Tired of telling your kids over and over that it’s not okay to throw their books all over the floor? They may need more lessons in respect. Kids are not robots and shouldn’t be treated as such. But they do need to learn important life skills, such as respect. In raising four kids and also in my former job as a nanny, one thing that has been consistent with all kids is that respect cannot just be told and expected. It is a process learned through actions taken by them, as well as everyone around them.
Give the kids some respect. One of the easiest ways to teach respect is to give it. Kids are great copycats. But more than that, when you value them, as well as other people, they are likely to respect you for that. If you expect things to always go your way without listening to other possibilities, you aren’t likely to get respect from the kids – or anyone else, for that matter. If you never listen to the kids, expect to lose their respect, instead of gaining it.
Discuss valued people and objects. Teach kids to respect people and objects by discussing their special qualities. Have them imagine what it would be like without those people and items and how they should treat them in order to keep them around longer. Have the kids write down or draw what’s discussed. This helps them remember it and also gives them something to reference later. If they are too small to do this, try drawing special pictures of people and things for them. Next to them, draw pictures of respectful actions. For instance, you might draw a library book with a shelf or a library card with a wallet. Place the charts you and the kids make in a visible location.
Be hands-on. You can’t simply tell the kids to have respect. It has to be an action they are familiar with. If no one around them shows it, they have nothing to learn from. Point out real-life examples for them. You can say things like “Aunt Lottie is so respectful of Uncle Jim. She doesn’t like that color, but she knows it’s his favorite, so she wore it for him today.” “Judy always puts her books back on the shelf when she’s dine reading them, so they stay nice.” A hands-on approach gives them examples to show the benefits of respecting others.
Harbor compassion for others. Teaching kids how and why to care about the feelings of others is also an important part of respect. When they can feel and understand people on a deeper level, respecting them will come much easier. This should be taught early on. Kids need to know the effects their actions have on people, as well as items. When things they do make someone happy, sad, or angry, be sure they know. Prompt them to think of things they may have done differently to get the opposite result and which options are better and why.
Be understanding. If you lend an ear when kids have things they discuss, they will be more likely to respect your thoughts on things too. But if you shun them when they want to speak, they will also do the same. Let them know you understand and care about their thought processes and their opinions. When people understand them, they are more likely to understand other people. They don’t have to get their way every time. But they should sometimes and they should also know that you care, whether the end result is what they want or not.
More from Lyn Lomasi:
Positive Parenting Tips: How to Show Kids They Matter
The Parenting Mistake Journal
Teach Your Child to Respect Books with This Simple Crafts Activity