Helping Children Learn to Respect Others


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


One of the attributes that our children will need to live a full and happy life is respect for others. When we think of what a respectful child would look like we think of behavior such as politeness, being courteous, and helping others. We imagine children who of mild mannered children who say “Yes sir.”; “Thank you.”; “How are you today?”; etc.

Although all of these traits are outward signs of respect and are nice to observe in our children, the basis for respect must be more then outward behavior. Real respect is built on a foundation of caring about the other person and how they feel. True respect requires us to look past what another person is doing or their beliefs and to work at understanding how it would be like to be in that persons shoes. It does not require that we change our own values and beliefs. It does not require that we embrace another person’s ideas or beliefs. True respect is built on the idea that all human beings are of value and have a right to think and believe as they choose.

Let me illustrate with an example. Let us assume that you are a Police Officer. Let us assume that you have become a person who possesses the attribute of respect. Let us assume that you have been ordered to arrest a person who is accused of a crime. Because you are a person who truly cares about the feelings and beliefs of others, you will do your duty, arresting this person while at the same time respecting an individual who may have committed an act that you find repugnant. The issue is not what the suspected criminal has done or is. The issue is who you are. As a respectful person, you will not allow another persons behavior, beliefs, or feelings to rob you of you resolve to be a person who respects others. You honor the other person as a Child of God and give them the respect all God’s Children deserve.

Respect at this level can not be taught to children. It must be modeled. Here are some general guidelines that may help you in your quest as a parent to help you child reach this level of respect so that your children can live a life of love and joy unencumbered by emotions of hate, envy, or fear.

Extend respect and expect respect. Create a home in which the rights and beliefs of all are valued. Not realizing it, at times we speak and deal with our children with less respect then we show strangers. We treat them as if they had no rights and deserve no explanations. Because we may see things at a different level then them and because we are “in a hurry” we say things like, “Because I said so.” We seem to think they can read our minds and as a result we give them no benefit of the doubt and assume they are guilty until proven innocent.

When dealing with our children we must ask rather then tell when it is appropriate. As a matter of course the words please and thank you should be a common part of our vocabulary. Our tone of voice must be one that shows concern and understanding. It must be clearly understood that we expect, even demand, respect in every action taken in our home.

Point out children’s positive behavior. Focus on the choices you children make that are respectful, wise, and obedient. Let them know that you feel they are great and noble individuals even if they make unwise choices at times. Encourage courtesy and politeness.

Give them a chance to try again. A common phrase in you home could be, “Let’s start over.” If a child is disrespectful to you saying “Let’s start over” gives your child a chance to think about another way to approach this situation in a respectful way. This approach allows you to correct disrespect in a respectful way. You may also want to ask your child to evaluate unwise choices or mistakes by saying,”What did you learn from that incident?” This allows the child to evaluate and gives you, the parent, the perfect opportunity to suggest alternative behavior.

Teach by example. Example is the best teacher. In the Harry Potter series, it is interesting to observe Professor Dumbledore. No matter what the circumstances he is always respectful and polite. Harry does not always copy this behavior but it has been modeled by Dumbledore. It is an alternative to how Harry currently is approaching his problems. Harry knows what this kind of behavior looks like. The decision, in time, will be to imitate this behavior, and hopefully handle problems in the same manner that his teacher, Professor Dumbledore, does.

Let you children see and hear you being concerned for the property rights of others, assisting the elderly, caring for nature, being polite in all situations, and in showing self-respect in terms of how you look and how you speak of yourself. If you can set the example, the payoff will be children that eventually respect others, themselves, and you.