The foundation for respectful parenting is self-respect. We can not give anyone else what we do not have for ourself, and that includes giving our children respect. There is no shortcut or bypass, no way to do it for our kids without doing it for ourselves, too.
This is a rough truth for lots of us. We become parent to a sweet little baby and want to give it the world, to fix the mistakes our parents made, and offer this child the love, acceptance, and nurturing needed. But to do that, we must confront and heal the dark, confused, and messy places in ourselves.
When parents treat a child as a wise and wonderful soul without treating themselves that way, they are permissive, indulging that child at the expense of their own needs and comfort, putting the child in a privileged or special position. As wonderful as each child is, they aren't more special than their parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, or any other human being. As children grow, they need to feel their own power of self-expression, creativity, and purpose grow and emerge. At the same time, they need to learn to recognize and value these things in other people, beginning in their own family.
How do we help children to both feel their own goodness and balance it with other people? This is probably going to be a long and messy process, but we can start with two simple steps. For ourselves--slow down, be aware of our own needs and feelings, and respond to them wisely. For our children--slow down, be aware of their needs and feelings both from their more personal point of view and your broader point of view, and respond wisely.
We do need to offer our children special treatment, sitting up with them when they're sick even though we are exhausted, loving them even when they're rude and hard to love, reminding them to clean up after themselves even though we've already told them a hundred times. And we need to cultivate a sense of balance, seeing ourselves and our children as sovereign, innately good souls on a journey, souls whose needs may appear to conflict but who are learning the most important thing humans learn, how to be in loving relationship.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness helps me find peace with my imperfect journey--being with myself as I truly am, loving my family as they are, and showing up for a messy world with openness and compassion.