Respect as defined by my trusty Collins Australian School Dictionary is 1. If your respect someone, you have a good opinion of their character or ideas. 2. If you respect someones rights or wishes you do not do things that they would not like or would consider wrong. Now I really like these two definitions in respect of each other, especially when we are talking about teaching respect to children because they remind us that respect comes from a place of goodness, from love. If you want to be respected, you have to respect others. These are hard lessons for children to learn, and many adults still don’t understand the concept instead demanding the respect they think they deserve usually through fear or manipulation. It should be said that all of that which makes up and is included in our universe as we know it deserves from the purest place of our humanity, to be respected. Showing respect for the humanity of others even if we do not like them or the things they may have done is always a reflection of ourselves, our own morals and our own struggle with our humanity. This is one kind of respect, a deep, philisophical, spiritual type of respect which is deeply ingrained in us (sometimes more or less deeply).
HOW TO TEACH RESPECT TO KIDS – THE CATCH
So in general from the time we are a baby and start to learn that we are an individual and not physically a part of others we learn the general rules of being a human being and learn to respect others as seperate individuals. But as we get older respect becomes even more complicated and in most western societies we learn that to gain respect we need to earn it, but the catch 22 is to earn respect, you need to be willing to give it (even when the other person has done nothing to earn it from you). Can you see now why the concept although simple at first becomes less black and white and more grey.
THE BIGGEST SECRET ON HOW TO TEACH KIDS RESPECT
So what is the biggest secret to be able to teach children respect? What is the most important way children learn respect……. the best way for children to learn to be respectful is by seeing it modelled. Children learn to be respectful, I mean truly respectful – not just out of fear or without sincerity because society says they have to be – because the adults in their lives treat them with respect and are respectful of others in general. Respecting others, animals, belongings, the environment, our Earth, cultures, society and most importantly themselves is all ingrained through osmosis, that is it sinks in through their skin and into their being through absorption of what they see modelled around them.
SO HOW DO WE TEACH RESPECT TO CHILDREN?
The problem is adults needs and wants are always going to overthrow this balance of respect. Adults have the information, they know the schedule for the day, what needs to be done and when, where and how. We know that teeth need to be brushed in order to avoid not only pain but costly dentist appointments, that although the sun is still up due to daylight savings the clock says 7pm and children’s brains and bodies need adequate sleep. Holding down and buckling in a screaming toddler who doesn’t want to leave the park seems justified when the adult needs to leave in order to do that next thing that needs to be done. But the thing is that these are the perfect moments to be ingraining in our children how to be respectful of others, even when it is hard or we don’t feel like it, or we feel as though they should just be doing what we want or need them to do. And we teach respect in these difficult situations through the use of empathy. Yes you may still struggle with the child but acknowledging their feelings ‘yes I know it is hard to leave the park when we are having so much fun, you wish we could stay here all afternoon’ or giving them a choice ‘you have a choice you can climb into the car seat by yourself, or I can pick you up and help you into your car seat, Which would you rather?’ or giving them what they want in a wish ‘I bet when you are older you will stay at the park all day and every day won’t you’*.
WHY BOTHER EXPLICITLY TEACHING KIDS RESPECT?
So why if respect is learnt through modelling am I going through all this effort to clearly teach my children about the concept of respect? Because of mindfulness. What?? What does mindfulness have to do with learning respect? When we are mindful we are consciously aware of our actions and choices. The more we learn about respect as a family, the more mindful we all – adults included – become in choosing actions that are respectful. What you think about, you bring about. You are what you think. It is the law of attraction.
I hope you enjoyed blog number #2 about teaching kids the concept of respect and family values.
*All of the ideas in this paragraph I learned from the wonderful Dr. Laura Markham and through her books ‘Calm Parents, Happy Kids’, ‘Calm Parents, Happy Siblings’ and from her website ‘AHAparenting.com’.