Kids are People
Obvious, right? We are all people. Kids, though, are especially people. People have certain needs. Fulfilling those needs is not always easy, but acknowledging them is. People are routine oriented and desire some level of structure. People want to be treated fairly. People want attention.
Kids should not be treated like children or, to be more precise, the stereotypical pop culture version of children.
You know the plot: kid knows something, kid is not listened to, some form of huge disaster happens, kid saves the day with a little ounce of “I told you so.” From Nancy Drew to Nemo, successful stories aimed at youth all deal with gaining the respect of adults. Most cases resolve amiably, but we would like to skip the whole Hero’s Journey and cut straight to the respect part.
Yes, respect (cue Aretha Franklin).
Respect is the fundamental difference between dealing with children and dealing with people. Children can be treated unfairly. Children can be ordered. Children can be scolded. People, however, must be treated with respect – just a little bit.
Respect is simply defined in our culture as the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way that you wish to be treated.” The concept is simple. Applying it to kids takes a little more work.
Sometimes respect comes in conflict with discipline. A kid makes bad decisions and you are forced to take some form of corrective action. Remember what is fair and how you would react if the situation was reversed and you will make the correct decision (maybe... more on this later).
The easiest way to be respectful is to be completely transparent about the rules and consistent about enforcing them. If the kids understand the process and feel that justice is served equally then they will feel respected... and, as a pleasant side effect, will behave better.