How to Teach Your Kids to be Respectful and Avoid Abuse #StopItAtTheStart

10 Things to Do to Prevent Domestic Violence and Promote Respect

My daughters and I went through abuse. In my first marriage, to their father, there was a lot. After 7.5 years, evidence in 3 states from police, teachers, psychologists and reports made to child protection from those professionals, I secured full custody.

During that 7.5 years court was difficult but so was dealing with PTSD and assisting my daughters through the process of healing. We had 2 protection orders, the first in 2021 and the most recent one granted in 2019 for 5 years because there was still harassment issues.

Despite what we went through, one of the most common compliments I get about my kids is how mature and emotionally intelligent they are. They’ve both prevented other friends from suicide, self-harm and gotten them to get help. Both have an above-average level of respect for everyone and understanding of human rights, respect, tolerance and love.

This comes down to how we handled things after I left my ex-husband and parenting since. In my home, I have some specific things I implemented immediately, none of which take much time or effort. All of which make a significant difference though.

And for me, when I partnered again, he needed to be on board with all of this. Fortunately, we have the same parenting goals and views so that part has been easier with blending our family.

What to do With Your Children to Teach Them Respect and Give Them Confidence

I have no doubt that if I had more confidence, felt unconditional love and knew what to look for that I would not have entered the relationship I did. My marriage happened because I felt and was told that no one else would want me. Abusers prey on this and seek out the weaknesses in people to use against them and gain control.

As a mother, I have been determined to ensure my daughters never felt this way. I’ve actively sought ways to give them confidence, teach them respect and overall, be stronger and more empowered than I was. They are now both in high school and the difference between them and their peers is phenomenal.

Since other parents ask me constantly how I did it, here are a few of the most important things.

Image of some of my family: Justin Saula, Kylie Travers, Halia Travers and Mele Ofiu

1. Private Conversations

At any point in time my kids can ask for a private conversation and I either drop what I am doing if I can or will arrange to do it as quickly as possible. When they ask, the other members of the family know to give us space and not interrupt.

Providing this opportunity to talk, knowing I will make it a priority and it can go for as long as they need has enabled my daughters to discuss things with me their peers do not tell their parents.

On top of being given privacy to talk, my children know not to ask each other what their private conversation was about. They have been taught from a young age to respect each other. However, most of the time, after a conversation with myself or my partner, my kids open up to each other without any prompting.

By having this space and support, they feel confident that no matter what happens, their family will listen, love them and support them. This is crucial for combatting abuse.

2. Open Conversations

Along with private conversations, my kids can ask anything. No conversation is forbidden. Some of the conversations might be uncomfortable but knowing they can ask anything has seen them ask me everything instead of relying on Google or peers. They still ask their peers as well but for the most part, if they hear or see something they don’t understand, they simply ask me.

This goes for anything including sex. I answer age-appropriately so as not to scar them for life. Also, if they ask specifics about my life in that area, I ask them to really think if that is something they want to know about their mother or if it was simply a question they blurted out.

By asking them to think about it, I am not rejecting any question. I am redirecting though and giving them the opportunity to think things through fully. There are topics I won’t discuss but it is done in a manner where they feel they made the choice for it not to be discussed. Thus, open communication is still there.

These conversations usually happen in the car or during one on one time when we go to the beach or hike.

3. Turn The Radio Off

We love music and often have it playing in the home and car. However, I also turn it off sometimes and we chat in the car. In the car, kids don’t have to look at you and for teenagers, this can be a huge relief.

If they have had a bad day, they can get in the car, the radio goes off and they can talk without feeling pressured and without feeling stared at. Some of our most important conversations have happened on a drive.

4. One On One Time

As mentioned, some big conversations also happen during one on one time. One on one time doesn’t need to be a huge production or special date to a cafe. It can be as simple as you doing face masks and manicures together, which for me, I do weekly anyway.

When I was running a marketing company and travelling a lot for speaking, I looked at as many ways as I could to have one on one time with my kids. This time fills their bucket, it makes them feel loved unconditionally and that they matter.

Since I was time poor, one on one time often fell into something that had another purpose. The face masks and manicures is one example. Cooking dinner together (one child one night, another child another night), doing groceries as just us and getting a treat they’d eat in the car before their sibling saw. Using the time one was at an extracurricular activity to spend time with the other one.

We all have more opportunities than we think to spend one on one time with our kids and make them feel special. It is all about how you approach it. Make it about doing something special just the two of you and it doesn’t matter what it is.

5. Family Fun NIght

This used to be Friday Family Fun Night. we;’d watch a movie, go ice-skating, check out festivals or other activities on a Friday night. Nothing else was booked on that night and my kids knew no matter what, Friday night was just for us.

It amazed me how many kids at school were jealous of this. They longed for their parents to spend time with them such as this or have family activities. I was shocked how many don’t do it.

Family Night or a family activity doesn’t have to cost money. Look up free events in your area, head to the beach, go for a bike ride or hike. Get snorkelling gear or sports gear and go do it.

The main thing is that kids have a set time every week they know is for us. The stability of this and the connections formed as a result build confidence and respect.

6. Family Dinner

We eat dinner as a family every night. For Justin and me, this is an essential part of the day and our family. Meals are sometimes prepared together, other times we take turns. The table is usually set by all of us and we sit down together for our meal.

Preparing together, taking that time out of our day is often when a lot of conversations happen or the kids show us funny stuff they have learnt, random things they have seen on YouTube and the things happening at school. Even our baby loves this as he watches his sisters act out their day or tell us things in their animated, excited manner.

Sitting down to eat, we do Grateful and Compliments (see the next two points).

7. Grateful

Each night, as soon as we all have our meal ready to eat, we start grateful. One of us starts while the rest of us eat and we take it in turns sharing 3 things we are grateful for. My kids look for things to be grateful for all day to share at dinner and sometimes they don’t want to stop at 3 (they don’t have to).

This doesn’t mean they can’t have a bad day or share the bad with us at other times. At dinner though, starting with grateful and having that attitude throughout the day has definitely helped shift thought patterns.

8. Compliments

After grateful, we compliment each other. The aim is to catch the other family members doing something good, recognising it and complimenting them about it. It has been interesting to hear the things our kids have noticed about each other and us. Kids see more than you think and if the aim in the family is to find the good in each other, we don’t dwell on the bad as much.

9. Other Mentors/Family/Adults

It takes a village. Kids won’t always want to open up to their parents so it is important to provide other trusted adults in their lives they can turn to. Whether that person is an aunty, uncle, close family member or friend, it doesn’t matter. Your kids need someone they can pour their heart out to and know they won’t get in trouble.

My daughters have a few people they can contact and know it won’t get back to me. That said, they are open with me so both say they don’t feel the need but appreciate they have the option. Unless it is life-threatening or dangerous, I trust these other adults to manage the situation or thoughts and to judge if they need to tell me.

Knowing they can vent to someone or express concerns has made a big difference to my kids.

10. Professional Help

You can’t do it all alone. My kids had play therapy, counselling and other assistance from professionals as needed. They also know they can request it with no questions asked at any time. Professionals are there for a reason and if you children need any help, it is better to get it rather than having your kids bury their feelings. When people feel they have no one to talk to and nowhere to turn, that is when things can turn dangerous quickly.

As a parent, you can do a lot to shape your children, provide unconditional love and a safe place. 

Image of Halia Travers and Mele Ofiu on a family hike
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