We often hear people lamenting the fact that children lack respect today. Let’s face it, often they’re not wrong. The problem is that often adults don’t show respect either, which is shameful considering that respecting each other is one of the few things in life that’s free but impacts so hugely on everyone’s lives.
Respect is due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.
Being respectful is something we need to incorporate into our children’s everyday lives and we’re not just talking about saying “please” and “thank you” here either – respect goes a lot further than that.
The best way to teach your children respect and good manners is by example. I say this on the premise that you can’t expect to get it, if you don’t give it.
Respect and manners will vary considerably from culture to culture, but here are a few things that we believe are universally important:
- Show kindness and courtesy – offering your seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman is an easy way to do this (make a point of pointing out why you’ve done this to your child to draw their attention to kind and courteous behaviour).
- Think before you speak by always considering the feelings of the people you come into contact with. Will what you say hurt them? If so, modify it.
- Be respectful with your whole body – it’s not enough to just listen, you have to listen politely. If your kids talk to you listen politely and be sure to have your body language show that you’re listening too. If you do this with them, they are more likely to listen respectfully to you and others.
- Be polite to each other – say “please” and “thank you”, “excuse me”, etc.
- Smile and ask people “how are you?”, “how was your day?” Don’t do this like an automaton either. Expect an answer and really listen to it.
- If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. Keep it positive. Point out the positive things a son, daughter, sibling or parent has done, this includes having a word with your inner voice and saying nice things to yourself about stuff you’ve done.
- Offer to help each other with activities around the house and reward any acts of kindness.
- Open doors for each other, help carry heavy things, etc.
- Write thank you notes or draw pictures for friends, neighbours, grandparents – anyone that does something kind and respectful for you.
- Act politely at the dinner table – this one is going to vary from family to family and deserves an article of its own which I’ll post another time.
- Leave a place how you found it (or better) – we make an effort to leave every place we go, better than we found it. We like to think that it makes the next person that comes along happier.
- Ask permission before you use something that doesn’t belong to you. The tendency is not to ask for fear that the answer will be no. Sometimes it is but we’ve found most people are happy to say yes.
- Always thank the parent of the child you visit for their hospitality when you leave.
- Don’t be a door mat but be respectful to others even if they’re not showing a great deal of respect for you – now this one really is the mark of true character. The hope is, that the person being disrespectful may actually learn from your behaviour.
- Try your utmost never to say or do anything you may regret later.
- Authority has its place. Even if you don’t understand it at first, respect it then seek to understand it.
Being respectful screams something about the character of your child to the people they meet. Strangers will immediately make judgements about them and, through them, judgements about you.
If you can get your children doing these things at home, they are more likely to take them out into the big wide world with them and truly end up as children and then adults with good character.
How are you teaching your children how to respect each other and those around them?