“How can I teach my kids respect?”
I often hear this question from my fellow mothers. This question was one of them that got the most interest in the mother group I am a member of. This suggested that most parents struggle with this and feel that their children don’t show as much respect towards them or others as they would expect.
I feel fortunate because I had many years of experience working with kids before I became a mother. Of course, I wouldn’t say that I don’t have to learn and improve in this field. Moreover, raising our children is different from educating others’ kids. But I experienced my personal transformation towards this issue during these years. I had the opportunity to practise teaching kids respect before my kid.
My husband and I were raised in families where respect was forced by our parents. It was emphasized that we had to respect our parents because they were older than us and were doing everything for us, giving up many things to allow us to study.
When I was studying to attain my first teaching degree, I remember it was highlighted during the course that we needed to get authority over the students. Also, it was essential that already in the first lesson, you had to present that you had a lot of power to manage discipline and control them. It was said that they had to fear you a little bit. Otherwise, they wouldn’t respect you.
However, I have learned that you must deserve respect, and children must be taught to be respectful by showing a model to them.
What can we, as parents, do to raise a respectful child?
Maybe it is needless to emphasize that children aren’t born knowing how to respect others. We, adults, need to teach them to be respectful.
When a child is a baby, it is natural that she can communicate by crying, and her mother satisfies her needs when she is hungry, wet, or needs a hug. But as they are older, it’s our job to teach them respectful ways of getting their needs by showing a model.
Why Do We Communicate With Our Children So Differently As We Do With Adults?
If you are in a restaurant and get the wrong dish, you might not tell the waiter: “You brought me the wrong dish. Why didn’t you listen to me? Go and bring me the right one immediately.”
Most people wouldn’t use these rude, disrespectful, directive tones in this situation. But what about with their children? Do they talk to their children that way?
“Why aren’t you listening to me? I told you not to do this.”
Some of them allow themselves to speak to their children that way. Why do we treat others differently? Why do we respect them more?
How To Teach Respect:
1. Stay calm and don’t overreact when you think your child is disrespectful
We sometimes think that yelling works with children who don’t listen. But I’m afraid that’s not right. We often shout at them from another room. They don’t listen to us if we are not in front of them, making eye contact and ensuring they pay attention to what we say. We are disrespectful to them.
We shout at them because they don’t meet our expectations. We are rude towards them because we are frustrated. This behaviour shows we can be harsh and disrespectful when we are angry. We convey the wrong message.
So, if we want to teach respect, first, we need to stay calm and stay in control. We must decide if this is a “disrespect” situation, a misunderstanding, or the kid doesn’t know the correct answer to such a situation.
2. Teach Problem Solving Alternatives
First, we need to identify the cause of disrespect. If we think they are genuinely disrespectful, we can concentrate on the circumstance, asking them why they act that way instead of saying, “You are being rude!”
When your child calls you a “bad mum” because you don’t allow her to do something, you tell her, “How dare you! I am your mother; you can’t talk to me that way.” You might think your child doesn’t respect you, and you are nervous.
But the kids usually say that they think you hurt them, they are angry and want to hurt you back. They (and adults) can’t think straight when they are mad.
We can ask them, “Why did you say that? Was it because you were angry with me?” With our acknowledgment, we can see her anger start to disappear.
Then we can explain that they are upset, but that doesn’t mean we are bad mums. We can ask, “If other kids are angry at you for something you have done, does it mean you are a bad girl?”
By narrating our child’s emotions, we can help them see where the anger came from and can teach them words to describe their emotions and solve the problems. Also, we can present to them that we can stay calm in conflicts.
3. Model How to Be Respectful
Respect your kid first; treat her as a person like you treat adults. Respect her preferences and choices. Some parents want complete control over their child’s behavior and preferences. They want their kids to be “mini-me” of them, but they aren’t. If her choice is not dangerous to safety or health, doesn’t hurt others, and we can afford them, we must honour it.
Children also have the right to think independently and like different things. When their thoughts and choices are accepted, they feel heard and respected. They can learn that they should respect other people’s different separate opinions.
4. Use Positive Discipline Instead of Punishment
Discipline doesn’t mean punishment; positive discipline is more effective and longer-lasting than punishment.
Everybody makes mistakes. If you make a mistake at work and your boss reacts to it humiliatingly, you wouldn’t have more respect for him.
The situation is the same with children. If we punish them harshly, they won’t respect us, and we will show them how to be cruel to those who make mistakes.
If you use positive discipline, that doesn’t mean you are permissive. Using positive discipline means setting firm boundaries and insisting on them. That is essential for successful parenting.
5. Earn, Don’t Demand Respect
When I heard that I needed to be respectful and grateful to my parents because they did so many things for me, I always thought, “but they wanted me; why do I have to be grateful for that.”
Naturally, parents expect their kids to respect them. They spend so much effort, time, and money to raise their children. But little ones don’t understand this. And to be honest, they didn’t ask us to do all this. We decided to take on them.
But respect cannot be expected; it can only be earned. We can make it by showing a good role model. We need to be respectful to everyone, including our children.
6. Apologize For Mistakes
It is natural that we occasionally have outbursts and can’t control our anger. We are too tired of balancing our adult things and parenting. But after that, we need to calm down and explain to them why we were so upset before. Then we need to say sorry for shouting but teaching her having emotions are normal.
A mature, respectful adult takes responsibility and apologizes when he or she makes mistakes.
Many parents think apologizing to their kids undermines their parental authority. But that’s not true; contrarily, you reinforce authority and reliability. You can build trust with your kid.
7. Don’t Take Your Child’s Behaviour Personally
Parents often take their child’s behaviour personally. All children have conflicts with their parents. It would be best if you dealt with your child’s behaviour as objectively as possible.
When parents can’t manage these conflicts effectively, they feel out of control and often overreact or underreact to this situation. When they overreact, they can be too rigid. And when they underreact, they ignore it. None of them are correct. We need to help our child learn to manage her thoughts or emotions.
Parenting is not easy. All of us have unresolved issues with our parents that throw difficulties in the way of being the best parents we can be.
Teaching respect is like other parenting tasks. The first and most important thing is showing an appropriate model to our kids. To this, we need to work on ourselves all the time. We must always self-reflect and analyze our own emotions and behavior to be able to change ourselves and correct our own mistakes.
When my daughter makes a mess, I could choose the “easy” route to save myself a lot of time and frustration by shouting at her not to make a mess all the time. But I remind myself how I hated it when I was shouted at, and she wouldn’t respect me for shouting. I experienced this with my students. It never works. We can get temporary obedience out of them (not always), but not respect.
Of course, it is not easy to do the things I listed above. Not for me either.
We need to acknowledge the mistakes in the patterns we got from our parents and the environment in our childhood and heal our wounds. This work is conscious and time-consuming, but we live in a time when we can get a lot of help, and tools for this.
If you think you want to change or improve yourself, you are on the right path.