Getting Kids to Show Respect

by Deborah Gilboa, Family Physician
Originally Published: 
A young boy holding a teddy bear and sticking his tongue out who needs to learn how to show respect

Respect. It’s not just a song we all know the words to, it’s one of the most important skills we can pass on to our children. Teaching our kids to have and show respect for themselves and others will give them a HUGE advantage (sadly) over most of their peers. Plus? It makes them easier to be around for us. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most common themes I get asked about; no parent wants to claim the bratty, disrespectful kid as their own!

Here are a few easy, age-guided ideas that have worked for teaching kids respect for themselves and others…

2-4 year olds: Put the lovey away. The next time your toddler has a friend coming over, put the two or three most important toys or loveys away. She learns to respect her own needs by putting boundaries around a few things she can’t bear to share, and learns respect for others by taking turns with the other toys.

5-7 year olds: Don’t finish that. Start the (old-fashioned) tradition at your dinner table that no one takes the last of something without asking, “Would anyone else like some?” If someone else does, they can share. If not, your child is welcome to finish it.

8-10 year olds: No offense, but…” Honesty is important, but so is tact. Explain to kids that their advice or opinion is welcome IF someone asks for it, and that any sentence starting with “No offense, but…” probably shouldn’t be finished. Just stop talking.

11-14 year olds: Same house, same rules. When your kids have friends over, don’t change or ignore your own rules. Anything that is required (or forbidden) at your house goes for their friends, too. This will help kids see that you respect them, and that everyone needs to treat you with respect!

15-17 year olds: Consult the expert: What does your teen do better than you do? Cook? Set up electronics? Pick out clothes? Cheer someone up? Figure out where he is an expert and then ask him for help. This will show him how much you respect his abilities.

All ages: Make your bedroom your sanctuary. How your kids treat your bedroom will affect how they treat you. So make some rules for your room!

  • Permission needed to enter
  • No food or drink (except yours of course)
  • Don’t bring in toys or stuff
  • Don’t borrow or take anything without asking
  • No phones, friends, or fighting

These strategies have helped families (mine included) improve kid behaviors without ever having to argue about a particular tone of voice or rolled eyes.

Got a situation that is stressing you out? A kid behavior you don’t like but don’t know how to change? Reply in the comments or drop me a line. I’m thrilled to be on ScaryMommy to talk about what’s bugging you!

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