In our family we have been focusing on respect this month and it has made quite a difference. As oftentimes is the case, I start out thinking I am going to be teaching my children so much but I become the greatest beneficiary!
We began by having a family evening with our four young children as well as our teenage son. We talked about the meaning of respect. We gave examples of people in different scenarios being respectful and disrespectful and helped our children identify the respectful examples. A few are listed below:
1. A child being asked to pick up his toys yells at his mother, “I can’t right now, I’m too tired!”
2. Interrupting when someone else is talking.
3. Using kind words like please, thank you, excuse me etc.
4. Speaking out when the teacher is trying to read a story.
5. Holding the door open for a mother pushing a stroller or an elderly person etc.
We discussed how we could turn the disrespectful responses or behaviors into respectful ones. For example, raising our hand in school and waiting for the teacher to call on us before we speak out. Using the words “excuse me” when needing to interrupt someone and then waiting patiently for that person to give the OK to speak.
After our discussion, we role-played some more scenarios and let our children be the teacher, mom or dad, toy left outside, etc. We discussed how it made them “feel” when disrespectful behavior was used. (We used many of the ideas from the Values Parenting Website.)
We decided that there were many areas we could work on to bring more respect into our home. We all brainstormed a list of different ways and voted on three behaviors that we would especially focus on this month. ALL of our children really got into this activity. It was really heartwarming to see them throwing out all kinds of different ideas.
We try to set aside some time to continue our teaching efforts and focus on the monthly values each week, usually on Sunday. Today I am going to make a respect chart and have the family help me list people and things that deserve respect on one side and different, specific ways we can show respect to each person/thing.
Taking time at the dinner table for more discussion also helps to keep us thinking about the monthly value. For instance, we ask the children to think of a time during the day when they showed respect and then we all share take turns sharing those experiences with each other.
As with most any other principle we want to teach our children, the best teacher is modeling this value. When we ourselves demonstrate respectful behavior to others, our children will learn how to behave. For example, when we are driving down the street we can show respect by being kind and forgiving of other drivers’ mistakes, being respectful of coaches and refs at sporting events, using respectful language to our children and spouses and not raising our voices. When someone is doing something disrespectful, it may be wise to point that out so they learn to recognize the behavior but to be careful not to criticize or belittle the person for their mistakes.
On the flip side PRAISE respectful behavior. ENCOURAGE it. THANK your children for using it both in public and also privately. This will help them develop a sense of how good it feels to be respectful.
I am so grateful that my parents taught me respect. There were times growing up when just the idea of disappointing one of them by a bad choice prevented me from making it. I recently saw the movie Courageous. This movie was a great reminder of showing responsibility and respect for others. One part I especially loved was when a father took his teenage daughter out to dinner. The respect that was demonstrated there was amazing. If you get the chance this month, watch this movie. (It’s not for children.)