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, yet profound. When we greet someone with respect it says, “I respect you, and I want you to respect me”. Simple acts like these are taught; they aren’t accidents. Respect is a learned behavior. Ouch! This 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 ..”.
The way we learn to respect others and ourselves is to value the uniqueness of each person we meet. No two people are alike. How we learn, how we think and question life, and what we choose to do with our lives is as unique as a snowflake. Respecting our unique contribution to the world is a perfect place to start when we are teaching our children to be respectful. I am a one-of-a-kind and so are you. Appreciating our differences will help us to get along and live well together.
In her book, The Family Coach Method, Dr. Lynne Kenney lists seven simple things we can do as adults to foster the habit of respect 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 stating 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. Showing your children respect through your words and actions encourages them to respect themselves, you, and others.
Here are some AACA ways to help your child practice respect:
- Heart – Expect your child to respectfully greet people.
- Mind – Provide “think time” when your child is struggling with a task.
- Body – Encourage a healthy lifestyle of 9+ hours of sleep, healthy diet, and exercise.
- Soul – Ask your child to share three things they like about him/herself.
“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.”