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Tool Kit 1: Managing Difficult Behaviour

Curbing Disrespect

Side view single mother screams shouts a


Being Disrespectful:



Being Disrespectful: Course of Action

Point 1:

  • Explain what respect is, how it looks and sounds, and why it is an expectation for everyone within your home. E.g:

  1. Look at someone when they speak to you

  2. Let someone finish a complete thought without interruption

  3. Voices needs to remain calm

  4. Give other people the benefit of the doubt until you've discussed issues

  • Teach the concept of consent using the simple rhyme: 'From my head to my toes, it's what I say goes,' and reinforce unwanted touch, intimidation, or degradation is unacceptable by anyone

  • Ask your child how they feel when they're not respected.

  • Listen to what they have to say.

One of the greatest difficulties with managing difficult behaviour is, every child is different.

Respect is fundamental for quality relationships & good behaviour.

But disrespect erodes relationships.

The key to changing child behaviour for the better is:

  • Both parents need to present a united front. Explain respect for all family members is an expectation. (Preferably not immediately after an issue when emotions are high)

  • Both parents remain calm, reinforcing new expectations consistently, using praise and natural consequences

  • Both parents spend positive time with the child, continually building the relationship

  • Both parents model respect within the home

  • Both parents notice and praise children being respectful

If your child is responsive and takes on board what's said. Say something like:

  • 'We knew we could count on you to get on board with this.'

  • Continue discussion at Point 3.

If your child is disrespectful:

  • Stop & wait for them to adjust their tone.

  • Wait until they get sick of waiting.

If that's too subtle, say something calm like:

  • 'Please adjust your tone. We asked you to be respectful.'

Point 2: If they adjust their tone and become more cooperative, say something like:

  • 'It's our job to help give you the skills in life you'll need to succeed.'

  • 'Others often feel badly towards people who disrespect them.'

  • 'There have been issues with respect in the past in our home.'

  • 'But you're old enough now to learn how people need to be treated...'

This page provides a Tool Kit: Steps and phrases to deal with disrespect. For other behavioural issues go to the following links:

If they're still disrespectful, parents need to begin to set limits. But still be willing to give them an out if they come on board. You could say something like: 'It appears you don't seem to understand exactly what respect and disrespect looks like.' Go to Point 3

If they're still disrespectful parents need to invoke natural consequences.

  • Lower your tone of voice.

  • Say calmly: You're showing you don't want to be cooperative (for older children substitute mature.)

  • If you're choosing to act like a four-year-old, four-year-olds don't, for example, have their own phones. (Remove a different age related privilege if they're not old enough for a phone.)

  • We'd like you to have a good life so you need to be aware...'

  • Go to Point 2 then straight onto Point 4.

Point 3: Revise what respect looks and sounds like for 'everyone' in the house: For example:

  • Stop & look at someone when they speak to you.

  • Listen until someone finishes a complete thought without interrupting them

  • Voices needs to be calm

  • Hands need to be kept to yourself

  • Sneering, eye rolling, turning away, covering ears & raising voices in anger are all signs of disrespect. This behaviour is not acceptable, (including  by parents.)

Point 4: Explain:

  • 'People who treat others with disrespect are often, in turn, treated with disrespect.

  • We're not being good parents if we let you think it's okay to behave like that.

  • As you grow up we want you to be surrounded by people who love you, are kind to you and respect you.'

If they still continue to be disrespectful they are showing they expect to get away with it:

  • Remove a particular privilege for two days. (Make sure it's something they're really going to miss.)

  • Revisit points 3 and

  • If that still doesn't work, loss of privileges may need to be extended, or increased. e.g. No T.V; No socializing outside school hours

  • Reassess & maintain consistently



  • There's no need to be hostile about it. If you're hostile it doesn't build cooperation.

  • Be friendly and loving. But with regards to children's disrespect be consistent and clinical.

  • Don't get baited into an argument. Walk away. Maintain  their loss of privileges.

  • Praise kids whenever they treat family members respectfully.

IMPORTANT: Something to Consider:

Could your love bank account (credit points) with your child be too low? It's really easy for this to happen if you're busy.


 Go to Why Spend Positive Time Together for more information:

Intermittent reinforcement is one of the best ways of ensuring a negative behaviour will continue...


Sometimes they'll get away with it, so it's worth persisting. To overcome difficult behaviour you need to be consistent, every single time.

Children don't usually behave disrespectfully, unless it works

Is it possible:

  • They get more attention for being difficult than being cooperative. (e.g. This child may have an 'extra good' sibling, so 'that' position in the family is already taken.)

  • If they're rude you'll back off

  • They  escalate their behaviour until you give in.

  • There are no consequences for being rude, so basically they do it, because they can

  • You're inconsistent and will not follow up. So they play the gap, thinking they'll get away with it enough times to make it worth their while

Being Irritable:

If they seem generally cross or out of sorts you could ask: 'Have I done something to upset you,' or 'Is there something wrong?' Often this is an opportunity to learn something you might not know about what's bothering them.

  • One of the main things that can contribute to being irritable is poor quality sleep.

  • Are they getting enough sleep?

  • Could they have worms affecting the quality of their sleep?

  • Do they snore?

  • Are they playing lots of video games and becoming too hyped up to want to sleep?

  • Is their friendship group disrespectful

  • Have they been watching T.V. or coming into contact with negative online commentary?

For children to understand consent, and what respect is, they benefit from learning it in the home with modelling by parents.


For specific information on improving behaviour go to the following links:

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