Teaching Children Respect
Respect is key to a happy family, community or society. It’s an attitude, a mindset…and something that we know is so very important for our children to show. There is very little worse than a disrespectful kid! But is it possible to teach respect? How can children learn about respect in a way that goes beyond good manners to truly internalize the behavior? To answer this question, Sue Atkins, parenting expert and author of the new book, Parenting Made Easy: How to Raise Happy Children, shares ten practical steps parents can take to help children develop and nurture this vital trait. — Jacqueline, TMC Web Content Producer
An article by Sue Atkins.
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster”
~ Stephen R. Covey
It may be difficult to precisely define respect, but respectful behavior certainly is easy to recognize! Respectful children take care of their own belongings, at the same time understanding that things not belonging to them also require care and may or may not be available for their use. They accept responsibility for their shortcomings (and successes), and they tend to get along with parents, their siblings, peers, friends and new children they come in contact with. Respect is not the same as obedience. Children might obey simply because they are afraid of the punishment for disobedience. If your children respect you, however, they will obey you because they recognize internally that what you want is truly what’s best for them.
Schools may teach children about respect – and these can be important lessons – but parents truly have the most influence over how their children develop this trait. Unless children are taught (and shown) respect at home, it’s unlikely they will be able to learn it anywhere else.
The basics of teaching respect? Here are 10 simple steps:
Show it: When a child experiences respect, they know what it feels like and they begin to understand how important it is. In other words, be a role model! Be aware of your attitude and mindset, your tone of voice, your body language and the words you use to praise your children or discipline your child, because you need to model the behavior you want to teach them. If you want your child to show respect you have to respect your child first.
Expect it: When your expectations are high (but not out of reach), children are remarkable in their ability to rise to the occasion. Let your children know that they are expected to be polite. They are expected to be caring in how they play with others, how they speak to others and how they speak to you. Teach them respect for others through good manners. As soon as they are able to talk teach them to say “please” and “thank you.”
Praise it: When you see or hear your child or other children using respectful language and showing respect, praise them as a way to highlight this behavior and to help them understand what’s expected of them.
Set limits: One of the best ways to demonstrate respect is to be both kind and firm in your discipline because being kind shows respect for your child, but setting limits and boundaries shows respect for the basic life rules we all need to live by.
Discuss it: Pick out times when you are out in the park, reading a story, watching a program together on TV or when you see other children using respectful or disrespectful language (or poor behavior) and discuss with it your child. Use every opportunity to teach your child about what is and isn’t acceptable.
Correct it: Be confident, calm, fair and consistent when you are correcting or disciplining your kids. Make sure the language and tone you use are words that you would consider respectful if you were the one getting the reprimand. Over time, your children will mirror this behavior.
Reward it: Being respectful should be something that children naturally do because you have instilled that value into them. It’s not something they do to get huge rewards. But of course while they are little, it may be a good idea to associate respectful behavior with stickers, an extra story or a longer playtime outside as well as with intangible rewards such as praise, cuddles and extra privileges as they get older.
Acknowledge it: Don’t let lessons in respect slip for the sake of convenience – keep the bigger picture always in your mind as a short term gain quickly turns into a long term nightmare! Right now it may seem like a waste of time to patiently explain why you expect your child to share his or her toys. In the long run, however, this could right up there with the most valuable bits of advice you give your child.
Understand it: Children make mistakes sometimes and forget what they know about respect. They may need reminders that, for example, shouting at their sister to get out of the bathroom isn’t really the best way to show respect! Be prepared to reinforce your teachings about respect at any time of the day or night.
Reinforce it: Create an atmosphere of respect in your home. As Stephen Covey once said, how you treat the most challenging child in your family is the level of respect that your entire family experiences.
The big lesson for parents? Teaching respect takes patience, time and lots of energy as it takes years to rear a respectful child; but if we are to create a happy, confident ,well behaved child who grows up to be a happy, confident, and well-behaved adult, we need to start from the very beginning.
Sue Atkins is a parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of the bestselling book, Raising Happy Children for Dummies, the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs, and Parenting Made Easy app for iPhones and iPads. Her new book, Parenting Made Easy: How to Raise Happy Children, will be released by Random House in April 2012. For more parenting tips, please visit www.thesueatkins.com. Follow Sue on Twitter: @sueatkins.
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