Monthly Parenting Magazine

The two faces of respectful parenting

The two faces of respectful parenting

Pexels Karolina Grabowska

Zoe Ayre (aka The Respectful Mum) is a Yorkshire-based mama-of-one, writer and children’s book author. An advocate for respectful parenting, here she talks about keeping calm whilst still listening to your own feelings…

As I deal with another bout of big emotions, it strikes me that there are often two faces to respectful parenting. There’s the calm and respectful exterior that I try to maintain, and then there’s the frantic undercurrent, arms flailing and trying to keep afloat. The internal monologue that continues inside my head, inclusive of swear words and the voices of my ancestors. The words that I really don’t want to say aloud and that I do my utmost to keep penned up in my brain.  

The outward face supports my child, offering reassurance, empathy and love despite so many fibres of my body fighting it. The words that come out are (for the most part) a shining beacon of what I want to achieve. I sound calm, my voice even, my breath slow, and a smile across my face. But sometimes those words are stilted, their depth limited and they don’t resonate with my core. That smile doesn’t reach further than my lips, it doesn’t reach the creases of my eyes. It is a mask.

Often, it can make me feel less than. Less than I should be. Less than I want to be. Less than others expect of me. I experience feelings of shame and am self-critical that my inner voice doesn’t always match my outer voice. And if that inner voice occasionally creeps out to be heard- along come the feelings of guilt at having let it escape. I’m working on that- aren’t we all? 

But what if it’s okay to have two faces, to wear the mask? 


Respectful parenting is as much about being kind and respecting ourselves, as it is about being respectful to our children. Our child’s internal monologue is built on the language they hear from us, including how we speak to ourselves. But these words aren’t meant for the outside, they live in our heads. Shouting those words within our brain may not be kind to ourselves, but on the other hand it is cathartic and allows us to release the internal tension in a way that protects our child. 

Having everlasting patience and being the calm in your child’s storm is one of the most difficult things about parenting and one which I doubt will ever be easy. Having a coping mechanism for that is crucial. Screaming into a pillow can similarly work a treat.

A very wise friend of mine said to me this week, “it’s like having two computer programs running at the same time. There is the parent you want to be and then the parenting that you were given, which is like a separate programme running all of the time. We have to fix the glitches”. How true this is. This work we are doing is not easy. So much of this approach relies on us recognising the parenting styles and cultures we have grown up with, and being able to break the cycle. It is inevitable that our child’s behaviours will trigger a deep, internal response within us and that our own inner child will be screaming for attention. One of the biggest lessons in Respectful Parenting is being kind to ourselves, giving ourselves the break we need, and trying to change that internal narrative. 

When we take that break, it becomes that much easier to maintain our calm and to keep the mask on. Without a break, it starts to slip and inevitably our patience wears thin. 

Despite those inner feelings I’ve mentioned above, I think it’s okay to admit that what is happening internally isn’t necessarily reflective of what you can see on the outside. As parents, we need to know that we are not alone. To hide this perpetuates the cycle of “the perfect mother” and makes others think that we have everything together, and that Respectful Parenting is a breeze. I’m here to assure you that it’s not. Does that mean it isn’t worth it? No, it absolutely is worth it. And over time, I hope that the two faces will become at peace with one another and that we can all fix those glitches. But until then, we’re in this together and we’re not alone. 

With thanks to Zoe Ayre. Zoe’s new children’s book will be available in the new year. Find out more and subscribe to her newsletter below.


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