The best way to teach a child respect is to show respect.
But what does it mean to show respect?
Respect is an attitude. It is a response to others that may be verbal and non-verbal. Respect is the attitude of admiration or esteem – to hold in esteem or consider well-regarded – towards others, oneself and one’s possessions.
A respectful child takes care of belongings and responsibilities, and a respectful child gets along with peers, parents and figures of authority.
I wish there was a perfect model to apply to teach a child respect. Just as the best way to teach a child how to love is to show love, the best way to teach respect is to show respect. Children model the behavior of the adults in their lives. Keep in mind the saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
When a child experiences respect, they know what it feels like and begins to understand how important it is. Start teaching your children as soon as they may begin to understand what you say to them. It is always much more difficult to show and teach respect to a teenager who has not really been held accountable.
If your child does something disrespectful, it is important to modify inappropriate behavior right away. Take the time to point out that their behavior towards others or you are not respectful. This should be done in a quiet, non-threatening way. Point out their strengths and good behavior first. Always offer them alternate ways in which they could have handled the situation better.
For example, you are on a day trip at the zoo with a few other moms and their children. Your daughter wants you to buy her something in the gift shop. You tell her to pick out something else less expensive and show her some other things in the store. She begins to have a melt-down right there in the store and begins to call you names. Not knowing what to do you take her outside.
The response to your daughter’s behavior is crucial.
Many parents accept inappropriate behavior for example, and it will play out something like this:
She is spoken to in a harsh manner: threatening her future freedom (“If you don’t stop right now, you will never go on another trip with your friends again”) or bargaining in an attempt to stop the incident (“If you stop crying and calling me names, I’ll buy you what you want”).
Neither response will teach your daughter the respect that she will need as she encounters similar situations in her life. If the parent responds in a manner that shows the child that their behavior is acceptable, the child will not modify their behavior and will continue to act inappropriately.
Modifying inappropriate behavior
If mom is comfortable confronting her daughter and has handled these types of behaviors in the past with her, she will quietly lead her out of the store and sit her down. She will review the trip and tell her what behaviors she demonstrated today that were exemplary and then discuss the behaviors that were less then acceptable. Her mother will then discuss ways in which she could handle her feelings in a more positive manner. The discussion ends with a gentle reminder that respect must be a part of how they treat each other and that she will have the opportunity to have a new toy or treat upon her next positive behavioral display.
No threats, no bargains. just an honest discussion about how the child behaved appropriately and which actions were not appropriate.
In Conclusion respect requires the following:
- Introducing the concept of respect as soon as a child is able to understand what you are saying to them by identifying positive and negative behavior.
- Parents must be a good role model by interacting with others respectfully in front of their children.
- Talking with your child at those times when they demonstrate behavior that is less than respectful. Showing them in the moment is best.
- Begin by building on the strengths they have shown, tell them any positive behaviors they have shown, and how to improve the undesired behaviors.
I am not saying this is always easy. But giving in only promotes the child to continue disrespectful behavior.