Raising Great Kids: 5 Keys to Mutual Respect

Elena Brower

We are honored to have Elena Brower contribute to alignyo on the topic of parenting and relationships.

Be on the lookout for the second edition of Elena and Erica Jago's beautiful book, Art of Attention

Parenting is our chance to practice respect, elegance and forgiveness. 

by Elena Brower

These 5 hints will renew your trust in your ability to share respect, elegance and forgiveness with your family. These tips are especially potent once your child is over 3 or 4 years old, but are relevant to keep in mind from as early as infancy. 

1. Listen really well. If you cannot listen because you're frustrated, tell your child you want to listen well, but are momentarily frustrated and need a few minutes. Your honesty will resonate with your kid and create the opening you're seeking. 

2. Have authority with heart. Translated: if you need to discipline your kid, only do so when you aren't angry. Which means that if you must deliver discipline and you ARE angry, tell your kid that you want to speak from your heart and not from this anger, so you'll need a few minutes to regroup. Sometimes taking space is the kindest thing we can do, and helps us stay loving and present. Strangest thing how much just stepping away and taking a look in the mirror has helped me get past the most gripping anger. 

3. Remember that your kid isn't entirely yours; (s)he is a child of the world. Translated: let other people help you. Learned this recently on retreat when my dear friends gave Jonah their time and wisdom, yielding the most profound shift I've seen in his engagement with the world. Trust that your child will gain the knowledge needed from other (carefully curated) people as much as from you, and your lives will be respectful and much richer.

4. Carry art supplies. Doesn't have to weigh down your bag, just a few markers or a few watercolors and a brush and a blank pad is excellent. And we love Mad Libs, easy to find online and such fun to have that and a pen to get the laughter started. Be creative. 

5. Talk about the concepts of respect, elegance, and forgiveness… a lot. Give examples when they come up. "Did you see that person hold that door for that other person? Does it feel good to see that kind of respect?" Or "when your feelings were hurt at school, were you able to forgive your friend?" At the end of each day, my son and I like to talk about how it all went, where we could've been more elegant, respectful, and forgiving, and why. Those quiet moments of defining and redefining those words have made him an attentive and enchanting guy, full of awareness when he forgets, but mostly full of respect, elegance and forgiveness.

Mutual respect is key. Especially if we've felt particularly disrespectful of our own parents, no matter how old the child, if we begin the conversation early and earnestly, we've created the primary context. And if you're still struggling to understand or feel remotely connected to your own parents or caregivers, know that your kids are absorbing your attitudes about your parents, and making them their own. 

Tell them the truth, the real story - talk to them respectfully about your own struggles with your own parents, and fill them in on any guidance you've received. And keep elegance and forgiveness close by. 

Order your copy of Art of Attention.


Raising great kids

I ask my children each night what the good part of their day was. This is said usually before a prayer and it really gives them a chance to review the day and feel good,share a bit of laughter with me and show me a day in their eyes. I must admit, I enjoy it every bit as they do.
~Much love,laughter and motherhood

I love this


Thank you for this, I especially love #3. It's a great reminder to let go and our kids to have their own experiences.

If I could add a #6 it would be: Get lots of sleep! :)

Miss you lots, looking forward to seeing you soon xoxo


Thank you

It is amazing how some days this feels so natural and others it is a mindful practice that feels like work. It is worthy work as there is very little that is more important than raising healthy people for the world. I like all of your reminders especially listening, it is so crucial for mutual respect. I make sure to put my phone down or close my laptop and make eye contact and give my full attention to my kids. I can see them blossom before my eyes just with heartfelt attention. Thank you!

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