There is a killer stalking your family. This killer does not physically attack families; but it will destroy family relationships and devastate each person’s self-image. Sometimes it works subtly, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hiding behind humor, knowledge, and deception. At other times it blatantly attacks family members. This enemy of your family goes by many names, but ultimately we know it goes by the name of disrespect.
Disrespect harms individuals and devastates relationships. It creates wounds so toxic they can remain open and unhealed for a lifetime! Disrespect thrusts a person into an inferior role. It creates an environment of inequality, an environment in which the disrespected person is treated as less valuable, less worthy, and less esteemed. The very act of disrespect sets up a hierarchy in which the disrespectful person assumes the role of a controlling master and assigns the role of a less capable, less intelligent serf onto the one he disrespects. The disrespected person naturally responds with anger and rebellion, self-hate and emotional withdrawal, or both. Communication falters and, eventually, the relationship dies. Disrespect is a killer stalking your family!
A person can show disrespect toward family in several ways. Jennifer Gill Rosier, PhD (The Family Coach) discusses five ways family members can show disrespect to one another:
- Disgracing. Family members show this type of disrespect when they criticize or insult other family members. Disgracing includes name calling, shaming, and attacks on a person’s character.
- Dramatizing. We dramatize by using absolute language (words like “always,” “never,” “all,” “none,” etc.) to describe other family members or their behavior in a negative way. For example, “You never did care about me;” “You never listen to me;” “You always boss me around;” “You will always be a loser;” etc.
- Dictating. This type of disrespect occurs when we give orders, commands, or communicate in a way that implies a hierarchy with us on top. A person who shows this type of disrespect often expects family members to make huge investments in family relationships or household duties while making no investment of their own.
- Disregarding. Family members disregard one another by ignoring or rejecting. Disregarding shows its ugly head when a person ignores a family member’s attempts to converse, a family member’s feelings, or family member’s interests, among other things. The disregarding person can also simply reject other family members directly—”leave me alone”—for no real reason.
- Dominating. We exhibit disrespect when we control the conversation, inhibiting our spouse or child from involvement by interrupting them, talking over them, or simply overpowering them during a conversation. A person can also show this type of disrespect by telling another person what to feel, think, or find interesting rather than allowing them to determine their own feelings, thoughts, and interests.
We may all show disrespect to family members from time to time. However, if disrespect becomes the norm, family relationships die. So, if you find yourself becoming disrespectful, apologize and change your behavior. Here are some behaviors to replace disrespect.
- Rather than disgracing family members, encourage family members. Build up your family members. Make statements that will bring them joy. Honor them with your words.
- Stop using words like “always” and “never.” Instead, deal with each situation as it arises. Focus on one thing at a time.
- Invest in your family. Rather than barking out orders and commands, work with your family to get things done. Make chores and household duties a family project. Involve everyone, especially yourself!
- Honor family members with your time and attention. Turn off the TV, take a break from the video game, and focus on your family members.
- Include everyone in the conversation. That means you have to listen. Look each person in the eye and listen. Get curious about each family member’s feelings, thoughts, and desires…and consider those feelings, thoughts, and desires as you make plans.
Those are just a few ways to replace disrespect with respect in your home. The ideas are simple, but they will have a long-lasting and magnificent impact on your family life and joy!