To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY Dr. Ray Guarendi
I’m a grandfather many times over. I’m shocked
at how some of my grandkids talk so disrespectfully to their parents. Sometimes
the parents don’t even seem to notice.
I call this the “Battered Parent
Syndrome.” Mom or dad has allowed verbal misconduct for so long that she or he
has become nearly oblivious to it.
Sometimes in my office, before I can
offer any suggestions to parents for curtailing a teen’s disrespect, I have to
raise their level of awareness of that disrespect. They know something is
wrong, but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is. Further, my telling
them is a distressing revelation.
Likewise, if you’re tempted to
comment to your children or in-laws about what you’re hearing, be careful. They
are not just unaware; they may be defensive. After all, you’re pointing out a
“flaw” in their parenting. One option is to ask a couple of the same questions
I ask clients: “Do you hear how he is talking to you?” Or, “Do you want to be
treated that way?”
Such questions may strike the parent
like ice water on a sleeping person’s face. Sometimes the reaction is one of
embarrassment. Either way, upon recognizing what has been evolving for some
time, the parent should at least consider how to reverse the process.
the way, I can get away with pointing out such dynamics better than you can.
After all, I’m not a relative, and I’m getting paid to give feedback. Still,
some folks don’t take it well coming from me, either.
An even less threatening way to raise
your children’s consciousness is to speak directly to their
children. “Do you hear how you’re talking to your father?” Or, “Is
that how you speak to your mother?” In reality, these are rhetorical queries
meant for your own children’s ears. If your grandchildren were to actually
answer you honestly, they might admit, “Yeah, I do,” and “Yes, it is.” Of
course, if they were so bold, I think the shock effect on your children and
in-laws would do more for opening their eyes and ears than anything you could ever
One more suggestion. This is for you
parents still raising kids. If you’re wondering how self-aware you are, ask
yourself: “How would I react to adults who treated me the way my child does?”
If the answer is, “I’d thank them for being so authentic with their feelings”
or “I’d feel flattered that they are so comfortable in our relationship,” then
at least you’re consistent. You like it when people
talk to you disrespectfully.
If your answer is “I wouldn’t like
it one bit,” then use this realization to begin taking action. Mistreatment
isn’t any less mistreatment when it comes from a kid.
The doctor — a father of 10 and
a Catholic psychologist — is
always in at DrRay.com.