“RESPECT, like love, cannot be forced. Children can be frightened into pretending respect. Often, actually they are thinking and feeling the opposite.” – Margaret K. Cater

I just read this on Positive Parenting Solutions (which seems to have a lot in common with the Parenting on Track approach). This statement really hit home for me. You can scare kids into faking respect, and it might make you feel good and powerful and in control and all that. But it’s not real respect. Earning real respect from your kids takes a lot more strength and courage.

The bonus is that as our respect for each other grows, so does their respect for themselves. Like two flowers drinking from the same trickle of water.

And bonus #2: That mutual and self-respect feeds directly into the harmony of our home.

For example, last night Charlotte was hyped-up and determined to drive her sisters batty. Knowing that it was Fenner’s turn to be responsible for the state of the living room, she proceeded to pull all the cushions off the couch onto the floor and tipped the coffee table onto its side.


Charlotte, age 8

Fenner: “Mooooom! Look what she’s doing! Are you going to do something about it? Are you going to make her put them back?! No, right? You’re not going to do anything because you wouldn’t do anything to help your dear daughter!” she said with a scowl.

Me: “I’m supposed to ignore the behavior I don’t want. So I don’t really know what to do … At family meeting didn’t you guys agree that you could ask each other to clean up any messes that were left in your contribution area?”

Fenner: “Ask each other? Oh, great. She’ll just say no. And then I’ll have to do it. I always end up doing her work!”

I didn’t say anything. I went in the other room and pet the dogs and pondered. What is Charlotte trying to get? Attention — whatever kind she can get. What does she really want? Connection. She’s trying to connect in inappropriate ways. How can I help? Hmm.

At this point in my parenting journey, all my old lectures, scoldings, and threats have become so faded and foreign that I’m hardly even tempted by them anymore. What a relief. And suddenly it came to me.

“Hey Charlotte!”


“Wanna play a game before bedtime?”


“Would you be willing to put all this back so we can play in here?”


And then I watched with delight as she immediately went to work wrestling each and every heavy leather cushion back into place. Ellen happened to notice one cushion was backwards and silently came over and helped her turn it around. In less than 5 minutes it was done and we sat down to play our game.

Fenner walked by and said, “Oh, the couch looks all beautiful!”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For Charlotte, for myself, for Fenner, for our home. Everyone feels good about it. That’s how you know it’s real.

ps This morning I overheard Charlotte and Ellen chatting in the kitchen:

Charlotte: “Why doesn’t mom ever get mad at us?”

Ellen: “Because she’s doing the parenting class and she’s supposed to ignore your bad behavior and only notice your good behavior.”

This program makes sense to kids. They just get it. They don’t always like it, but they totally understand it.

I still get mad of course, but nowhere near as often as I used to. And when I do get mad, I’m much more grown up about it now. No more flying off the handle at my kids’ expense. So compared to what they see out in the world, I’m a virtual Gandhi.

There is a price to all this: I’ve discovered that I’m out of the club. The stressed-out, at-the-end-of-their-rope parent’s club. I used to bond with people over that. We’d exchange horror stories and roll our eyes together and shake our heads about how our kids were clearly on a mission to drive us crazy. I still listen to people’s horror stories, but I find myself just nodding and smiling and saying things like, “Yeah, that’s hard … I know what you mean.”

And I do know what they mean. It is hard. Really hard when you’re trying to make it work without good information.

Good, life-changing information.

Thank you, Vicki!

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

5 Comments on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

  1. Papa Says:

    Catha, fascinating. Calls to my mind the insight that comes to me from time to time: “anger is a signal that I’m not in possession of all the information I need.”

    And, for you at that moment, the solution swam to the surface out of the sea of experience and learning, just in time to sink the habitual responses and float you the useful solution. Neato!!

  2. Vicki Says:

    Oh gosh Catha, just now getting to this. I am out of the club as well and isn’t it just delightful. Can I post this blog on our facebook and tweet about it. It’s just to damn good girl.

  3. jodi horner Says:


    I loved this post. The details you include are so necessary in order to extract from the experience the steps that lead to your ultimate solution – such as walking away to pet the dog. So often, my kids try to engage me on the spot and I fail to wander away until I have a reasonable response or solution. It isn’t easy.
    I’m taking the class again now with Vicki in person because I have control issues again. The good news is that I recognize it this time…”what will it take?” 🙂

    • flockmother Says:

      Thank you, Jodi! Awareness is so powerful, you’re well on your way — especially with embarking on a second round of PoT. You sound clearly committed to doing something different and that’s half the battle!

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