9 Ways to Teach Your Child to Behave Respectfully

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Children aren’t born with a natural understanding of respectful behavior. Instead, they need to be taught about respect. In today’s world that is often filled with music lyrics, TV shows, and movies that use curse words, violence, and disrespect, it’s more important than ever for parents to be proactive about teaching kids how to behave respectfully.

1.  Create Rules About Respect

Your household rules should include rules about respectful behavior.

In addition to discussing the importance of using kind words, discuss what it means to respect other people’s personal space and property. Create rules that encourage respectful behavior such as, “Knock on closed doors,” or “Ask before borrowing something.” 

2. Expect Respectful Behavior

When it comes to your child’s behavior, you often get what you expect. Expect your child to behave in a respectful manner each day. Be prepared to address any behavior that is disrespectful. Although every child may behave disrespectfully at one time or another, you shouldn’t accept that disrespect is a normal behavior.

Read More: Child Behavior Problems: What’s Normal and What Isn’t

3. Point Out Disrespectful Behavior

Kids don’t automatically know what’s considered disrespectful unless you help them learn. Whether your child rolls his eyes or mocks what you say, use a calm but firm voice to say, “That’s disrespectful.”  With consistency, your child will learn how to recognize verbal and non-verbal signs of disrespect.

4. Maintain Your Role as the Parent

Don’t allow your child to enter into adult conversations or to criticize your decisions as a parent. If he questions your choices or demands to know what you’re talking about when you’re speaking to another adult, firmly remind him that it’s an adult issue that doesn’t concern him.

Don’t allow your child to boss you around or become involved in adult business because it will only encourage disrespectful behavior.

5.  Praise Respectful Behavior

Point out respectful behavior with praise. Say, “I like the way you waited at the table until everyone was done eating,” or “You did a nice job waiting for your turn to talk.” Make it clear that you appreciate respectful behavior and talk about how respect helps people feel good.

6. Use Consequences When Necessary

If you’ve pointed out disrespectful behavior, and your child continues to behave rudely, provide a negative consequence. For a young child, time out may be most appropriate. Taking away a privilege can be the most effective way to address disrespectful behavior in older children and teens. Avoid arguing with your child if he claims he wasn’t behaving disrespectfully and don’t given in if he promises to never allow it to happen again.

Read More: 5 Ways to Handle Disrespectful Behavior

7. Look for Teachable Moments

Before you enter into new situations, talk to your child about respectful behavior in each environment.

For example, explain that it’s okay to run on the playground but it’s important to use walking feet inside the store. Coach your child about how to behave respectfully when making a phone call or when interacting with a cashier.

8. Find Opportunities to Discuss Respect

Point out other people’s behavior to show your child examples of respect and disrespect. For example, say, “See how that boy is holding the door for those people? That’s respectful.” There are also plenty of opportunities to point out disrespectful behavior in books or on TV. Discuss how other people likely feel when someone behaves disrespectfully.

9. Role Model Respect

Trying to make kids “earn” respect isn’t helpful. Instead, respect needs to be modelled. Treat your child – and the other people you come in contact with – respectfully if you want your child to learn. If you’re always yelling at your child or calling people names, your child will copy your behavior. Show your child how to treat others kindly, even when you’re angry or when other people are behaving disrespectfully.

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