Respectful Parenting: What to Do if It Isn't Working for You

If you're using respectful parenting but not achieving the expected results, there are several aspects you might want to review.
Respectful Parenting: What to Do if It Isn't Working for You
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 02 December, 2022

There are certain trends in parenting that have gained relevance in recent times. They tend to be aimed at raising children with respect and promoting their autonomy. One such method is known as respectful parenting. It’s an excellent alternative that benefits both children and parents. However, you may feel that it’s not suitable for you.

Indeed, many adults think that their children are too rebellious or fidgety for this practice to work and that they require more authoritarian styles of parenting. However, all children deserve to be raised with respect. So, we’re going to examine some of the reasons why respectful parenting may not work.

If respectful parenting doesn’t work for you, review its principles

Before employing this (or any other) parenting style, it’s important to obtain useful and in-depth information from reliable sources. Otherwise, you’ll make the mistake of not understanding its principles and not putting them into practice properly. For example, many parents confuse respectful parenting with permissiveness and forget to set boundaries, be firm, and guide their children.

Raising with respect doesn’t mean always talking sweetly, giving in to childish whims, or allowing any and every kind of behavior. If this is the idea that you harbored and that you’ve been putting into practice, it’s hardly surprising that your results haven’t been as you expected. Remember that love and boundaries are both equally necessary.

Crying child with tantrum
Children may become a little more rebellious when respectful parenting is first employed. That’s because they need to test the boundaries.

You don’t have enough patience

You may feel that respectful parenting isn’t working for you because you don’t have the patience to talk to your child calmly, validate their emotions, or teach them to do things for themselves. It’s true that this does require extra time and, in the midst of your daily duties, you may feel you don’t have it.

After all, it’s easier to hold your child’s hand to keep them walking while they’re having a tantrum than to stop and listen to how they feel. It’s simpler to serve them breakfast than to encourage them to try making it on their own. And sometimes, screaming is inevitable. However, to educate with respect, you don’t need patience, but awareness.

As an adult, you wouldn’t dream of yelling at your boss, shaking your partner, or ignoring your friend when they’re crying. Children deserve the same respect and kind treatment. Indeed, you’ll soon realize that this is really the only way of raising them.

Your child has become more rebellious

If you’ve only recently started employing respectful parenting, you may have noticed an increase in your child’s rebellious attitude. This may discourage you and lead you to think that the method isn’t working. But their rebelliousness is perfectly natural.

Children often test adults’ boundaries, simply to understand how their environment works. As family dynamics change, it’s normal for these ‘tests’ to arise. You just have to persevere in this new educational style, and your child will gradually understand the change and transform themselves too.

The crying child

Some parents turn to respectful parenting in a desperate attempt to learn how to deal with their children’s tantrums. But they may be surprised to see that these still happen and that their children are still frustrated, crying, and emotionally overwhelmed.

These reactions are natural at a certain age and only demonstrate that the child hasn’t yet learned to regulate their nervous system and manage their emotions.

This parenting style won’t prevent crying or tantrums so its effectiveness on this scale can’t be measured. However, it does teach you how to accompany and support your child, thus facilitating their emotional learning.

They’re still disobedient

Finally, you may think that respectful parenting isn’t working because your child continues to disobey you. But obedience isn’t the objective of this educational paradigm. In reality, its aim is to promote a child’s autonomy and critical thinking, teach them to listen, yet also allow them to have a voice.

If you only want a child to obey you, you’re not respecting that, as a human being, they’re entitled to their own opinions, desires, and needs, and even to disagree with you. Of course, you shouldn’t let them do what they please at all times. Instead, you should guide them with empathy and have discussions with them. You certainly shouldn’t simply impose your authority on them.

Father criticizing his little daughter
Practicing respectful parenting involves patience, commitment, and empathy on the part of parents.

Adjust your expectations and persevere

If you feel that respectful parenting isn’t working for you, you’re probably expecting the wrong results. The goal isn’t for your child to be submissive or to stop crying, nor for you to always speak to them softly and sweetly. The real goal is to accompany their growth, respect their rights, rhythms, and emotions, and forge a healthy bond, thus helping them build their self-confidence.

Therefore, you should adjust your expectations and persevere in applying the principles of this parenting style. In a short time, you’ll see really positive changes, not only in your child’s reactions but also in your own state of mind and your relationship with them.

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  • Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43–88.
  • González, M. & Sáenz, N. (2020). Crianza Respetuosa: Hacia una parentalidad centrada en las niñas y los niños. Estudios, (41).

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.