There is a common adage that says "respect must be earned." But how can a child earn respect if they do not understand what it is? Respect is not an innate characteristic of a small child. As their parents, you play the most important role in teaching them what respect means.
Children should be taught to not interrupt when an adult is speaking. But how many times do parents interrupt a child when they are talking? Your words about being respectful don't make a difference if you aren't teaching by example.
Respect your child's personal space
Children have different needs when it comes to personal space. Learn to respect what each child feels comfortable with. One of my grandchildren has long hair. She has told me that she doesn't like it when I rearrange her hair or play with it. I now know to respect her space by not touching her hair.
Make them feel comfortable around you
If a child is bombarded with questions when they get home from school, they may put up a wall. Instead, welcome them home and give them a chance to talk about their day when they feel like it. Let them know you missed them when they were away and are now happy to see them. Treating them with love and respect will let them to know they are in a safe environment.
Be slow to solve all their problems
If a child approaches you with a problem, be empathetic and ask them what they think would be the best solution. Tell them what possible solutions you think there are and let them make the choice. They will feel empowered if you give them a chance to make decisions on their own. While you may be able to solve all their problems easily, be respectful when you correct your child.
Avoid constant ordering, correcting or directing
Invite, rather than demand, your children to help you. Set boundaries and let them work within them. Children often rebel and push parents to the limits when they are forced to do things. Respect their time, limits and wishes (as long as they are reasonable). Show appreciation for any help a child gives you.
So many things can affect a child's self esteem. The way you treat your child should not tear them down. Encouraging words can influence how their day goes despite how their friends and others treat them. Children need to know that you have their back and that they have a safe refuge from the world. Pray with and for them before sending your kids out the door with a smile. Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to give respect to others.
Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities
Model the behavior you would like your children to adopt. Be involved in a particular activity such as singing, playing an instrument, crafting or other interest in your spare time. Ask them what you kids would like to try to accomplish and support them in their endeavors. Praise when they are successful and help them when you can.
Help others in need
When you show respect to neighbors, your kids will see your example. Taking a meal to someone who is ill or watching their children can influence your kids' behavior. You can also encourage your child to share with their siblings and others. Praise them for being respectful by giving to others.
Compare them only to themselves
A child who is always compared to siblings, cousins or parents will always feel inadequate. Treating them as an individual will have better results. Each child is so unique and has their own set of talents and attributes. I have a grandchild who has special needs and she has very high self-esteem because her parents treat each of their children with respect and love.
Give up the need for power
Power struggles rarely bode well in families. Daily conflicts with children create disrespect. Mutual respect between parents, spouses and children can solve daily challenges. Show your children respect and they will respect you.
This article was originally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.