Respect is something that seems to have dwindled as our culture becomes more pressed for time, less financially secure and increasingly socially secluded. Our children are our future and in order to break the cycle of decline when it comes to how we treat others, we must begin today teaching them the art of respect.
Children learn not by words, but by observation. A favorite phrase of frustrated parents is “Do as I say, not as I do.” This statement can be extremely confusing to a child, as it goes against his natural learning abilities. If you wish your children to be more respectful of yourself and those around you, you must begin by checking your own actions. Children may or may not do as you say, but they will always do as you do. They learn about life and the world by mimicking those around them, especially those who are closest. If you disrespect others, even if you believe it’s for good reason, your children will learn that behavior. If you ask them to refrain from behaving in ways that you behave, you are actually stunting their ability to grow. You must always try to be objective with your children. If they are disrespecting others, take a look around to see where they learned how to do it.
One of the biggest factors in gaining respect from anyone is to show respect to others first. What you give out always comes back to you, and the art of respect is no exception. It is most beneficial to show respect by listening carefully to what people say, and this is especially true of interacting with children. If you give your children undivided attention as often as possible, they will feel like you are giving them respect. They will grow up automatically knowing how to behave this way, but they’ll also learn listening skills, compassion and the difference between good friends and people who do not have their best interests in mind.
Children have bad days just like adults. What is often viewed as misbehavior is really a signal that something is amiss inside that big mind in a little body. Many times children don’t yet have the words to communicate their feelings, or they haven’t been given the opportunity to share those feelings. If a tantrum persists, stop and think what might be upsetting the child. Respect the child’s wishes, even if the request is out of the question. If you can seek a compromise or distraction, this may be more effective than punishment. Give more respect and you will get more in return.
While it is difficult to show respect to those who have disrespected us, it is possible. Walking away from people who do not serve our best interests is one of the ways in which we can teach everyone around us that we will not tolerate this behavior. This may go against the long-standing moral teachings of our upbringing, but the world is changing and we must adapt with it. All major changes begin with one step made by one person. If we will all begin to respect ourselves, our children, our peers, our neighbors and our planet, then our children will be given a valuable example to cultivate throughout their own lives.