Respect is important to me. Growing up on a Native American reservation here in Washington state and then attending church with Hawaiian families on a nearby reservation, we learned from a young age the importance of showing respect when communicating. In our home now, teaching our kids to respect others and themselves is very important.
But, if I am being honest, there are times when I’ve failed to respect members of my family and others. We are our kids' first relationship. So part of teaching respect to our kids — and helping them understand how important it is — begins with the way we talk and behave in the home. Our kids watch us and often imitate us, and I have noticed the things that my kids might be struggling with are things that I, too, have struggled with.
There are three ways that I am teaching my children respect: modeling respectful behavior, teaching my kids what respectful language and behaviors looks like, and praising respectful behavior.
Modeling Respectful Behavior
Am I easily frustrated, angry or prone to yell in my home? If so, I am not modeling respectful behavior in my home. I do not want to be responsible for creating a negative space for my kids in the home. Self-reflection is important for us as parents. Our kids deserve our respect, too. We often demand right behavior from kids and then don’t give them the same courtesy.
I also need to intentionally put down my phone, look at my children in the eyes and answer their questions and comments clearly. How I talk to my spouse and about others is also important. Am I using sarcasm, belittling or being dismissive of others? I don’t want to model wrong behaviors to my children. If I do model these behaviors, then I need to apologize, admit when I’ve made a mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Paul tells us in Rom. 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Helping kids understand their emotions and behaviors at a young age is important. When kids can understand what they may be feeling — frustration, anger, fear, sadness — and can name their behaviors, they can manage their emotions more easily. Teaching our kids empathy for others will go a long way with their ability to respect others and themselves.
I appreciate things like using eye contact and having clear replies when being spoken to, but I understand that is sometimes a cultural preference. Helping teach your children the art of conversation and listening to others — even if we don’t agree — will be so helpful with respect.
Practical things like practicing please and thank you in the home and reframing your child’s demands into kind questions is also a great way to teach respect.
One final way I teach respect is teaching them to respect personal space and property. Before you touch other people, it’s important to have their consent. My kids understand that their bodies belong to them. I want them to understand and respect toward others.
Paul tells us in Titus 2:7, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.”
When our kids are learning, it’s so important to recognize their good behaviors. When they are showing kindness, empathy and respect, praise kids out loud, in front of others. Kids love positive reinforcement and being praised by parents. They want to do good, be good and feel loved. So don’t forget to praise kids on this journey.
Kids who have learned to respect themselves and others feel more secure and safe. The home is happier. We all need to learn these things and continue learning and improving. It’s part of our faith journey.