If you want your child to grow into a respectful person, you need to start teaching respect early. Young children can be guided towards respectful behavior as they start to talk to and interact with others. You can pull from three different branches of psychology to instill respect in your child.
Behaviorism has fallen out of favor in most psychological circles, and that’s unfortunate because it works. The main idea behind behaviorism is that your child will increase behaviors that are rewarded and will reduce behaviors that are punished. The key to using behaviorism in teaching respect is to focus on rewarding respectful behavior. If you are trying to teach Johnny to say “please’ and “thank you” you should reward him every time he uses the words (at first). Rewards don’t have to be trips to the zoo or pieces of pie. Johnny will repeat the behavior if you just say something like, “that’s my good boy!” or smile at him after he says “please”, rough up his hair and say, “you’re welcome, son”.
Punishment is different. Often punishment can just be ignoring bad behavior. Little kids often say things just to get a response. Your response is their reward and will increase the behavior. If your child says something disrespectful to you, the best thing you can do is stay cool. You can kneel down to their level and say something like, “We don’t talk to each other like that in our house”. For the most part, young children want to please us. You can convey your disappointment in just a few words.
The big idea in social psychology is that children do what they see done. In this case of “monkey see, monkey do” you can model respectful behavior for your child and he or she will learn to act appropriately. In the classic social psychology experiments, the children modeled adult behavior with no instructions at all. They just watched adults interacting through a window and when it was their turn, they did what they had seen the adults do.
What this means to you is that you need to show respect to your child and show respect to other people. Your kid will always be watching. To model respectful behavior to your child, you should always listen to what your child has to say. This shows that you value their thoughts and opinions. You should also model polite behaviors such as saying “please” and “thank you” and not interrupting. Along these lines, you should never model disrespectful behavior. Do not call other people names or put them down. Even if some $#@^& cuts you off in traffic! Making a derogatory comment about someone might be funny, but what you are teaching your child is that not everyone deserves respect. Try to always show respect to everyone, and your child will learn to do the same.
Cognitive psychology shows us that we aren’t just robots who do what we are trained to do, or apes who do what we see done. When applying cognitive psychology, you will teach your child about respect. You can ask questions like “How do you think that makes me feel?” or ask them about their own feelings. You can teach a child that they are in control of their own actions. Explain that sometimes you feel like throwing a fit too, but you don’t. Teach them the strategies you use to show respect when you don’t feel like it. Also teach them to respect differences in others. It is never too early to learn that everyone deserves respect.
Children can understand quite a bit more than we give them credit for. As soon as they are old enough to learn the word “respect”, you can start discussing what it means, how to show it, and how important it is to have both self-respect and respect for others.