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Parenting principles: Earn respect, stay consistent

Talk to any parent or teacher and they’ll tell you that kids these days have gotten way out of hand. They talk back. They’re disrespectful, even extraordinarily rude.

What’s happened to our children? It is something in the water or the air?

No, experts say. What’s changed is the way we raise them. In a reaction to the way our parents treated us, we’ve given our kids too much freedom and too little guidance.

Today’s parents saw their own parents as overly controlling and authoritarian, with too much emphasis on respect, M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist and creator of the “Neuman Method” told TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

So, in reaction, they’ve tried to empower their children, said Neuman, who has designed a program he calls “The Five Lost Secrets of Parenting.”

“Kids [back then] were told to shut up,” Neuman said. And “we kind of came to this place where we said let’s not have them be so respectful. Let’s have them be more friendly.”

But you can’t be your kid’s friend, Neuman insists. You need to be the parent.

“Kids need a sense of structure and a sense of an environment that’s solid,” he explained. “They need limits to help them feel comfortable. Being able to respect their elders and parents is very important.”

As a parent, you have to start your lessons early, said Kristen Chase, author of “Motherhood Uncensored.”

“I think it’s like learning music or learning a language, the earlier the better,” Chase told TODAY. “When you get to a certain point it’s really, really hard to sort of backtrack and get them back to where you want them to be.”

That doesn’t mean there’s no hope for parents who were too lenient in the beginning.

“You can always teach them later,” Neuman said. “But there are certain concrete things we should teach our children. For example, I’m not a fan of my friends being called by their first name. We shouldn’t necessarily encourage that. There’s nothing wrong with Mr.”

Beyond that, Neuman said he doesn't like "children interrupting and correcting their parents when they’re talking in a crowd. When I’m telling you a story, and God bless me I might make a mistake, I don’t want my kids saying dad that didn’t happen on Monday it happened on Tuesday.”

Another way to make the point: be sure your kids let their parents –and seniors, for that matter—go through doors first.

“This is just basic, simple respect and kindness that if you teach them when [they’re] young it goes along with the methodology that I respect the meaning of somebody who is older than me,” Neuman said.

Good parenting isn’t “rocket science” added Chase, who says she leans heavily on time-outs to get her kids to behave. “I’ve very consistent with them.”

Neuman’s program includes a return to basics, such as family dinners, that seem to have become passé in the modern era.

“There was a time that family dinner was the standard,” he noted. “Today, our fast-paced life mixed with work and after-school obligations can have everyone in the family eating on the go. Children who eat regularly with their family gain a sense of stability and order…. Often, after a simple dinner gathering we keep more connected through the night since we started the evening meeting together.”

Neuman isn’t rigid. For example, the family meal doesn’t have to be dinner, and it doesn’t have to take a long time—20 minutes will do. The important thing is to talk with your children, asking them about their days and sharing what happened to you.