Teaching Kids Respect

Teaching Kids Respect

We often hear lamentations about the perceived decline of respect among the younger generation. It’s undeniable that the dynamics of parent-child relationships have shifted, with kids behaving, communicating, and aspiring differently than previous generations. They are growing up in a world that’s markedly distinct from the past. Nevertheless, teaching respect remains vital.

Many of today’s children are granted more autonomy and encouraged to question and challenge authority, which can sometimes come across as disrespectful. Conversely, children raised to follow authority blindly may lack self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of self-respect. Respect, however, is a two-way street; it involves being courteous to others while also standing up for oneself.

The challenge lies in discerning when allowing our children to express themselves crosses the line into disrespect and when our actions as parents fail to show respect for our kids. Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love. If that’s the case, then respect can potentially transform the world—we just need to get it right! 

Distinguishing Respectful from Disrespectful Behavior

Respect is a blend of knowledge, intention, care, and reflection. Only when we’ve taught and exemplified respect toward others can we expect our children to grasp what it entails, recognize its value, and exhibit respectful behavior themselves. When children are aware of what’s expected but choose to act unkindly, it can be construed as disrespect. They know how to behave but choose not to or have ulterior motives.

When determining whether a child’s behavior is respectful or disrespectful, consider whether your home environment allows room for children to make decisions and voice their opinions. If so, a certain degree of questioning and complaint isn’t necessarily disrespectful. Additionally, consider your child’s age when assessing respect versus disrespect. A three-year-old might not immediately grasp that it’s impolite to comment on someone’s appearance, but they can learn with time and gentle guidance.

It’s important to note that children with neurological differences might have underlying reasons for their actions. If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a counselor or physician.

Distinguishing Respectful from Disrespectful Behavior

Every child is unique. Some may be sensitive to things like itchy tags, bulky seams, or uncomfortable fabrics. If your child strongly objects to wearing a particular item of clothing due to sensory discomfort, it’s essential to respect their feelings. Remove those clothing options from the mix to avoid unnecessary battles. Remember, it’s about making your child feel comfortable and confident in what they wear. When they feel good in their clothes, it can positively impact their overall mood and self-esteem.

Respect and Good Manners

Traditional phrases like “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am” seem to be fading from children’s vocabulary, with backtalk becoming more common. Parents can still teach their children when and how to use these social conventions at age-appropriate times for each child. Expressing “please,” “thank you,” holding doors for people, complimenting a meal, and offering to contribute in various ways are all forms of respect and kindness.

Children generally want to do the right thing and feel more confident when they understand proper behavior in diverse social situations. However, it’s essential to remember that courteous behavior isn’t everything. What truly matters is genuine care for others.

Some children, especially those who are naturally shy, may not readily say “hi” to everyone they encounter, which may come across as rudeness. Instead of jumping to conclusions about their intentions, offer strategies to help them become more comfortable with greetings. It’s also essential to recognize that respect and manners can vary depending on the context. Showing respect to Grandma may differ from respecting friends or teachers, and children benefit from understanding these societal and generational differences.

How To Deal with Entitlement and Disrespect

Teaching respect often involves addressing entitlement because entitlement doesn’t align with respecting people’s time, efforts, or resources. As our society evolves, children receive more material possessions, access to technology, and greater freedom with fewer responsibilities. While it’s natural to want our children to enjoy a carefree childhood, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

To combat entitlement, parents can encourage their children to participate in family contributions and emphasize the importance of giving and expressing appreciation for family, friends, and teachers. It’s also essential to avoid rewarding children for basic, expected tasks, as this can hinder their development of intrinsic values like generosity and self-respect.

Creating a Respectful Home Environment

Building an environment where children feel valued, heard, and respected lays the foundation for teaching respect. Here’s how you can achieve this:

  • Using Discipline, Not Punishment: Distinguishing between discipline and punishment is critical. Punishment blames, hurts, and embarrasses children when they misbehave, leading to fear rather than respect. On the other hand, discipline provides a positive, proactive approach that allows children to experience the consequences of their actions without shame or blame.

  • Involving Children in Decisions: Parenthood has shifted from an autocratic model to a more democratic one, where children have a voice. While children are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings, respect remains a fundamental value. Involving children in decisions fosters their ability to work with and understand the perspectives of others.

  • Creating a Decision-Rich Environment: Allowing children to make age-appropriate choices empowers them and makes them feel valued. From choosing their outfits to deciding dinner menus, age and responsibility determine the scope of their choices.

  • Using the Ask, Don’t Tell Tool: Instead of dictating orders, asking respectfully can foster cooperation and eliminate power struggles. It’s important to ask only when you’re prepared to accept “no” as a valid response.

  • Taking Time for Training: Children need guidance and instruction to understand what respect entails. Parents should explain disrespectful behavior and offer training on alternative, respectful actions.

  • Modeling Respect Towards Others: Parents must lead by example, treating others with respect and kindness. Children are observant and tend to emulate their parents’ behavior.

  • Teaching Empathy: Empathy is integral to respect. Children should be encouraged to put themselves in others’ shoes and engage in acts of kindness and giving.

  • Communication: Parents should foster open and honest communication with their children, teaching them the importance of listening and expressing their feelings.

  • Holding Routine Family Meetings: Family meetings provide a platform for family members to communicate, solve problems, and demonstrate cooperation.

Teaching Self-Respect

Children who believe in their abilities are equipped to respect themselves and others. Self-respecting children understand their significance, voice, and power. They also grasp the concept of boundaries, making them more sensitive to signs of bullying or disrespectful behavior. Teaching self-respect involves modeling respectful practices, training children in various situations, and addressing entitlement to help children thrive.

Toley Ranz offers guidance, talks, and special programs for children and parents at schools, community centers, libraries, and many more places to work together and build self-esteem, self-belief, and self-power! Contact us at info@toleyranz.com – we’re here to help!