I’ve worked with.

Look and listen

As a parent or carer it’s important to be aware of how young people interact with each other. Be prepared to challenge negative and disrespectful attitudes, but also be mindful that your children’s attitudes may mirror those of people they respect, which can be confronting when you don’t like what you hear.

Teach them to treat others well

Sometimes it’s not what we say, but what we don’t say that makes all the difference. Insist brothers and sisters treat each other well. If there is conflict or a relationship problem to solve then they need to keep their hands to themselves. Listen to the language they use and insist that they don’t become personal – focus on the behaviour, not the person – when they speak to each other. Don’t accept put downs of any type. It is important that we don’t let disrespectful behaviour go unchallenged.

Don’t accept excuses

If a boy tries to control a situation by being aggressive, don’t excuse the behaviour as just him ‘being a boy’. Our job as parents is to teach boys to handle their frustration in socially acceptable and respectful ways. This could include giving them the words to verbalise feelings rather than use verbally aggressive or even physical ways to express themselves.

Provide kids with the right skills

Help young people give voice to their concerns constructively, fairly and assertively. Coach your sons to ask for what they want and to express frustration properly. Mentor your daughters to stand up for themselves when they feel disrespected or unsafe, and don’t shy away from conversations about relationships and consent – these build trust and will ultimately bring you closer together.

Talk up respect

As parents we set the standards for acceptable behaviour in the home. The more you talk about and model respectful behaviours, the more your kids are likely to adopt those attitudes. Don’t be afraid to challenge poor behaviour or disrespectful attitudes. Tell your children how you feel when you see disrespectful behaviour and explain how it affects other people. This gives them a window into your thinking and helps them form their own views about fairness and respect.

Handy resources

Hear more advice from Michael on respectful relationships in his video interview.

Use the excuse interpreter to discover the hidden meanings of common expressions that can excuse disrespectful behaviour towards girls.

Use the conversation guide to help you talk more confidently and openly with young people about the importance of respectful relationships.