Teaching Children Respect

This post originally appeared on healyoursoul.net on 12/14/16.

Ok guys, so yesterday morning was pretty rough in our house. Like, child lying on the floor screaming and crying because no one would feed him (he’s 3!!!) his waffle, having a total meltdown because momma picked the wrong shoes (after giving him the choice, which he refused to make), and whining about wanting his gloves and beanie in his backpack in case he gets cold at school (the high today is 78º). Some days are better than others, and I get that, but I feel like things have escalated for us lately. Gabe is at a really difficult age right now, so I want to acknowledge that too. He can be super sweet and silly, but he can just as easily turn into Mr. Opinionated and even be manipulative at times. Part of that is his intelligence. I’m sure we all think our kids are super smart, but Gabe is just that. He knows what he wants, when he wants it, and usually, how to get it, too. While I absolutely want to foster his independence and persistence, I feel like it is past time that he also learns a healthy amount of respect for his elders, especially his parents. I feel like we have been trying to be his buddies, which has worked well, but with this stage in his life, he needs parents, not buddies. So I started looking up “how to teach kids respect” on Pinterest. Wow, were there a ton of ideas!! Most of them were good, but there were a handful that really hit me in the gut and convicted this mommy. I’ve compiled my list of best tips below, and we will be implementing these ASAP. I’ll let you know how it turns out, keep your fingers crossed for us!

1. Give your child respect
This was probably the hardest tip for me to swallow. I realized that when my son was disrespectful to me, I turned around and was even more disrespectful to him. How can I expect him to respect me when I act like a tyrant? That was never the kind of parent I wanted to be, never the kind of parent my mom was. If your child is being disrespectful, you need to get down on their level, speak to them calmly and clearly (yes, even if they are throwing a fit), and tell them that their behavior is not acceptable. For me, that will mean saying, “We don’t talk to each other that way in this family.” Clear, simple, and to the point.

2. Don’t take it personally
I take everything personally. I have always been a very sensitive person, so this one was pretty hard for me too. But we have to remember that the respect they give is just as much about them as it is about us. It is because they are not getting what they want, when they want it. The more you set those clear guidelines for them, the more they are going to become used to not always getting their way, and be more comfortable with disappointment, which in turn will allow them to show more respect. That brings me to my next point…

3. Be consistent
Oh my, I am the worst at consistency!! As a mommy with ADHD and a poor memory due to severe anxiety, being consistent and following through is not my strong point. But how can we expect them to feel safe and know what to expect, and what is expected of them, if we are constantly changing the rules on them. That’s not fair or helpful for anyone. For me, I am going ask myself, “would I let a neighbor or their child treat me like this? Would I let someone from church treat me like this?” If the answer is no, it’s time to enforce the consequences.

4. Talk about your feelings
Identifying your feelings is helpful for both your little one and you too. Anger is actually a secondary emotion which covers up fear, hurt, sadness, etc., so talking about your feelings with your little one can help you get to the bottom of what is really causing you to feel that way, and it also models appropriate responses for your child as well. You can also work together on healthy ways to express your emotions. In our house that means telling someone that you are mad, sad, frustrated, etc, stomping your foot, or screaming into a pillow. This looks different in every family, but these are the ways that work best for us.

5. Teach your children to show respect when they are calm and collected.
What I mean by that is to always expect simple courtesies like please, thank you, and excuse me. We have been pretty good about teaching Gabe these things, but we still have to remind him quite a bit, which goes back to the consistency issue. Showing respect when they are calm helps it to become habit, an auto-pilot response. Then, when they are in the heat of the moment, they are more likely to remember the respect they have for you, because it has been built into their subconscious. When a child gets upset to the point that they are crying hysterically, the rational part of the brain just kind of shuts down. That’s why trying to reason with a child having a tantrum never seems to work. They are in panic mode and can’t comprehend the logic in what you are saying. So you have to build that respect into their subconscious so it is easier for them to access when they are in panic mode. Sure, it won’t always work, but it sure helps!

6. Have realistic expectations
When you spend night and day with your child, it’s easy to start seeing them as a little person, instead of the truly tiny child that they really are. Remember how little they are, and try to make your expectations match both their age and maturity level.

7. Get in sync with your childcare partner(s)
This includes anyone who cares for your child, whether it is the child’s other parent, teacher, grandparents, relatives, babysitters, etc. If everyone is not on the same page, it is far more difficult for the child to remember how he or she needs to behave in each different circumstance. That is a lot of information for a child to remember.

8. Look ahead to difficult times
Do you have a move, school change, new sibling, etc on the horizon? Preparing by researching, and by talking with your child about the upcoming changes, can really help to smooth the transition. Your child will feel safer if they know what to expect, and you will feel better prepared to face any backsliding that may happen.


Have you struggled with disrespect, or do you have an exceptionally respectful child? What are your best tips for teaching a child to be respectful? I’d love it if you would share below, in the comments!

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