It is so important to teach children to respect; themselves, others, and society. What are 5 important ways that we can teach children respect?
Show them Respect
Just like adults, children are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and just as we treat adults, they should be treated with the same respect. If children grow up in an environment where they’re being disrespected, why would we expect them to not treat others disrespectfully? I look at children as adults under construction but to God they have equal value and they are no less deserving of dignity and respect than any adult would be. This means that we don’t berate them in public and humiliate them before others. If they need discipline, wait until you get home. I have heard parents actually swear at their children. This is nothing short of verbal abuse and there is no good excuse for this type of behavior…ever! Never yell, scream, or call your children names because this type of verbal damage goes deep and lasts for a very long time and may permanently damage the child. Words certainly do hurt and they can stay with them for a lifetime. When I taught in elementary school years ago as a substitute while finishing college, if I was ever asked a question by a child I never made them feel like their questions were stupid but “That’s a very good question, I ‘m glad you asked me that.” I always used common courtesy like “yes ma’am,” and “thank you sir” to the boys and girls so that they would see that I give them the same respect I give to the adults that they encounter in school. My oldest son heard me say that so much that he does the exact same thing when he greets people like “Yes sir” and “no thank you ma’am.” Truly more is caught that taught.
Don’t Label Them
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you tell a child that they’re stupid and won’t ever amount to anything, they may just live that out in adulthood. Calling children names is labeling them and this hurts. I know what this feels like because it happened to me. We have a prison ministry and most of these men in prison had a father that mistreated them or abandoned them at an early age. This put so much pressure on the mother. The job of a single mother may be the most difficult job there is. She has to be the mother, the father, the nurse, the consultant, the bread winner, the maintenance person, and whatever else goes with being a parent and the list is quite long. If we tell children that they’ll never amount to anything, guess what they shoot for? Treat them as you would want to be treated and name calling is labeling them. Teach them respect by respecting them.
This is where I say for sure that more is caught than it taught. You might not think so but your children are watching you. They are listening to you. They see how you treat others in the family or in public. They can hear how you talk to people but also how you talk about people, particularly when they aren’t present. If you put down people behind their backs then your children might see that as a normal thing to do. If they see you treat others in public in a rude way, they’ll know that this is the way that it’s supposed to be. For good or bad, children imitate their parents and to a large extent, they grow up to be very much like them. If we are angry in rush hour traffic, if we are rude to the person at the fast-food counter, if we’re impatient and grow angry if we have to wait for something or if we’re quick tempered when things don’t go our way, that’s the way they’ll possibly turn out. If we model respectful mannerisms and talk to people in person in the same way that we do when they’re not there, then our children will learn what respect looks like and what it sounds like both in pubic and in private.
Love Their Father or Mother
When we show tender, loving care for our spouse, our children see that and they build their expectations and understandings around that about how to be a husband or wife when they grow up to be married, if indeed they do. Children might make faces when they see dad kiss mom or when mom hugs dad but deep down, it gives them a sense of security and stability. They need that grounded reassurance to know that even when times get tough, dad and mom work it out…they hang in there and stay together. When they don’t yell, scream, shout, and call each other names, then they know that there are better ways to work out problems without having to lose control. If the parents do things for one another, serve one another, and esteem their spouse better than themselves, then they will know that each member of the household is supposed to contribute and they’ll grow up with that expectation for marriage. Good parent’s model treating each other with respect and this models respect to their children.
Acknowledge, Reward, and Reinforce
I used to tell children in the elementary school that “Aha! I caught you! I caught you doing something good!” They loved that. I think parents can model respect for children when they respect a job well done. There is nothing wrong with rewarding children when they meet or even exceed what was ask of them at home or for great marks or good behavior in school. It’s not bribery when you do it after the fact. This reinforces the fact that you notice what they do and that they make you happy when they’ve done something well. I knew of a girl who got good grades in school but didn’t really care about it because her parents wouldn’t even take notice. In fact, if she got 5 A’s and a B her parents wouldn’t say, “Nice work, you worked hard and I appreciate your effort” but instead, they would say “Why’d you get a B in that class? What’s wrong with you!?” When parents appreciate their children and show them respect for doing good then they are going to be more complimentary of others when they grow into adulthood but we need not overlook the fact that in their childhood, they’ll be more positive and complimentary of others too.
The effect of showing and teaching children respect doesn’t just come into fruition at adulthood. Showing them respect can positively affect them while they’re still children so that they can enjoy their childhood and that’s always a desired outcome of any parenting skills. Respect them and they will likely respect you and everyone else for that matter; in the least it’ll give them a better chance that they’ll respect others and you too.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon