Where do you start with teaching respect?
Teaching our children respect is so important because it is foundational to all other relational skills, to the success of their relationships, and deference to God. 1 Peter 2:17 ERV reads, “Show respect to all people. Love your brothers and sisters in God’s family. Respect God and honor the king.”
See how it touches all areas of our lives?
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When we see that we are to show respect to all people, it means showing respect to our kids as well. We can teach them about respect and reinforce it by responding rather than reacting to them, studying or reading about it with them, and modeling it for them.
Responding rather than reacting
When we feel threatened we tend to slip back down to a more primitive area in our brain — the flight or fight area. As this happens, we tend to react rather than respond. Anytime we react rather than responding, we can potentially come across as very disrespectful and potentially create an unsafe environment.
I know there is a lot of talk lately about “safe spaces” and poking fun. Within a home though, I truly believe a child should feel physically and emotionally safe at all times possible. We can be firm and correct without being disrespectful. Experiencing this insecurity, they too may get reactive and act out disrespectfully.
If you find yourself out-bursting often, try to stop and ask yourself what is the reason behind your intense reaction. Is it fear, lack of control, guilt, etc…?
I’m going to share a personal story with you that’s a little bit embarrassing, but a perfect example. My youngest son took off the other day and hid outside behind my car. When I realized where he went to, I yelled, “Get your butt back in here NOW!” Oops. After a bit of a stand-off, I realized I needed to stop, breathe, and assess the situation.
I was afraid.
I was reacting out of fear and ended up speaking disrespectfully towards him. I took a deep breath and instead told him, “If you aren’t willing to come back inside, I’ll need to call the police to come help me (he is beyond my ability to physically control). I can’t simply let you run around here in the street alone. It’s unsafe, and I would be sad if something happened to you. I know you’re angry, but this behavior isn’t going to help you feel better.”
He came inside right away and he apologized for his behavior.
Keep in mind, when they are acting disrespectfully, what may be the at the root of the anxiety causing their reaction. After that tension is diffused, you can begin to work on talking about respect immediately following. Provide them with strategies for recognizing those feelings and handling them respectfully.
Ways to work on conditioning yourself to respond rather than react include prayer and journaling. Writing in a journal daily can help you notice areas (in retrospect) that you may not have given a second thought to otherwise. Prayer, of course, can do the same and expose many things that you need to know about yourself, as well as provide you ample encouragement and insight. You can also ask for your children or spouse to point it out for you when you’re doing it.
Studying the word and reading
The Bible is a great place to go for lessons in respect! Honestly, why not let it be the first place that you go?
There are curriculums that you can use such as The Character Corner curriculum from Kathie, plenty of Bible studies for both mom and children, as well as devotionals that speak to this topic. If you’ve got a house full of avid readers then that’s another option.
You can find plenty of psychology books for you; helping to understand how you’re reacting and how you can show respect and teach respect. There are plenty of story books for children as well these days. Encourage them to point out respect and disrespect in any of their books as you read. Being able to identify respect and disrespect is key in developing an attitude of respect.
Additionally, encourage your children to do copy work that centers around the idea of respect and respectful behaviors.
Surely, you’ve heard the saying actions speak louder than words. Who hasn’t, right?! So, the thing is, as parents our example speaks the loudest. It’s louder than anyone else around our children! How we treat people is a key factor in teaching them about respect.
If we want them to understand that respect is a two-way street, they need to have practical application. When we mess up, an apology should be given, and the moment used to teach about respecting all people. In the future, when they “stick their foot in it,” you can refer to the times you’ve modeled making amends after disrespectful word.
How we treat our spouse is another place our actions speak loudly into the hearts of our children. Seeing a healthy relationship and respect in all circumstances, they build a strong foundation a strong marriage. In fact, they can also come to a solid understanding that respecting people you disagree with is 100% possible!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint (and I’m running with you)…
Hopefully, you’ve seen clearly how learning respect is an integral part of your children’s overall social emotional skill set. Try practicing one or more of the suggestions I’ve shared, and you should start to see some improvement in your kids’ (and your own) behaviors! If you tend to have intense reactions that are less than respectful, start there and do your best to remember to apologize; use it as a teaching moment. Consider a bit of reading in this area, and don’t forget to keep a journal to help you see where you can grow. Remember, this is a lifelong process; for you both, and for your kids! It will take time, and God’s grace is sufficient!
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Jill Camacho is a “Boymom” to two, special needs parent, and blogger at AutismHomeschoolMama. Passionately on a mission to empower parents who wish to homeschool their special needs children!