Model it , expect it, and enforce it! Have you had the pleasure of watching your child respectfully greet a guest with a smile, handshake, and good eye contact? It is one of the most wonderful things to see. It expresses confidence, dignity, and humility. It’s the simplest gesture known to civilization, yet one of the most profound. When we greet someone with respect it says, “I respect you and want you to respect me”. Simple acts such as this are taught. It isn’t accidental.
Respect is a learned behavior just like disrespect is. If our children are acting disrespectful you can bet that they are observing the same behavior from someone they look up to. Our children will rise or fall to whatever level they see the adults in their lives behave. Ouch. It reminds me of the country song Watching You, by Rodney Atkins when the little boy uses a four letter word that started with “s” and the dad asks where he learned to talk like that. He said, “I’ve been watching you, now ain’t that cool. I’m your buckaroo. I want to be like you …” .
In her book, The Family Coach Method, Dr. Lynne Kenney lists seven simple things we can do as adults to foster strong character in our children. They include:
- Be a good listener – Give your child your undivided attention when they are speaking to you.
- Be fair – Consider your child’s viewpoint and experience before starting your opinion.
- Be honest – Tell the truth.
- Be accountable when you make a mistake.
- Be polite – Use the manners that you expect of your children.
- Be positive – Focus on the positive side of life. Your child deserves a role model that “lifts them up.” Compliment your children, observe what they do well and celebrate it.
- Be reliable – Keep your promises. Show your child that you mean what you say. Do as you say and say as you do. Children see the truth through a clearer lens than do adults.
- Be trustworthy – Keep your children’s heart-felt feelings and experiences private, show them that you can be a trusted adult who cares about their feelings and their self-esteem.
I love her choice to use “be”. It expresses a powerful parenting tip. Tell your children what to do, not what not to do. Giving children clear direction about what is good and right wires their thinking and builds good habits. Showing your children that you respect them through your words and actions encourages your children to respect themselves, you, and others.
Here are some AACA ways to help your child practice good character:
Heart – Expect your child to respectfully greet guests.
Mind – Provide “think time” when your child is struggling with a task.
Body – Encourage exercise every day.
Soul – Ask your children to share three things they like about their character.
“Our lives change when our habits change.” – Matthew Kelly
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin
“Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their own character, but as a reflection of yours.”- Dave Willis