It is important to teach a child respect at an early age. The way a child will treat themselves and others develops very early. If they get onto the wrong track when they are young, it will be very hard to get them back onto the right track later on.
One of the most influential ways to teach a child respect is to be respectful yourself. Respect is one of the things that children naturally learn. Just as you don’t have to teach a child your language, you also don’t have to teach a child to mimic your interpersonal actions. There are three basic areas in which to model respect: you should respect the child, you should respect other adults, and you should respect yourself.
Respect your child
It is hard, if not impossible, for a child to show respect if she hasn’t had respect shown to her. The most important way to show your child respect is to listen to her. If she wants to tell her side of a story or tell you about her day; listen. By asking questions, you show that you are not only listening but also that you care and want to know more. Good listening questions are ones like “how did that make you feel?” You can also make statements that affirm the child like, “I’ll bet you were really proud of yourself”.
Another way to show a child respect is to always be polite when talking to him. If you want your child to say, “please” and “thank you” then you should always ask “please” and say “thank you” when interacting with your child. The same is true for not interrupting the child when he is talking. However it is that you want your child to act; model exactly that.
Finally, you should never put your child down or call any names, even for fun. Especially for fun. Do not yell at your children either; it shows a lack of respect. Even if your kid is totally out of control, you should remove the child from the situation and tell them why they are being removed. When the child is calm you can talk about the incident, and you can explain that you were embarrassed, or disappointed, or whatever. Yelling and making threats not only doesn’t work, it models disrespectful behavior that your child will adopt into his own interaction strategy.
Just as you should always show respect to the child you should also show respect to others. Don’t yell at your spouse in front of your child. Don’t ever call anyone a name or make fun of another person. The cost to your child is too great.
The truth is, you might not respect everybody. You might not even respect your spouse. That’s too bad, but for the child’s sake you have to act like you do. In front of the kids, it’s a good idea to pretend as if everybody is your grandma. Always use your best manners; always listen, and never interrupt, and never talk in an abusive waynot even in fun.
One of the hardest things to model is self-respect. We want our children to grow up to respect themselves and to be confident in all situations. However, we often give them a bad example. To show that you respect yourself, treat yourself like you would like others to treat you. Don’t be so hard on yourself, at least not in front of the kids. Never say that you are stupid, or that you don’t “have your head on straight”. Self-degradation teaches the kids that they don’t have to respect you (why should they if you don’t respect yourself?) It also sets a bad example because it shows them that self-respect is not important.
Similarly, don’t let anybody else disrespect you. That includes your child. You don’t want to give a big response if they say something disrespectful but you need to correct it. Sometime a child will say something like “I hate you!” to try to get a response. If your child says something like this, or any other disrespectful thing, you should wait until you are alone (I don’t know why they always want to do this in the grocery store). When you are alone and the child is calm, you can explain that that kind of talk is not allowed. You can also talk about the other things that they can say when they are frustrated.
To set a good example and teach your child respect you should show respect for them and for everybody else. You should also demand respect for yourself.