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Teaching Respect
- Sangeeta

Reena has two children, a nine-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. She is constantly receiving complaints about her son's rude behaviour from his school - and even from his grandparents. Her daughter too has begun throwing her weight around, and seems to have no respect for her elders. Reena is embarrassed, confused and doesn't know what to do. 

Lack of respect is becoming rather common these days, especially where the children are exposed to cultural imperialism and high doses of warped societal values via the television. Children also witness or hear things from people around them, which they adopt. We cannot always control our child's environment. However we can teach them what is correct and respectful behaviour.

Teaching our children respect is the most valuable lesson we can give them. As parents we have to inculcate 'respect' in our children from an early age, so they grow up to be respectful citizens.


Begin when the child is a toddler. Tell him that everyone should be treated with kindness and consideration. Guide him, and praise him whenever he behaves. Also, tell him if he wants to be treated with consideration, he must show the same to others. So he must stop talking back to his peers, and instead, deal with his feelings in other ways.  What Reena should do is sit down and have a talk with her children separately. She should find out what her son's problem is, whether it stems from some complex within, hurt, or anger. Once Reena gets to the bottom of things, she should try to help her son resolve the same in ways other than 'talking back', 'cheekiness' or 'rowdiness'. She can even help him practice at home how to deal with situations confidently yet politely. For her younger daughter, together with explaining the right way to behave, a stern hand is needed to curb the typical phase of a wilful four year old, before it turns into a habit. Respect is conveyed in various ways, through use of words, actions and body language. A child may not have said anything disrespectful in words to his teacher, but his body language may have been insolent. 


Children must be taught the value of words. Through examples in daily life, show them how words can hurt, anger or be disrespectful. Words should be used with care and caution, as once uttered they cannot be taken back. For instance, if your child is hurt because his playmate called him names, tell him that just as his friend's words hurt him, similarly his taunting could hurt his friend. If he wants his friend to behave well, he too must make the effort to be nice.


A child must be taught that his actions towards his peers or friends reveal instantly his deference to them. Even if an elder shouts at him, shouting back or hitting is not acceptable behaviour. Actions speak louder than words, goes the saying. So if a child has been according respect to his teacher, but at the same time makes faces behind his back, the action speaks louder about his 'respect' towards his teacher.  

Body Language

This is an oft forgotten aspect of parenting. Certain forms of body language remain with a person even in adulthood. Gestures like shrugging shoulders, various motions of hands or feet that children use today, are improper body language for a child, and show disrespect. Any such rude body language should be pointed out to the child at the first available opportunity. 


Every interaction with children provides an opportunity to teach values.

Through daily interactions

A child will not always remember what he has been told about 'respect', but he will remember what we have done or how we have behaved in similar circumstances. If we show sensitivity towards his feelings and scold him in privacy rather than in front of others, he will learn the meaning of respect.

Through our examples

If we want our children to accord respect and deference to their peers no matter what our own adult frictions, we must make an effort in front of the children to treat our elders too with respect. If you want your child to be respectful to others, demonstrate the same through your own actions and attitude. If you want your child to be a courteous, law-abiding citizen, let him observe your conduct when you are driving, shopping, or attending a social event. Children learn mostly by observing our actions.

Through the way we do things as a family

Respect is something we must give in order to get. When a child lives in a respectful atmosphere, it shows in his treatment of others. So respect your spouse, and your child will learn to respect his or her spouse in turn. Respect your parents, and your child will learn to respect you. 

Teaching Respect For Self

A child has also to be taught the meaning of 'respect for self'.  This can be demonstrated through an unwillingness to endure disrespect. The more often parents model respect for the child, the less often they need to discipline the child. 

Those times when we ask a child to do something and he does not respond, we can model mutual respect by delaying a privilege or pleasurable activity. Speak to your child in tones you would like to hear from him. Validate him by listening to him. Minimize his mistakes, focus on what he does right and encourage it. Express appreciation for his help, and show your faith in him. Encourage signs of progress and avoid demanding perfection. Avoid criticizing and nit-picking or fault finding. Make requests rather than barking out orders. Very soon you will have a respectful child. Teach your child that you have to earn respect. Remember, respect is commanded, not demanded.

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