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How to Instill Respect in Your Children



How to Instill Respect in Your Children 

G. Runo


We have all come across that child: The teenager who has attitude and is not afraid to use inappropriate language while addressing adults; the pre-schooler who is not afraid to hit her mother; the school age child who takes her friend’s things without asking first. There is one thing that is common in all these scenarios; lack of respect. No one wants to associate with a child who knows nothing about respect. These children are hard to deal with, so most people avoid them to avoid drama.

My mom was very strict about respect, and I grew up knowing why it was important to be polite to others and behave appropriately in all circumstances. It was always a shock when a kid my age would be disrespectful to others, especially grownups. I promised myself to bring up my children the same way I was brought up. I hadn’t anticipated the amount of work involved in ensuring that a child knows how to respect not only her parents but everyone else in society. It takes conscious effort on the part of a parent to teach their children about respect. Don’t expect them to know on their own that it is wrong to use the same language that they use on their peers while addressing adults. Here are a few things you can do to teach your children to be respectful.


Start Early

Don’t wait until your child is in her teens to teach her to be respectful. Start correcting her early so that by the time she is old enough to make her own decisions, she will already know what you and society expect from her. If you notice she talks back to you, let her know that is wrong. Let her also know that there are some things she can say to her peers but not to adults. I am in the habit of asking my five year old daughter, “Where are your manners?” whenever she doesn’t remember to show courtesy to others. She thought it was okay to ask me the same, but it’s not. I’m her mother not her peer, so I explained why she cannot use that language on me. I am also working on being clear about what I want her to do instead of using language that might confuse her.


It Begins at Home

If your child is disrespectful to you and you do nothing about it, she is going to repeat her disrespect in school and in all other areas of her life. You have to teach her to be respectful to you because you are her parent. It is easy to let things slide especially when you have had a long day. You might let her get away with being rude to you because you do not feel like dealing with her drama after a long day at work when all you want to do is rest. Letting things slide will let her know it is okay to be rude to you and if she can be rude to you she can be rude to anyone. Ask yourself whether you would let a grown up talk to you the way your child just did, and if the answer is no, then you have to let her know she cannot talk to you or anyone in that manner. If you teach your child to be respectful at home, she will be respectful out of the home.


Teach Basic Courtesy

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As I said, no one wants to deal with a rude child, which means if your child is disrespectful, she will have few friends. Teach her basic interaction skills, such as saying thanks, excuse me, please and sorry. If she is in the wrong and she apologizes, that shows respect for others. If she is wrong and she chooses to be arrogant about it, that means she has no respect for the feelings of those around her. These basic interaction skills will ensure she has more friends because more people will be willing to be around a person who respects them.


Correct Calmly

When correcting your child, do so calmly. Control yourself even if you are very mad at her

You are at a party with your daughter. The party is for your boss’s only daughter and you are feeling honored to have received the invitation. You also know that the real reason you were invited is because you have a daughter the same age as your boss’s child, and your daughter, being the jolly child she is, was added to the list because she is a natural leader. The hosts know that as long as your daughter is at the party, all the children will have fun. You are hoping to widen your network and make a good impression because you know new friends may come in handy some day. But your daughter is not herself today. She keeps misbehaving and yelling at the other kids and you cannot ignore this anymore. Your parenting role comes first and you need to remind your daughter what you have always discussed at home about respect.

Instead of yelling at your child, it would be better to call her aside and remind her what it means to be respectful towards others. Be firm and let her know that if her behavior does not change there will be consequences. Make sure to follow through with the consequences if you want her to take you seriously in future.


Set Limits Early

grandfather and grandchildren reading a book

Use everyday opportunities to teach your child about respect. Set limits when things are calm and no one is under pressure to be respectful. When you teach your child on a daily basis to be respectful, when the time comes and she needs to use these lessons, she will be able to apply them. If you teach her that it is wrong to be disrespectful to her teachers no matter what, she will know to control herself on a day when her teacher fails her in a sum she is sure she did correctly. She will not be rude to the teacher. Instead, she will explain in a respectful way.


Be Objective

I had a cousin whose mom would take her daughter’s disrespect personally. The mom would go for days or even weeks without talking to her daughter after they had a fight. My cousin was in her teenage years and a headstrong young girl. Age has now mellowed her and she is not as rude as she used to be. Her mom struggled to take into account that the teenage years are a hard time even for the best of us. Instead of taking things personally, she should have understood her daughter and been the adult in the house, and the mother the teenager needed. Instead of taking things personally, she should have tried to understand why her daughter was acting the way she was acting. The fights were mostly about chores because my cousin wanted to be equal with the mother. She didn’t want to be the one to do the dishes every day. She wanted to share the work, which was unreasonable because the mother was working 14 hour shifts in a local hospital. Both parties were wrong but what would you have done if you were the parent? Would you have gone silent on your daughter? Or would you have made rules and set consequences, instead of trying to get back at her.

When your child shows disrespect, don’t take it personally. Deal with the problem and know it is part of growing up. Deal with each mistake as it comes and remember you are not the only parent who has to constantly correct her children. If you are objective, you will be better able to teach your child how to respect you and others.


Be Respectful

Do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do backfires badly in parenting. Your child will more often than not do as you do and not as you say. If you are disrespectful to others and you tell her to be respectful, your words are nothing but white noise. If you talk negatively about her teachers in her presence, she will disrespect them. If you mistreat your spouse and call them names in the presence of your child, she will disrespect them. If you are disrespectful of the law, you are raising a child who will have no regard for the law.



About the Author

G. Runo is an educator, a writer, a mother of two young children and a guardian of five teenagers. She has been a teacher and a curriculum developer for four years. She’s a passionate storyteller who enjoys sharing her parenting and education wisdom with other parents. Follow her on Twitter @grarun20.




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