“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.” ― Leo Tolstoy
Respect is a topic very close to my heart. Not because I love to command respect, neither cause I associate it as a given with being a parent but because my views about it have been the cause of arguments or discussion with my family and friends time and again.
The one thing I can hear from every adult, all the time is how the kids of today have grown highly disrespectful.
The kids and teens are seen arguing with the parents and teachers, not listening to the instructions and often ignoring them, using foul language even in the presence of the elderly, not using basic manners or courtesy in general and so on.
While very often the movies, TV shows, Internet and even wider exposure to the cultures of the world are blamed for this rise in angry, rude behaviour with others, one thing stands, every generation of parents are finding it increasingly difficult to inculcate respect in their offspring as compared the generation before them.
What could be the cause of declining respect in children?
While the reasons could easily be one of the few I mentioned above, but on contemplation, I somehow feel it is primarily caused by our lives growing increasingly busy.
We are forever in a hurry, finding increasingly less time to correct our children.
Children are not born with a natural sense of respect. They need to be guided, corrected, taught the right way to act, talk and show respect to everybody around.
This on a deeper look becomes a vicious circle where we as parents need to make a conscious effort, spare time and attention to teach manners and respect to children but in the given hectic life, it gets increasingly demanding to correct children in a patient, kind manner.
This is definitely not the complete picture. The one aspect that I have witnessed everywhere around me (including my home) is always seeing the child as a baby (irrespective of his age) who shall learn over time as he/she grows up. Parents or grandparents shielding disciplining strictly always acts counter-productive.
Children know how to avoid being corrected hiding behind the grandparents when parents try to take charge. Their uncorrected behaviour is often noticed at a stage when it is next to impossible to make them learn to respect with the same ease as is possible in their early years.
What are my expectations for my child as far as respecting goes?
I believe, every individual, irrespective of their age, gender, caste, culture or relation with us deserves to be respected. Though this definition extends to inanimate objects like property, books, food, etc. too.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” ― Laurence Sterne
Limiting respect to elders or rather parents and close family alone is a wrong practice. I expect Pari to understand this. Beginning with self-respect, practice basic courtesy and manners with everyone, all the time unless someone loses their respectful position in our eyes due to their actions. But even in the latter case, rules of basic courtesy shall hold good.
How do I teach respect to my child?
1. One rule for all:
I have always taught Pari to use the golden trio ‘Please, Sorry, Thank you’ from the days she barely learnt to speak. I have been encouraging her to use these even at home (which is a first because we have never used these in our home before).
Though it did require a lot of effort for me to acquaint my family to doing so, the day we were all on the same page, we saw Pari use these as naturally as she calls me “Mumma”.
2. Being firm in implementing rules:
Behaviour that I wouldn’t allow from my colleagues or neighbours, is not allowed by my child too. I sometimes use this idea as a yard-stick to gauge what is acceptable (given Pari is still young). This puts a check on any irrelevant remarks, budding slangs, calling names and more, being discouraged firmly. “We do not speak like this in our family” is my usual remark.
I never let Pari go without correcting her, so she always knows she can’t do with disrespecting anyone ever. I personally feel nipping disrespect in the bud is rather easy and effective.
3. Having a plan helps:
Though my plan is well-known to Pari, I stick to it. I start by gently correcting her, explaining briefly what went wrong and how things could have been done differently. If Pari tries to ignore me, I give her consequences and stick to them. This has always worked so far.
Besides, briefing Pari about what kind of behaviour is expected of her has kept things under control for us. It also keeps me stress-free during outings.
4. Basic courtesy goes a long way:
I always ensure to applaud Pari when she remembers to say her “Thank you, Sorry or Please” at the right time. I try to do that subtly by sometimes saying it directly to her, at other times making her overhear me praising her good behaviour to others. I always make Pari notice how people smile when she is courteous, how wonderful it feels in our hearts as a motivation to do it again.
5. Being realistic:
I have very low expectations as far as respect goes. By that I mean, I expect Pari to behave nice but appropriate to her age. My parents keep teaching Pari to fold her hands and utter “Namaste” when we have guests visiting us. That somehow appears too tedious to Pari and she fails to do it almost all the time. This disturbs my parents and they tend to tell her that she has been rather disrespectful.
I see it differently.
I have taught Pari to smile and say “Hello” or shake hands if someone offers her a hand. This is easy for her and works 80% times. However, I strongly despise flying kisses or hugs and kisses from people who aren’t immediate family.
No matter how cute kisses look, I have always discouraged them. I make sure to let Pari understand that she need not get into accepting or reciprocating uncomfortable gestures just to come across as respectful or polite. Exercising caution is crucial.
6. Having the whole family on the same page:
This goes without saying that everyone in the family ought to follow the same rules and lead the child by example. This has to hold true in saying ‘Please, Sorry and Thank you’ too. Like I always add ‘please’ to my requests even if it is something so trivial as asking Pari to fetch me a spoon from the kitchen.
7. Set Boundaries:
Having a heart-to-heart talk with the child about why certain behaviour is unacceptable or is expected in peaceful times helps the child see the logic and they most often follow it too. Simply telling what all not to do, doesn’t help until we tell the child what all he/she must do in that situation. Being open to questions and not dismissing them as unimportant or childish is important.
8. Practice what you preach:
This is self-explanatory and has been touched upon in #1. But, at this point, it is vital to be respectful towards the child too. Yelling, getting upset, ignoring her in response to disrespect only triggers Pari’s agitation and is clearly a no-no. A calmer, understanding approach always works.
I never use any cuss words, in fact, ‘idiot’ is the farthest I have ever gone in calling anyone names. So much so, that when I had once uttered it aloud my friends gave me a shocked look as if I had used the ‘F’ word’. I use that rarely. No wonder, I expect my child to follow suit.
9. Let the tide pass:
Usually, the best time to talk is after all has calmed down and both the parent and the child are in a position to think clearly. However, comparing with the behaviour of the child next door is something I always avoid because no two families have the same set of problems, every individuals’ temperament and personality is different.
10. Never giving up:
Being persistent is the key because disrespect comes easy and tries to stay despite our resistance. Keeping in mind that teaching respect to our children is important to prepare them for a better tomorrow, theirs as well as of the world. Therefore being lax or turning a blind eye is never an option.
11. Don’t fear opposition:
Like disciplining, teaching respect is often a thankless exercise. Our kids often dislike us for exercising control, for setting boundaries, show resilience, resist beyond our liking. But in the long run, we can only hope they will be able to see our point of view and lead a wonderful life. Isn’t this what we all parents hope for our children?
Recommended Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
Got a point to add to this list? Please share it in the comments below.
How do you teach respect to your child?
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