As moms, we all want to raise respectful children. We want our kids to be respectful of us as their parents but also of other people and the world around them. Because respect is about more than being polite. It’s also about kindness, empathy, consideration, and showing gratitude. When your child is being disrespectful by talking back or not listening it’s natural to get upset. But it’s important to remember kids aren’t born knowing what it means to be respectful. It’s our job as their parents to teach them. Here are some ways you can begin to teach kids respect at home.
How to Teach Kids Respect
1. Demonstrate Respect
The number one way to teach kids respect is to show it to them. Demonstrating respect means behaving respectfully not only when you’re interacting with other adults but also when you interact with your children.
When your child is behaving disrespectfully, it is natural to want to return that disrespect but consider the lesson that teaches.
We’re in charge of our kids, right? They’re the ones that are supposed to be respectful! A nice idea, but how will they ever learn respect if you, the guiding adult in their life, respond to them with a barrage of anger, yelling, sarcasm, or other disrespectful interactions?
If you’re struggling to keep interactions with your child respectful, you are not alone. I am the first to admit this is something I struggle with when my children are disregarding or defying my every rule and request. The most important step to a respectful interaction is to stay calm. Don’t overreact. Think through what you want to say before addressing a misbehavior. A calm parent is much more likely to give and receive respect from their child.
Our kids are watching us all of the time. They see how we treat others, friends, family members, store clerks, bank tellers, and waiters. It’s important that our behavior demonstrates what it means to be polite and respectful. Role modeling proper behavior is a crucial part of any plan to teach kids respect.
2. Model Good Listening
Another important aspect of teaching respect is modeling listening skills. When your child is speaking to you, put down your phone. Or turn off the television. Or set aside whatever it is you are doing that is keeping your child from receiving your full attention. I understand this isn’t always possible. My own daughter would like my undivided attention 24 hours a day. But I wouldn’t get anything else done.
Having said that, there are certainly times when she tries to talk to me and I am distracted. Times when she genuinely needs and deserves my full attention. I am working to be better at giving it to her. It’s what I want from her, isn’t it? We all want our kids to listen attentively when we talk to them. And following that, learn the lessons and rules we are trying to teach them.
Giving someone our full attention sometimes seems like a lost art. But think of when you’re speaking to someone about something important and they are busy checking Facebook or texting. It’s frustrating and discourteous. And it makes you feel as if they don’t respect you. To teach kids respect we need to show them what respect looks and feels like.
3. Insist on Good Manners
If your kids interrupt, talk back, yell, or otherwise behave disrespectfully at home without consequences those behaviors will become their norm. As with teaching all types of good behavior, it’s important to make your expectations clear. Then you can prompt and remind your kids as necessary.
You can begin to teach kids respect from a very young age. Toddlers can learn to say “please” and “thank you”. Preschoolers can learn basic manners for eating meals and speaking to adults in social situations. Teaching kids to interact respectfully with other people is an ongoing process and you can start as soon as your child is old enough to communicate with others.
Behaving respectfully also means learning not to yell, hit or throw tantrums. Young children need time, practice and a lot of patience and reminders while they develop the impulse control necessary to avoid these behaviors. But it starts with teaching them about being kind and respectful of others.
Skills that Last a Lifetime
We may start out wanting to teach kids respect in order to improve behavior at home or at school. But learning to treat other people with respect is a skill that will benefit your child for their entire life. Teaching basic respect also forms the foundation for teaching other important values like kindness, open-mindedness, generosity and many other qualities it’s important to teach our children as we nurture them through childhood and beyond.