You’ve just had the same argument you always have with your partner — the one where you end up yelling “You never listen to me!”. Your four-year-old is watching TV while demanding that you brush her hair, again, because there were imaginary bumps in her ponytail. Meanwhile, your 12-year-old son is pretending you don’t exist, because you’ve banned the soccer ball from inside the house after a mishap with your favourite coffee mug.
Sometimes, it feels like nobody’s giving you any R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And what does respect even look like in a healthy relationship?
We certainly know what a respectful relationship doesn’t look like. You’ve probably noticed those people in supermarkets who yell at the young checkout operator for not having any $20 notes. Or you have watched reality TV shows with contestants who think it’s OK to use ugly language to abuse or name-call others. And, worst of all, you have certainly read or seen media reports of elite sportspeople who treat their partners as punching bags. Sadly, there are too many examples of disrespectful relationships in public life.
Happily, we all have at least one or two great examples of relationships in our own lives or for others. These are the ones that make you feel valued and safe, involve talking AND listening, and support you to make your own choices even if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue. They can include anyone who is significant in your life — your partner, children, work colleagues, family members and friends.
It’s also about interactions with others as you go about your day. Treat the teenage supermarket cashier with respect, and you’re more likely to be treated the same. Go to a parent-teacher interview prepared for respectful two-way communication, and you’ll have a better chance of resolving the homework issue that’s been frustrating your child. In fact, showing respect for teachers, principals and other parents and kids at your school, makes you a great role model for your kids in how to have healthy relationships.
You don’t always have to agree, but you should always be respectful in the way you express your views.
Here are some tips for setting up healthy and respectful relationships, courtesy of Kids Helpline.
- Listen to, and value the views of others and wait for your turn to be heard.
- If you disagree, don’t name-call or put the other person down.
- Base your relationship on trust and honesty and take care of others’ personal information.
- Never intimidate, dominate or bully the other person, especially during conflict.
- Support others’ needs and wellbeing.
Of course, none of this will mean you can totally avoid those annoying ‘ponytail’ conversations with your daughter, and your teenage son is always going to be upset he can’t have his way, because…well, he’s a teenager. But that ongoing argument you have with your partner because they ‘never listen’? If you try very hard to listen to them — even when your frustration is off the charts — you might be surprised how much more willing they are to hear what you’re really trying to say.