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6 Ways to Teach Your Kids Respect
I watched the film Nanny McPhee the other day with my children. This is not an advert for the film, but it did get me thinking. I had been mulling over some thoughts in my head about this issue of respect and good manners. But watching made me think about how important this subject is and what we as parents can do about it.
I regularly hear people say, "Kids of today have no respect." Or, "You can't get kids of today to do this or that."
Are children of today really ill-behaved boors? Are we doomed as parents to be cursed with disrespectful children whom we have no control over whatsoever? How important is respect? And how can we teach it to our children?
What is respect? It's showing that another person is important by our words and actions. Respect causes us to show consideration for others as well as to hold them in good regard.
Why is respect so important for our children to learn? People usually think about how something will benefit them. There's always this thought of "What's in it for me?" Of course there are somethings that we should practice not just for our own benefit, but because it's the right thing to do. Respect is one of those things. However, it has enormous benefits for us as parents.
I heard of a family who had the wife's elderly mum living with them. It may or may not be a true story. When they ate supper together as a family, she ate by herself from a wooden plate in a corner of the room. She was treated with little or no consideration. They made it obvious to her that she was an unfortunate burden that they were obliged to bear. The family had a young son of about 4 years old. One day, his parents saw him whittling a piece of wood. They were a bit curious because he was so intent on what he was doing. When they asked him why he was carving the piece of wood, he said, "I'm making the wooden plate you and dad are going to eat from when you get old." That day, they learnt an uncomfortable lesson about the repercussions of what our children learn from us.
King Solomon said, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
Whatever good or bad traits you develop in your children will affect EVERY relationship they have including their relationship with you. If you don't teach your kids respect for others, they will eventually disrespect you. But if you do teach it to them, you will enjoy the benefits for yourself and the society in general will be better off.
Now for the million-dollar question. How do you teach kids of these days respect? It isn't exactly rocket science. Parents have been doing it for a long time.
Do as I do
Children learn from the example shown them. Think about how children pick up accents. They develop their accents from being around people who speak that way. Be it British, American, African, Spanish, and so on. Children learn mostly by observation. They copy what they see and hear. My two-year old for example is at that stage where he echoes anything he hears someone else says. He also imitates everything his older brother does. Word-for-word, step-by-step. Children under 5 are mirrors of their environment. This means that if you want to teach your children respect, you must show others respect yourself.
Do as I say
Do as I say will be better received after do as I do has been taken care of. We still need to teach them verbally. There are some things that children won't know are right or wrong unless they're told. For example, they won't know that it isn't good manners to point at people unless you tell them. Or, they won't know that it's good to stand up for an elderly, disabled, or pregnant woman in the bus unless you tell them. Particularly if you normally drive them around in a car. If you've taught them beforehand, on those occasions where they might have to take public transportation, they would remember what you told them and act accordingly. (I hope).
Show them respect
This sounds like belabouring the first point. But there's a slight variation. Respect is not only about showing people who are older than you regard. It's about establishing in their minds the dignity of the human person. Young or old, rich or poor, upwardly mobile or down and out. When you say "please" to your children, they get to experience first hand how respect feels. When you apologise for a mistake you've made, your willingness to humble yourself because you respect them helps them to see how important respect is especially because it's been directed at them. Because they've been recipients of respect, they're more willing to show it.
Teach them at an early age
People say that after a child has reached the age of five, it's difficult to teach them manners or respect. They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Actually, I disagree. Of course it's easier to teach a puppy new tricks than an old one. But, I've seen several dog training shows where people who know what they're doing teach old dogs new tricks. So it can be done. However, if you start teaching them about respect and good manners from when they're about one year old, you make things a lot easier for them.
Negative and Positive Responses
Learn to show disapproval when they talk to people disrespectfully. I've seen parents laugh it off and say, "You cheeky monkey", when their kids have been rude or disrespectful. They're proud of their child's wicked tongue or brash behaviour. They think it shows their cleverness. Rudeness is never clever. It comes second-nature to an untrained person. On the other hand, respect is cultivated.
Reprimand your children when they're disrespectful or express your disapproval or disappointment about they're behaviour. However, that's not all you should do. I observe that parents may develop a tendency only to rebuke and correct and never express approval or appreciation. When they act properly ALWAYS show your appreciation or approval of their actions. With my children, I've found that praise always seems to be more effective in getting them to repeat good actions.
Monitor their environment
Who are the people that come around your kids? You may not be able to control what other people do outside of your house, but you should try to control what happens in your own home. A lady told me laughingly how sharp-tongued her 7-year-old daughter has become. When her sisters come to visit, they use all sorts of language and talk about inappropriate things in front of her impressionable young daughter.
When people come to your house, let them know that bad manners and cursing are strongly discouraged because you don't want your children picking up the wrong habits.
Another quotation from King Solomon - "Make no friendship with an angry man, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul."
Some children may need more help than what's been outlined here. But if you haven't begun to do any of the above, it's a good place to start
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